The United States qualified three men to run the marathon at the London Olympics on August 12, the final day of competition. Joining Ryan Hall, a 2008 Olympian, are two runners who took their first steps in Africa: Somalia-born Abdi Abdirahman and Eritrea-born Meb Keflezighi.
Keflezighi has had a very successful athletics career since moving to the United States with his family at age 12. His two biggest highlights are a silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2009 New York City Marathon title. In January, he finished first at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials to book his ticket to London. Keflezighi says he wants to win another Olympic medal.
“I’m running my best time ever and I’m going to London to give it one more shot and whatever happens there, I hope I get a medal. I’m not going to be choosey over what color the medal is going to be, but I hope to be on the podium,” Keflezighi said.
To increase his chances of being on the podium in London, Keflezighi moved his family three years ago to Mammoth Lakes, California, where he trains at high altitude in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.
“Living up here in Mammoth Lakes and training, I always say this is distance runners' heaven. I mean if you’re going to be a distance runner in the United States, why not here? We’re [at an altitude of] 9,000 feet [2,743 meters] right now with the beautiful trees and the mountains, less oxygen. And then when you go down to sea level you have more oxygen so, you know, Mammoth is a small town but it’s also peaceful, quiet and very supportive people, and you get fit and strong up here and you go down to sea level and test yourself to the limits,” Keflezighi said.
The 37-year-old Keflezighi will be testing his limits against younger athletes in London, but there is precedent for Olympic marathon success. Portugal’s Carlos Lopes was the same age when he won the gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. And Romania’s Constantina Dita was 38 when she won the gold medal in the women’s marathon at the 2008 Beijing Games. Keflezighi has been running about 209 kilometers a week in his build-up to the London Olympics, but he says that’s only part of his training.
“It’s not just the running part but the little details such as stretching, drills, planks, weight training and the ice bath and all that stuff … massage, that you take care of yourself 24-7 because the rest, the nutrition and all of the stuff that goes on. It’s not just the running that people see, you know. We try to make it easy when we run 26.2 miles in two hours and nine minutes or faster but the work that goes into it year round is a lot. You better hope you nail it that day,” Keflezighi said.
Meb Keflezighi hopes to nail it on August 12 in London and once again stand on the Olympic podium.