Eritrean Sport News: The 2014 USA Half Marathon champ returns to NYC Half.
Meb Keflezighi, who’ll turn 39 in May, is the only elite athlete in Sunday’s NYC Half who was in the first edition of the race back in 2006, when he was the runner-up, six seconds behind winner Thomas Nyariki of Kenya.
Keflezighi, the four-time NCAA champion at UCLA who became a 2004 Olympic silver medal marathoner, the winner of the 2009 New York City Marathon, and a fourth place finisher at the 2012 London Olympics, is currently undefeated for the half marathon distance in 2014. He won the USA Championships in Houston in January with a 1:01:28, 15 seconds ahead of runner-up Aaron Braun.
It was an encouraging result for Keflezighi, whose injuries limited him to a 23rd place 2:23:47 at last fall’s New York City Marathon. In Houston, he explained at a media event in New York on Friday, “I wasn’t really ready, ready, but I used confidence now from practice and training.”
“I said ‘none of these guys [in the half marathon in Houston] finished fourth at the London Olympic Games. I was fourth. Let me see what I can do now at the USA national level,” Keflezighi said. “I made a move at nine miles – which I thought was ten miles! I’m like, ‘I think I’ve made my move too early.’”
But the key, he said, was to “hold your composure and believe in yourself,” and he came away with what he counts as his 22nd national running title – though we’ve seen higher totals for him. “If you asked me when I was at UCLA if I’d win one USA title, I would be so happy” to do so, stated Keflezighi.
He’s preparing for April 21’s Boston Marathon, and in light of the tragedies that transpired there a year ago, he commented, “every day you think about this able body that we have. We want to push. We want to be motivated to give 110 percent. I hope to do so on Sunday.”
He’s boosted his mileage since winning the USA Half. “I run 12 times a week,” he explained. With elliptical training added in, he’s often doing three workouts per day. “The endurance is there. I was hoping to sharpen up the last couple of weeks with my speed. My hamstring got a little tight last week, but other than that, I couldn’t [have] asked for a better training base in terms of mileage.”
He’s turned in a 15-mile training run at 5:00 pace while putting in 100 to 120 miles per week. After years of living in Mammoth at high altitude in California, he’s moved back to San Diego, “the first city I ever moved to in the United States, over 26 years ago” when he and his family came from war-torn Eritrea.
Keflezighi lives not far from Balboa Park, where he did his first running in a junior high school physical education class. “Who knew I’d be doing what I’m doing” now, he asked. He will return to Mammoth shortly, however to put in “three or four weeks” of altitude training prior to the Boston Marathon.
Confident about his fitness and his progress though he may be, Keflezighi and the rest of the field have to face the fact that two-time New York City Marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai has a half marathon personal best of 58:58, more than a minute faster than anyone else in the NYC Half field, including double Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah.
Mike Cassidy, a Staten Island native now living in Lower Manhattan who finished the 2013 New York City Marathon hand in hand with Keflezighi, was introduced to the media Friday as having a “hometown advantage.” But realistically, retorted Cassidy, “I think it’s only a hometown advantage if Geoffrey takes a wrong turn.”