Great day in Speed City, by Larry Eder
In the 1960s and early 1970s, San Jose was the home of some of the most brilliant
sprinters of all times. Many of them were coached and mentored by the late Bud
Winter. Winter had honed his skills in WW2 teaching pilots how to relax for the long
fighter flights and bomber flights over Germany.
Winter took those skills and used them to teach the long sprinters, those over 200 meters
and 400 meters, how to use their talents to relax and run faster.
On the long distance scene, the Santa Clara Youth Village was key in the development
of some of the greatest American distance runners of all times. A huge tradition of
fine distance running has been seen in the South Bay.
This writer met Bud Winter as a sophomore in high school, in 1974, when he spoke at our Coach’s
retirement dinner. Father Ray Devlin, S.J., aka Rocket Ray, had Bud Winter speak for us.
We were inspired by the man who had made so many medals, but did not grasp the notions of
relaxing to run faster.
Meb uses that, and even on a bad day, set AR master’s records at the half marathon and 20k!
It is now September 27, 2015. The tenth anniversary of the RNR San Jose Half Marathon,
10k and 5k. An event that brought 14,000 men, women and children to celebrate our sport
in the vibrant city that is San Jose.
Meb Keflezighi was here, along with fifty-five men, to see if they could break 1:05 and
for elite women, 1:15 for the half marathon distance so that they could qualify for the
U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon. The Trials marathon, to be held February 16 in Los Angeles,
will bring out distance runners no one has thought of. There is always a surprise over
the marathon distance.
Meb Keflezighi is 41 years old. He continues to compete well and race well. Thanks to
a training program that gives him rest and high level training, Meb competes like few
others. Remember, this is the guy I watched run 27:13 some fourteen years ago at
Stanford, then, three years later, take the silver medal in the Olympic marathon in
conditions in which many could not even stand around.
Meb is the epitome of tough. Meb Strong is not a statement, it is a way of life. The
same stubbornness that gave Meb the self control to come back in 2008 from barely
walking to challenging for an Olympic medal in 2012, winning Boston after having
Today, Meb had one goal. He wanted the American master’s record of 1:03:23. ” I had a
rough week, personally, ” Meb told me after the race. I did not ask what the issue was,
as I am an athletics writer, not a gossip columnist.
“I love this course, and was not sure I could get the record. I just did not feel
like a record run today, but it worked out.” observed Meb.
The race went out pretty well. 4:43 for the first mile, with Meb, Jordan Chipangama,
Daniel Tapia, Nicholas Hilton, Matt Daniels, Tesfaye Alemayehu, Danny Mercado, JP Slater,
all in some close distance.
After two miles in 9:32, and 5k in 14:43, the pack was down to five, as Chipangama,
Meb and Tapia really controlled the flow of the race. Jordan Chipangama recently was
a member of Ben Rosario’s training group, but is now on his own.
The nicely cambered, well-maintained streets of central San Jose are a great place
to run fast. Three miles to six miles move from Japantown to the Rose Gardens, then, to
the neighgorhoods around the Rose Gardens, and back into Central San Jose.
Meb look relaxed the whole way, but a bit preoccupied. He exchanged a greeting about 11
miles with Roger Craig as he shadowed Jordan Chipangama.
The pace was solid, 4:45 miles, hitting the 5k in 14:53, 10k in 29:55 and 15k in 44:53.
Meb checked his watch, and shook out his arms. After ten miles in 48:02, I figured that
Meb was ready to run a good one. His pace had been low 1:04, high 1:03 the whole race.
Daniel Tapia ran a brave race, he was in the mix until right before nine miles, but held
on and finished third in 1:03:39, a personal best.
Meb and Jordan had spent most of the race running next to each other. From my vantage
point on the press truck (seven intrepid souls on a slow moving truck, with a very
good driver, who kept us close), I knew it would be Meb and Jordan.
Meb, he of 27:13 for 10k muscle memory, and Jordan Chipangama, he of 1:50 800 meters
speed. One writer quipped, “Jordan was probably six when Meb ran 27:13 (actually, he was
We all laughed.
Running fast over long distances requires many things. Few are really good at it. Racing
over long distances well, is an acquired skill set. From ten miles on, both Jordan and
Meb were preparing for the final assault. I equate it to fighter pilots from a bye gone
era. There is a bit of chivalry, but the sign of respect is battling until the very
There may have been some conversation between Jordan and Meb around ten miles, but
both road warriors were in solitude as they “parallel played” on the streets of
I particularly enjoyed the cheerleaders and bands along the course. I love the city of
San Jose. No matter how long I am gone, and I lived in Wisconsin for twenty years, this
city brings me home. From Falafel Drive Inn on Stevens Creek to Ben’s, a Vietnamese
vegan house on Santa Clara and Ninth, this is my home.
