From: Biniam Tekle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat Apr 17 2010 - 19:14:12 EDT
Posted: April 17, 2010
(RRW) Athletics: Discipline, Experience May Give Keflezighi Edge In Boston
BOSTON (17-Apr) -- Running in the 2002 ING New York City Marathon in his
first attempt at the distance, Meb Keflezighi was feeling confident. Too
confident. After passing the 25 km mark with the leaders, he descended the
Queensborough Bridge where the race spills onto First Avenue in Manhattan in
front of the largest crowds on the course. Overwhelmed with emotion, he
bolted to the lead, an impetuous move which would exhaust him, sending him
backward to ninth place by the finish.
"He is patient, except in a couple of races," said his longtime coach Bob
Larsen in an interview here yesterday.
Now, Keflezighi, 34, thinks his patience, discipline and experience are what
set him apart from the world's other top marathoners. Ranked only 15th in
the field on time for Monday's 114th Boston Marathon, Keflezighi is the only
man in the elite race with an Olympic medal, and one of only two with a
World Marathon Majors victory: his triumphant win at New York last November,
the first by an American there in 26 years.
"It's a discipline," Keflezighi explained in an interview here yesterday of
his approach to racing. He continued: "When six guys go you have to go, and
I have to know those six guys. If they had run the Boston Marathon you have
to push yourself. Coach isn't going to tell you that you have to do this or
do that. You have to use your own intuitive decisions to say, 'Hey, now or
Keflezighi chose "now" the last time he raced at Boston, in 2006. He went
with an early move led by Kenyan Ben Maiyo which took them through halfway
in a too-fast 1:02:43. Like New York in 2002, Keflezighi suffered in the
second half, but he still managed to finish third in 2:09:56. Coach Larsen
remembers the day well, and has used that experience to help Keflezighi get
ready for this year's race.
"Having run Boston in 2006 when he and Benjamin Maiyo were maybe two minutes
faster than the course record halfway when he was (in) really great shape,
cost both of them to be closer to Robert Cheruiyot, who stayed back and came
by them. There's a lot to be learned from that."
Larsen said that Keflezighi's racing instincts were mostly God-given, but
that his broad racing experiences on the track, in cross country and on the
roads gave his athlete a wealth of experience to draw upon. In an era
dominated by marathons which employ many pacemakers to assure fast times,
Keflezighi's racing skills are truly rare and particularly valuable in
championship-style marathons like Boston, the Olympics and New York.
"It helps to be a 10-K runner," Keflezighi reasoned. "Even when I went to
the marathon I never let the 10-K training go. The fast things make it
easier, because when I ran Bix 7 4:08 (for the opening mile) mentally I
thought, hey, it's going to make 4:50's a lot easier. So, you have to use
the experience from different races to put it together."
Larsen agreed. "He was a really good track and cross country runner and, in
many ways, you learn race tactics because things happen a lot quicker. Even
running the mile in high school and college, things are happening speeded
up. You have to make quick decisions. So, when you get into a half-marathon,
marathon you've got a lot more time, and there's more room for error that
you can still recover from. I think that's a help."
In Monday's race, Keflezighi will face eight men with sub-2:07 personal best
times, including defending champion Deriba Merga of Ethiopia, the most ever
entered in Boston. He has an additional handicap of having missed some
training in February due to an knee injury suffered by two falls on the ice
in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where he lived and trains, and putting himself
into some unfamiliar yoga positions.
"The knee problem that I had was the left knee, and I fell twice,"
Keflezighi said. "One, it was a warm day, the snow melted in the gym where
we go meet in the afternoon and I got out so late after the gym workout that
I was walking, and it got frozen. The water that was running got frozen, so
that when I stepped on it I just kind of fell. Then the other thing was
cleaning snow out of my car."
"Part of it was going into a yoga class," Larsen said, picking up the story.
"He was a little bit tight in a pretty strong workout week, and got into
some pretty unusual positions late in the afternoon, and the knee started
swelling up, and it was kind of painful. So, for four or five weeks there we
had to reduce the workouts quite a bit."
The downtime in February forced Keflezighi to miss his tune-up race, the NYC
Half-Marathon on March 21. Skipping that effort means that Keflezighi hasn't
raced for the better part of six months. Keflezighi said there is no point
in dwelling on it.
"You know, I might not be sharp. But, I've done the work, done the mileage.
Twenty-five miles on my long run. Would I like to have run a little more
like before New York, 26 and a half or so? But, hey, it comes once a year.
New York comes once a year, Boston comes once a year in April. You don't get
to choose the date. You just have to be the best that you can for that day."
A win by Keflezighi on Monday would be historic by at least two measures.
First, no American man has won the Boston Marathon since Greg Meyer in 1983,
a streak race organizers would be thrilled to see broken. Second, no man has
won the ING New York City Marathon in November, then come back the following
year to win Boston since Ibrahim Hussein in 1987/1988 (the last American to
do it was Salazar in 1981/1982). Keflezighi is a man with a sense of
history, who is clearly running not only for himself.
"It would be huge," he said of a possible win here. "I think it's great, not
just for me but for coach Larsen, for U.S. distance running. I'm going to
try to do one more thing and that's break this streak. I think it's 27 years
since Greg Meyer has won. That was kind of similar in Athens, similar in New
* * * * * *
The volcanic cloud emanating from Iceland which has shut down air travel in
many parts of the world, has had nearly no effect on the elite field in
Boston. Every athlete in the John Hancock elite athlete program had made it
to Boston by yesterday except one, Moroccan Abdellah Falil. Race director
Guy Morse said yesterday that he expected Falil would get in by today. Morse
also said race organizers would allow number pick up on race morning to
allow late-arriving runners to still compete in the race. Normally, race-day
number pick-up is not allowed.
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