November 1, 2013
New York, NY -We caught up with 2009 New York City Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi today on the final of the pre-race media days for the 2013 ING New York City Marathon.
Here’s what we learned.
1) Meb’s Coming Into New York Off of Less Than Ideal Training
Meb revealed today that he enters Sunday’s race, racing to make up for an injury he suffered during the first week of September.
“Training has not gone ideally. I have a soleus injury – a partial tear. The preparation before that was phenomenal,” said Meb who ran a strong 28:38 at the Beach to Beacon 10k on August 4th. “I was fearing that I might peak too soon.”
“As an athlete, we all are trying to push that envelope as much as you can because we want to win. We aren’t here to jog. I’m a professional athlete and want to get the best out of myself and go for the title. And sometimes you push yourself over the edge, but in fact, with this injury I don’t even know how it happened.”
“Sometimes it’s just an uneven spot (on the ground) and probably I tweaked it just a little bit maybe when I was doing my tempo intervals. I took a few days off and it wasn’t get any better and eventually I did an MRI and there was a small, partial tear.”
“But the last two or three weeks have turned around very well. I didn’t do my usual cutback of taper. I’ve been playing catchup. The only tapering I did was not ride my ElliptiGO as much, and (I cut back) on the cross training. But the other stuff I’m still running hard and putting in the effort because you want to get that bounce, cadence, and (good) mechanics. And I hope Sunday will be a good showing for me. I always run to win and to get the best out of myself.”
Off camera, when we alking to Meb’s brother and agent, Merhawi, he said at one point they were close to pulling the plug on New York entirely but things turned around just in time. Merhawi has always stressed the point with us, that Meb does not show up and toe the line unless he is ready to perform well.
Meb said the biggest difference between being an old athlete at age 38 versus a young one is the time it takes to bounce back from setbacks. The intensity in workouts is still there according to Meb but setbacks take a long time to come back from. “When you get an injury (at my age), it takes a long, long time to come back,” said Meb who used to bounce back from injuries in just a few days.
2) Great Racing Advice From Meb and Coach Larsen: Concentrate on Just Beating 1/3rd of the Field and Hope the Other 2/3rds Beat Themselves
We asked Meb how guys like himself and Uganda’s World and Olympic champ Stephen Kiprotich can beat guys who have PRs that are minutes faster than them, particularly since yesterday Stephen Kiprotich told us he doesn’t think he can run 2:03.
Meb responded that while he thinks his PR would be way better than the 2:09:08 he ran at the 2012 US Olympic Trials if he’d ever run a flat race when he was on his ‘A’ game, that it all boils down to knowing how to compete:
“When I won the New York City Marathon, James Kwambai was a 2:04:27 guy. But, “Is he going to run 2:04:47 that day? Are (the others) going to run 2:03 on that day?” Yeah my PR is 2:09 but what would it have been had I run a flat course when I ran in Athens (at the 2004 Olympics) or when I ran New York (in 2009)? When things go really well, you wonder what you could have done. But titles are nice.”
“You just compete. Competition is a different thing. Coach Larsen and I have been working together for a long time and he (always) says, “You just have to beat one third (of the field). One third will probably over-train or under-train. One third will probably struggle (that day) so can you beat one third of the field.” That’s the mentality we have to get the job when it counts.”
3) When Asked Who The Guys To Beat Were on Sunday, Meb Pointed Out We’ll Find out Midway Through The Race As We Don’t Know How Guys Training Has Gone
“The biggest competition is – well it’s a loaded field. Martin Lel, Biwott, Geoffrey Mutai you can’t say this person (is the favorite) just because (you don’t know), “Are they ready and on their ‘A’ game?” That’s the question and we won’t know that until probably half-way.”
“We don’t know how they’ve trained. I haven’t talked to them (and even if I did) they aren’t going to reveal that either. When I got drug tested this morning, I was headed down to the lobby and the first two people I saw was Geoffrey Mutai and Stephen (Kiprotich)- the World and Olympic champion. We shake hands, say good morning and then you just head out. You don’t say, “How’s training in Iten or anything like that.”
“But (in the race) you’ll know – you look at their faces or their mechanics -I have my way of studying my competitors.”
4) We’ve Heard It Before But We Love To Hear Meb Talk About His Love For The USA
Before we started taping our interview with Meb (embedded below), Meb was talking to another reporter about what he thinks about in races. He said his mind wonders from the competition, to his family to prayers in both English and his native language (Tigrinya). He said the most negative he ever got was midway through the 2012 Olympic marathon when he was struggling and realized that he was in a perfect spot on the loop course to drop out.
But he didn’t succumb to the temptation.
“I thought, ‘It’s not about you. It’s about your country. You said you’d represent your country to best of your ability.'”
So Meb kept going and picked off guy after guy and ended up fourth. And who knows, it’s still possible that gets upgraded to his second Olympic marathon medal if one of the top three gets suspended way after the fact for doping.
Video of most of our talk with Meb appears below.