The poor journalists and coaches, including Andrew Kastor, smiled as I provided a
unique description of neighborhoods in San Jose, as we transversed the downtown. Meb,
Jordan and 14,000 other fans of this fast South Bay race, provided a welcome addition
to the downtown San Jose that I know and love.
The world record for master’s half marathon is by the great John Campbell, who ran
1:02:28. The American masters record was 1:03:23 (Mebrahatom Hussein). ” I could not
get the WR today,” Meb lamented.
Our friend, Meb, a man who is the Bill Rodgers of his generation, is human after all.
But that last 200 meters, Meb cracked the whip as Jordan pushed and used that 800 meter
speed that Meb remembered, just not quite as well.
Jordan Chipangama won in 1:03:00, with Meb Keflezighi finishing in 1:03:02, a new
AR masters record by twenty-one seconds.
Jordan, showing the class athlete he is, noted: ” It is an honor for me to race with Meb. I hope that, someday, I am able to do some of what he has done.
Observing the circus atmosphere around Meb after races is always some fun. He gets hugs,
selfies, interviews and does it with aplomb.
Meb did a fine interview with Senior Editor Mario Fraoli of Competitor Group, and then,
as his his want, greeted me and answered by queries.
I have know Meb since he was 18. I have known his coach, Bob Larsen, since I was 18.
One always has time for such people.
As Mario and I sat in the VIP Hospitality center (McCormicks & Schmidts, a very nice
establishment), we observed Meb doing his cooldown, probably four miles, and then,
smiling and doing selfies, the autograph cards of this decade.
Mark my word, Meb will run well in New York, but if anyone gives him room, Meb
Keflezighi will find a way to make the US Olympic Marathon team in February. This guy
knows that he has no pressure. From virtually building a running brand for SKECHERS, to
building nine or ten other sponsor’s portfolio’s, Meb Keflezighi may be the best
investment in our sport for the next decade.
And, like an ee cummings poem, Meb does his racing with honesty, sweat and vigor.
On the women’s side, Aliphine Tuliamuk Bolton, from Kenya, won the women’s race today. She ran 1:11:26.
“I had heard San Jose was a fast course. I had wanted to run 68-69 minutes, but it just was not fast today. The course, however was beautiful. The people who danced and cheered were wonderful, I will not forget those memories.
Bolton, who trains in Santa Fe with Caroline Rotich, winner of 2015 Boston Marathon, is coached by Ryan Bolton, who also happens to be her husband. Adriana Nelson of the US was second, in 1:12:08, with Joanna Thompson in third in 1:15:11.
An aside: I thought that there would be many more men and women under the Olympic Trials standards, but few were willing to take the risks.
Eight men and two women lead the 14,000 smiling and effervescent faces of runners and walkers who graced the streets of San Jose, celebrating the long athletic tradition of San Jose.
I believe, the late, and great Bud Winter would be happy to see so many people running!
Men’s top ten, 1. Jordan Chipagnama, Zambia, 1:03:00, 2. Meb Keflezighi, USA, 1:03:02 (US masters record, also 20k of 59:43, Master’s AR), 3. Daniel Tapia, USA, 1:03:39, PB, 4. Nicholas Hilton, USA, 1:03:43, 5. Matt Daniels, USA, 1:03:43, 6. Tesfaye Alemayehu, ETH, 1:03:49, 7. Danny Mercado, USA, 1:04:04, 8. Jarrett Le Blanc, USA, 1:04:37, 9. J.P. Slater, USA, 1:05:02, 10. Dylan Wykes, CAN, 1:05:10.
Women’s top ten, 1. Aliphine Tuliamuk Bolton, KEN, 1:11:26, 2. Adriana Nelson, USA, 1:12:08, 3. Joanna Thompson, USA, 1:15:11, 4. Natasha La Beaud, CAN, 1:15:19, 5. Maor Tiyouri, ISR, 1:15:24, 6. Olivia Mickle, USA, 1:15:25, 7. Rachel Jaten, USA, 1:16:47, 8. Amy Schnittger, 1:16:55, 9. Kate Schwartz, USA, 1:17:03, 10. Tasha Williams, 1:17:26.