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Iconic marathoner happy with achievements, but not done yet

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The past 10 years have seen plenty of milestones for American marathoner Meb Keflezighi.

Keflezighi won the 2009 New York City marathon, won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon, finished fourth at the 2012 London Olympics, became the first American in 30 years to win the Boston Marathon (2014), finished fourth in NYC in 2014, and was eighth in Boston this year.

If you expand that time frame out another year, you'll also include his silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, which makes him the only man ever to win NYC, Boston and an Olympic medal during his career.

One of the most decorated marathoners in history turns 40 today (May 5), and on Monday he took time out of his final run in his 30s to reflect on his career.

"I put so much pressure on myself to win a medal, win New York and win Boston" Keflezighi said. "Each has its significance, but now I feel like I don't want to put pressure on myself anymore. I feel delighted to be 40. It's not that I don't want to win, but if it comes that's great. If it doesn't, then I've been there and done that."

Monday's run was just Keflezighi's fourth time back on the roads since that eighth-place finish in Boston. He gave himself almost two weeks off before resuming his training, which thus far has included a pair of four-mile runs and a pair of 10-milers.

Upon completion of his 10-miler on Monday, Keflezighi hopped on his Elliptigo and rode for 20 miles alongside two of his friends. It is safe to say that preparation for his next race -- and the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials in Los Angeles next February -- is already underway with a relaxed and confident approach.

"I've been to the Olympics three times," Keflezighi said. "I had a great experience in Sydney for my first time as an Olympian, won a medal in Athens and then finished fourth in 2012. If I make it, great. If I don't, it puts into perspective how special it is to have those victories and moments."

Over the weekend, Keflezighi came close to missing a surprise birthday party from his family. He was planning on driving from San Diego to Los Angeles to support his alma mater UCLA at the Legends Invitational, before taking time to check out parts of the Olympic trials course ahead of next February's race.

His wife and siblings had other plans, though -- plans that included cake, and he didn't miss the festivities.

"Oh, 40!" Keflezighi said. "It's one thing to hear, but it's another thing to see it."

Timeline for the future

At the postrace news conference in Boston this year, Keflezighi told reporters that he has just a handful of marathons left in his legs.

"Hopefully, there's a fall marathon this year, whether that's New York or another one," Keflezighi said. "Trials would be two and then hopefully the Olympic Games. New York (2016) or Boston (2017) could be my last one. I have to wait and see if I make the Olympic team and how close they will be. I don't want to have to do back-to-back races after the Olympics. New York would probably want to be my last one, unless Boston has something to say."

Upon retirement as an elite, Keflezighi says he will continue to run shorter distances and make appearances to interact with fans.

"Every person that I've met, I always tell them 'I wish I could give you more time,'" Keflezighi said. "I still feel like I can be utilized a lot to help people set their goals, achieve them and give guidance. All as long as I don't have to put on the racing flats, that's the competitive side of me."

Friends in the 40s

There was a time when Keflezighi had a full head of hair and competed against middle-distance star Bernard Lagat (who has represented both his native Kenya and the United States) on the track. Those days seem distant, though, with Keflezighi having mastered the marathon over the last decade-plus and Lagat winning almost a dozen national titles on the outdoor track.

Lagat turned 40 in December and looks to be a favorite to make the U.S. national team for the IAAF World Championships in Beijing and the 2016 Olympics. A few days ago, Lagat took time from rewriting the masters age-division record book to send his longtime friend a text message.

"I have been asked to compile a list of the five most influential athletes right now in 2015. And by far, you are my number one. Respect." Lagat wrote.

Keflezighi thanked Lagat for his kind words and extended an invitation for Lagat to support his foundation at an upcoming dinner.

"I went on to say, 'Way to keep it going.' And I think to that Bernard said, 'I'm paving 40 for you,'" Keflezighi said.

Both Lagat and Keflezighi look to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runners of all-time at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the culmination of a journey that has spanned many miles since they competed at the 1997 NCAA Cross Country National Championship.

Closing the book on 39

After Monday's training, Keflezighi gave his daughters a break from their homework to join him in a core workout. Once they had their share of sit-ups, Keflezighi went outside with his daughter Fiyori to watch the sunset before tucking everyone in for bed.

Keflezighi even managed to sneak in a second slice of tiramisu before strapping on his NormaTec compression boots, used to help his legs recover, before going to bed.

On May 5, Keflezighi wakes up a masters runner with plans to spend time with his wife, daughters and parents. The first thing he will do as a 40-year-old, is something he's done for most of his years on Earth.

"I'm pretty sure I'm going to go for a run," Keflezighi said.