Trials Redemption for Keflezighi After Heartbreak of 2008
by David Monti
(c) Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
HOUSTON (14-Jan) -- Today's victory at the 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials here for Meb Keflezighi capped an impressive four-year comeback for the 36 year-old Olympic silver medalist.
"It's not about being first, second or third," Keflezighi told reporters after running a personal best 2:09:08. "It's all about being on the team."
Keflezighi, from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., finished a disappointing eighth at the 2008 Trials held in New York City. During that race --which was actually held during November, 2007-- his performance was hampered by a stress reaation in his pelvis which put the 20-time USA champion in incredible pain. The injury was so bad, he said back in 2009 that he had to see 25 doctors before getting the right diagnosis and treatment. He also had to overcome the emotional anguish of learing right after he finished that his friend and training partner Ryan Shay had died during the race of heart failure.
Things improved dramatically for Keflezighi in 2009 with his ING New York City Marathon victory, the first by an American since Alberto Salazar in 1982. But Keflezighi would continue to wrestle with injuries for the next two seasons to his knee and hamstring. Nonetheless, he managed fifth and sixth place finishes, respectively, at the Boston and New York City Marathons in 2010, and finished sixth again in New York last November.
But again, another physical problem threatened to derail his chances in today's race. He forget that his Breathe Right nose strip was in his racing shoe at New York --where he stored it for safekeeping-- and the strip rubbed the bottom of his foot so much during the race it later caused an infection. That caused him to lose precious training time because today's Trials were only 68 days from his race at New York. Today, he reflected on that experience.
"Like any athlete, you're always under pressure to take everything off and go," Keflezighi explained of marathon starting line procedures. "It's not like you wore the same shoes, the same sox you went out with. Unfortunately, I made that mistake in New York. It cost me a big PR (personal record) or a higher place. But, I believe through this that anything is possible, and I had it on, and it helped me breathe better."
Amongst Keflezighi's strengths as an athlete is his keen competitive sense. By the 15th mile (25-K) when the men's lead pack had dwindled to four --Keflezighi, Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein, and Abdi Abdirahman-- Keflezighi spent most of the time in the back assessing the situation. He cautiously followed Hall's surge in the 23rd mile, and waited for the 25th mile to make his final move for victory. Keflezighi credited his long time coach, Bob Larsen, for helping him be ready for today.
"Coach Larsen, who's been coaching me for 18 years now, believing in me through ups and downs," Keflezighi said. "It's a fine line: you don't want to over train, you don't want to under train. It's all about doing the work consistently."