Meb Keflezighi Finishes 4th At Olympic Marathon; Ryan Hall, Abdi Abdirahman Drop Out; Reaction From The Athletes

August 12, 2012
London, England

Editor's note: This article has post-race reactions; for the LRC Recap of the Men's Marathon, click here.

37-year-old's Meb Keflezighi's remarkable career continued with another impressive performance at the Olympic Games, this time with Meb finishing in fourth place just out of the medals.

For Meb, the Athens silver medallist, the 2009 New York City Marathon Champion, and the 2012 Olympic Trials Champion, fourth place was not what he wanted, but not unexpected. He said, "I did not want to finish fourth at the Trials, that would have been devastating. Coming here, I told my wife, 'I have a feeling I'm going to finish fourth.' Did I want to finish fourth? No. But at he Olympic Games I'll take it. Especially since I did not make the Olympic team in 2008. To be a silver medallist I know how that feels. I congratulate those who finished first, second and third."

Meb added, "I'm very proud of myself for our country to finish fourth. It's not where you want to be, but fourth place at my last Olympics, I'll take it anytime."

Meb said he had four goals coming in, 1) Go for the win 2) Finish on the podium 3) Be top 5 or top 6 4) Beat the 2:09:21 time Carlos Lopes ran as a 37-year-old to win the 1984 Olympics (Meb is 37).

Meb had a decent understanding of how the race would play out. He said he thought 7-10 guys would go with the pace and he thought "3 or 2 will survive." Meb "went with it at the beginning" but then focused on  picking people off.

When asked how he was able to keep plugging away at the leaders, he said, "I always test my God-given talent. That 5:20 mile I ran in 7th grade still keeps me going." He added with a laugh, "All the people who are 37 and older, go buy my book "Run to Overcome" and buy my shoes. You will be healthier and run fast. Run to overcome, baby."

Meb's past successes and the historic silver medal in 2004 took the sting off of just missing the medal stand here. "99.9 (percent) of my career has been fulfilled. Whether people like it or not, I  have accomplished what I have accomplished and I am very proud. It all comes through hard work Nothing is given to you. It is all about perseverance. In 2008, I wasn't even on the team," he said.

"99.9 (percent) this is my last Olympics," he added.

In 2016, if things are going well and he's still close to his PRs, he said he could give the next Olympic Trials a shot so his youngest daughter, who is now two-and-a-half, remembers what her daddy did when he was young.

As for fellow Americans Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman dropping out, Meb said, "It just puts into perspective how hard 26.2 is. It's a journey."

Meb Missed A Lot Of Time In Buildup, His Longest Recent Tempo Was Only 12 Miles
Meb's fourth place finish was even more impressive considering he was not healthy in his lead-up to the Olympics. After he was the grand marshal at the Boston Marathon, Meb did a twenty-mile run and the next day his glutes were sore. Soon he could not even walk. His first tempo run after that was the Healthy Kidney 10k in New York City in April, where he hoped to run 30 minutes, but he ran 29:08, surprising himself. Meb then ran 1:03:11 at the San Diego Rock N Roll Half Marathon in June, but then had to take 7-10 days off after the glute problem flared back up.

It wasn't until the Olympic Track and Field Trials in late June that Meb was able to get back to full training. His longest tempo run recently was only 12 miles. Despite the limited buildup, Meb said his training started to go very well. The only thing missing was more time. He said, "I was coming around very well" and added, "I told coach (Bob Larsen) if I had two more weeks, I know I could run 2:07 or faster."

Meb said the fact that the mental side of the marathon plays such a big role is one thing that helped him.

"Once the gun goes off, coach Joe Vigil says it's the 'Nine inches above the shoulders.' He always says 90% of what comes on race day is mental," said Meb, who was able to persevere in the heat during the second half of the race today. "It's about preparation. When you go for a job interview or go for an exam, you do your homework. You prepare the best you can and conquer it. ... I wish I had two more weeks. It wasn't ideal, I wasn't fit today, but 90% is mental and I toughed it out," he siad.

Meb credited his entire team, his coaches, and his family, who was on hand to cheer him on. LRC's Weldon Johnson saw a Full Team Meb decked out in CITI tshirts when he left the Olympic Marathon venue.

Meb was asked what the proudest moment was in his illustrious career. "For our country, the proudest moment is winning the Olympic silver. For personal gratification, I was on my elbows and knees, I couldn't walk after the 2008 Olympic Trials, and to overcome that and to be able to win New York, which was my dream, is huge. My dream is also to win Boston, and I hope I get that chance. My last shot if any is probably next year," Meb said of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Like all of us, the 37-year-old veteran still has unfulfilled dreams. "I wish I had broken 4 minutes (in the mile), and I wish I had won Boston. If I get the opportunity, I'd love to be there (next year)," he said.

Pundits can debate where Meb ranks on the list of all-time list of US marathon greats. There's no debating that Meb is the greatest American Olympic marathoner since Frank Shorter, who got gold in 1972 and silver in 1976. Meb paid his respects to Frank when asked how he was able to do so well in the quirky Olympic Marathon, which is often held in heat and humidity (Sunday was possibly the hottest day of the Olympics). Meb said, "It puts in perspective what Frank Shorter did, gold and silver is tough."

