Meb Keflezighi will contend for a spot on the U.S. Olympic marathon team on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. Here are some fast facts about him.
Marathon PR: 2:08:37 (Boston, 2014)
Best trials qualifier: 2:08:37 (Boston, 2014)
Most recent marathon: seventh, 2:13:32, New York, Nov. 1, 2015
Residence: San Diego, California
Age on race day: 40
Previous Olympic trials results: 2000 -- first, 10,000 meters; 2004 -- first, 10,000 meters and second, marathon; 2008 -- eighth, marathon and 13th, 10,000 meters; 2012 -- first, marathon
Trials outlook: In 2012, Keflezighi was the oldest man to ever win the Olympic marathon trials. Four years later, remarkably, he finds himself in position to repeat that feat at 40. His experience and ability to execute in a championship-style race are enviable credentials that the majority of his competitors can’t match -- and he comes into the trials with the fastest qualifying time.
It’s been 12 years since Keflezighi won the silver medal in the marathon at the Athens Games. Since then, he’s checked off every other item on his career to-do list. Win the New York City Marathon? Done, in 2009. Win the Boston Marathon? Yes, in 2014. Break 2:09? Also checked off at the 2014 Boston Marathon. Nobody can rise to the big occasions like Keflezighi, who also finished fourth at the 2012 Olympics.
Like every other major contender at the trials this year, Keflezighi will need to come to the starting line in perfect health and have a flawless day to land in the top three. Galen Rupp (who won the 2012 Olympic silver medal in the 10,000 meters and is running his first-ever marathon this weekend) and Dathan Ritzenhein, who has a 2:07:47 personal best, will likely be his primary concerns. Right on their heels are another 10 or so men who could sneak into the mix and knock one of these favorites off the team. The temperatures are forecast to be in the 70s during the race, which may play to Keflezighi’s advantage -- he’s had several quality marathons in hotter conditions.
Noted for putting as much time into stretching, physical therapy, strength training and recovery as he does into actual running, Keflezighi said last week that he’s injury-free and ready to race. During the years, the masters-aged runner has learned to listen to his body and take days off instead of pushing through fatigue or pain.
“I’m counting on those miles that I’ve run over the years to carry me through,” he said, not long after competing at the 2015 New York City Marathon. “I just got to be healthy. If I’m healthy I can come back faster and have a good show.”
With so many accolades and accomplishments already on his résumé, why is Keflezighi going for one last shot at the Games? He wants to give his three daughters a final Olympic memory of their father’s career. Saturday will be an emotionally-driven effort not just for the athlete, but for his long-standing support team that includes his wife, Yordanos, his brother and agent, Hawi, and Bob Larsen, his coach of 22 years.
Most of his family, including his parents and 10 siblings, live in the San Diego area, so he’ll find plenty of on-course encouragement Saturday, too.
“I think I will have a lot of supporters -- it should be exciting,” Keflezighi said. “I don’t want them all at one place, though. I want them all spread out. I’m very interactive with the crowd.”
On Saturday, we’ll find out if experience indeed trumps youth.
Fun fact: Keflezighi discovered his running talent in seventh grade, when he ran a 5:20 mile in gym class so he could get an A. Even back then, people said he would be an Olympian.
“My yearbook is filled up with, ‘Hey, we’ll see you win medals; see you on TV; see you in the Olympics,’” Keflezighi said.