Meb Keflezighi Looking to Start Season Strong in 2007 at US Half Marathon Champs at Aramco Houston Half By David Monti (c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved January 10, 2007
Olympic Marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi is looking for a strong
season opener on Sunday when he lines up for the Aramco Houston
Half-Marathon, host of the U.S. Half-Marathon Championships for men and
The 31 year-old athlete, who divides his time between his
high altitude training base in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and his family
home in San Diego, will be making his first competitive appearance
since enduring a terrible day at the ING New York City Marathon last
November where he finished 21st in 2:22:02. A bad case of food
poisoning from a tainted dish of chicken fettuccine eaten three days
before the race made it impossible for him to eat adequately prior to
the event, leaving his body depleted even before the start of the race.
didn't have any energy left after 17 or 18 miles," said Keflezighi in a
telephone interview yesterday from San Diego. "I was starving."
New York Keflezighi was at the head of an enormous lead pack of 28
runners at the half-way point, and was still within striking distance
of the leaders through 30-K (18.6 miles). But between 30-K and 35-K,
his pace slid to 3:25 per km (5:30 per mile), and fell even further to
4:21 per km (7:00 per mile) in the next 5-K. By the time he reached
the finish line, he was barely jogging. The slow pace changed his
running form and actually put more wear and tear on his legs than had
he been running at his usual marathon pace of 3:05 per km (4:58 per
"My body was not moving mechanically in the right
direction," Keflezighi recalled. "It's a lot more punishing when your
body is going 8-minute, 9-minute pace. For me, my body got beat up
pretty good. It was kind of awkward and not right."
continued guidance of Bob Larsen, the man who began coaching Keflezighi
as a collegiate runner at UCLA, Keflezighi has recovered thoroughly,
both mentally and physically, from his disappointment at New York. He's
been building up his mileage base slowly, knowing that 2007 will be a
long year, capped by the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in New York City
don't think he did anything that was lingering, except for maybe a sore
knee problem," said Larsen when reached on his mobile phone yesterday.
"He took a little bit of time off and trained very conservatively.
For quite some time how he's been 100%."
But what can the
athlete and coach expect from such an early season effort at Houston?
It's all part of their larger plan to peak for a spring marathon and
then peak again in November at the Trials.
"He's at a point in
his career where he can concentrate on major events," Larsen said. "A
spring marathon and making the Olympic Games are his biggest goals in
2007. Other races are used to supplement training, to test benchmarks
for where his training is, and help sharpen him up for big events."
agrees. "Things are coming along really well. It's a checkpoint for
me, a reference point, on what I have to do for a spring marathon. I'm
also doing the cross country nationals. We start with a big goal and
fill in the puzzle to get there."
In Houston Keflezighi will
face a strong field, led by the defending champion, Brian Sell; U.S.
20-K record holder, Ryan Hall; and 2004 Olympian, Dan Browne, who is
coming back after a difficult year. Keflezighi has the fastest
personal best over the distance --61:28 to Sell's 62:39-- but Hall's
20-K U.S. record of 57:54 is equivalent to a 61:18 half-marathon. And,
as Keflezighi points out, Browne (63:09 PB) has a sub-four minute mile
to his credit, and would be tough to beat over the final few meters.
done a fair amount of training with Dan Browne," said Keflezighi who
was an Olympic Marathon teammate with him in 2004. "He has a very good
kick, also. You don't want it to come down to the last 800 with him."
pointed out that even when Keflezighi is in a build-up phase, he is
still a formidable competitor. "He should be able to sustain a
competitive effort," said the coach. "It's a great distance for him.
It fits into his training extremely well. It's a little bit of a
stepping stone for a spring marathon."
would not say where that marathon would be. He ran Boston last year,
and contended for victory before fading in the second half to finish
third in 2:09:56. In 2005 he agreed to run the Flora London Marathon,
the other World Marathon Majors event held in the spring, but had to
withdraw because of an injury.
But for now, his focus is on
Houston where the organzers have substantially increased their prize
money over last year. The winner will receive $12,000, with $6,500 and
$4,000 going to the second and third place finishers, respectively.
That could come in handy for Keflezighi who became a father last March
to daughter, Sara.
"[It] hasn't changed the way I look at
sports," said Keflezighi of fatherhood, "but life is bigger than
sports." He added: "It's a huge change, but very rewarding."
PHOTO: Keflezighi with wife, Yordanos, and daughter, Sara, at the 2006 Honolulu Marathon (Photo by David Monti)