Photo by Julian Maso
A good day, to Meb Keflezighi, begins with the sun rising. The Eritrean-born marathon runner, who qualified last month to run for the second time in the Summer Olympics at the age of 36, stays attuned to the pull of the world on his rigorous athletic passage. While he ran his first Olympic marathon at the 2004 events in Athens, Greece, taking home a silver medal for the U.S., a pelvic injury in 2008 prevented him from returning again in Beijing. Though overwhelmed, he fought adamantly to return to flight.
In January, he became the oldest winner of any Olympic marathon trials, setting a career best finish at 2:09:08. Fully recovered and unwavering as ever, he races this year in London with family surrounding him, and a commitment to finish what he didn’t have the opportunity to years ago.
We spoke with Keflezighi a while back to get his take on music and sports, and this week, we continue our conversation, discussing the new stage and journey in his life.
BTR: What do the Olympics represent to your life at present?
Keflezighi: The Olympics are the pinnacle of any sport, as is being a medalist. Not being able to go in 2008 when I really wanted to be there, at a peak time in my career, was devastating. Having the chance to go back years later is different, but incredible. I’ll be more relaxed. I’m married with three children, yet any time you have such a chance you should try to position yourself to get a medal. I’m very excited to be on the team, and to share it with my family. I set a goal in 2008 to defend my title and to go for gold, but that didn’t happen. This time, I just aim to have fun. What’s missing is a gold medal, so I will push my body to the limit and see what I can do again. If it happens, great; if it doesn’t, that’s okay too.
BTR: How did you recover from you pelvic injury in 2008?
Keflezighi: It was a lot of hard work, a lot of swimming, a lot of therapy. I wasn’t able to walk so I had to use the wall to balance, and I was crawling everywhere like a ten-month-old baby. I spent about six weeks off, then eight to nine weeks in the pool playing catch-up, before I could run a 10K.
BTR: What’s a typical training ritual like for you?
Keflezighi: To prepare for the trials, I started with three miles a day, then increased to five or seven miles day… then ten. Eventually, I got to a long run of 26 miles, which gave me the confidence I could do it.
BTR: What do you anticipate will be the most difficult part of the Olympics this year?
Keflezighi: The most difficult part was making the team! Now it’s just about staying healthy and training consistently.
BTR: Has your body changed at all, or has your running been affected by age?
Keflezighi: I don’t recover as fast now and my metabolism has slowed down. I’m still doing the same mileage I’ve done in the past though. With age, I’ve become more in tune with my body. I stretch more and pay attention to the details.
BTR: What do you think about when you run?
Keflezighi: I think about God and my family. I think about competitors, how lucky I am to do what I do; I set goals.
BTR: Do you listen to music?
Keflezighi: Oh yes, I always listen to music on my Sony Walkman. Or I listen to advice about nutrition, exercise, stretching techniques… that sort thing.
BTR: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Keflezighi: I have so many, and they’re all special. My top three would probably be winning a medal for our country; going from crawling to winning the NYC marathon; and qualifying this year for the Olympics, setting my career best time.
BTR: How do you relax?
Keflezighi: I relax with friends and family. We go out to restaurants because I do like to eat whenever I get a chance.
BTR: But of course! Got a favorite food?
Keflezighi: I really like Thai food because it’s spicy. I love steak too; I eat it after a hard run to recover.
BTR: What’s a good day to you?
Keflezighi: I like to run in the morning to see the peak of day when the sun comes out. You do what you gotta do during the day; a lot of things come up so it’s good to get energized. Every day is different, it has its ups and downs but it begins with the sun rising and ends when it sets. Then, the next day comes again. I begin mine with the sun.