No disrepect to Frank Shorter, but he wasn't facing a slew of 2:05 Kenyans and Ethiopians. I think we can all agree in the professional era, silver and fourth place is pretty tough as well. Well done, Meb.


Meb Slighted In Pre-Race Introductions

One thing that upset Meb was being snubbed in the introductions before the race. Ten athletes stood in front of the rest of the marathon field and were introduced to the crowd and world-wide televison audience. The ten athletes were: Wilson Kipsang of Kenya, Ayele Abshero of Ethiopia,  Arata Fujiwara of Japan, Getu Feleke of Ethiopia, Scott Overall of Britain, Abel Kirui of Kenya, Ryan Hall of the USA, Marilson Gomes Dos Santos of Brazil, Rachid Kisri of Morocco and, surprisingly, the little-credentialed Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, who would go on to win.

Missing from the mix, Meb Keflzighi, the only Olympic medallist in the field and the US Olympic Trials Champion. The snub riled Meb after the race. "I was a little upset on how the introduction went. To be an Olympic medallist which none of those 109 people that started the race did not have and to be the New York City Marathon champion. ... I was very upset. Shame on (the) IAAF. ... None of those guys had what I had and to be not introduced like that definitely hurt," he said.

Ryan Hall And Abdi Abdirahman React

American Ryan Hall, the 10th place finisher at the 2008 Olympics, dropped out here at 10.2 miles with exactly two eight-mile loops remaining. Ryan afterwards said he had developed a problem high in his right hamstring in training a couple of months ago, which he and chiropractor John Ball were trying to stay on top of. Hall did not think the problem was too serious beforehand, but it kept getting worse and worse during the race.

The injury forced Ryan to drop out of a race for the first time in his life, as he did not want to continue for 16 more miles and jeopardize his career. Ryan said, "I did not want to turn it into a serious injury. I have never had a DNF (did not finish) in a race before. Not finishing a race is not an option unless you are running the risk of damaging your future."

It has been well chronicled that Ryan had been battling plantar fasciitis on his left foot since November. Ryan thinks compensation for the plantar injury possible caused the hamstring injury on his right side.

Ryan said his training had been going well heading into London. "It had been going a lot better. I was feeling optimistic. ... I was feeling just as good as any of my other marathons," he said. Now the plan is to go to Phoenix for a while to see John Ball and get healthy again before deciding what is next.

Amazingly, this was the first poor marathon in Ryan's career. Ryan realizes failure is part of the marathon, but nothing he had gone through before. He said, "It's part of the sport I've never experienced before. Every single marathon I've run has been a good marathon. I've never finished outside of the top ten."

Abdi Abdiraham dropped out soon after Ryan around the 11 or 12 mile mark. He said he had picked up a problem with his right knee recently, which was diagnosed as fluid on the knee. Abdi, like Ryan, did not think the problem was too serious, but it would force him to drop out. Abdi said, "It was the hardest thing to do. At the same time I didn't want to push hard and I didn't want to take the risk because of the pain I was feeling in my leg. The best thing was to shut it down and drop out."

This was Abdi's fourth Olympics, something no other US male on the track team can say.

Brief Notes On Stephen Kiprotich

A lot of people, including Stephen himself, were surprised that Uganda's Stephen Kiprotich won the Olympic gold.

Kiprotich said, "At the start of he race, I thought maybe Kenya will win, maybe Ethiopia will win, but I kept in touch (with the leaders). I didn't believe I could win the race, but when we came to 23 miles, that's when I decided, 'Let me go.' When I arrived at the finish, I couldn't believe I was the one crossing (first)."

Kiprotich is a relative novice to the marathon. He got his start in the marathon pacing a few marathons. Kiprotich then made his full marathon debut at the Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands last April winning in 2:07:20. He followed that up with a 9th place at the World Championships in 2:12:57 last year. Then he ran 2:07:50 for 3rd at the Tokyo Marathon.

Kipsang hails from the Kapchorwa District in Uganda next to Kenya and trains in Kenya with the Jos Hermens group coached by Patrick Sang. Former London champ Emmanuel Mutai is in the group, as is 2:06 guy Gilbert Yegon.

Abel Kirui appeared poised to win his first Olympic Marathon to go along with this two World Championship golds. With a little more than three miles remaining, Kirui was right with Kipsang, who was feeling the effects of his 14:11 3rd 5k. The unheralded Kiprotich was a few seconds behind them.

"I was thinking he (Kiprotich) was fading away. In my mind, I was thinking, 'God is with me,' and thought I was going to sprint with Wilson Kipsang (for the win)," said Kirui.

Instead, soon Kiprotich was doing the sprinting and Kirui was doing the chasing. Kirui was full of praise for Kiprotich, saying, "He's our brother. I am very happy. He was very determined (to win)."

Bronze medallist Wilson Kipsang made the most controversial decision of the day, blasting 10k from 15k in 14:11 (1:59:41 marathon pace). He and the rest of the field would pay the price for the move. However, Kipsang had no regrets. On pushing so hard so early he said, "If the pace was slower, we would have problems at the end."

When Kipsang was asked if he was upset an Ugandan who trains in Kenya won, he answered, "In every competition, the best athlete always wins. To my friend Kiprotich, congratulations. He was the best today that is why he won. That is why we do not feel bad he won."

*For the LRC recap of the Men's Marathon, click here.

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