Meb Keflezighi, darling of the U.S. running community and winner of the 2009 NYC Marathon, is in New York this week for a series of press appearances, including some on behalf of his sponsor KT Tape. He stopped by Men's Journal HQ to talk about the race and his plans for the future.
Could you talk about the New York City Marathon course and how it compares to other major marathon courses?
This is a very, very, very major city. Capital of the world. So everybody's trying to emulate what they have done here. It’s very vibrant. To finish in Central Park is always the thrill of a lifetime — you have the park on your right and the buildings on your left. It’s just an awesome feeling. And, you know, New York is just the most popular [race] in the world and the biggest marathon in the world. And to be able to make the journey through the different boroughs for 26.2 miles — what a treat, you know? What a treat. People dream of being in New York one day —I’ve been very fortunate to do it 10 times.
When was your first time?
2002. I said, never, never again, but now I've done 24 marathons — 10 in New York, eight of them finishing in the top 10.
Let's talk about course strategy. Maybe you could pick out some of the most challenging aspects of the course and some mistakes that people make out there on the course?
The biggest mistake most people make is going too fast on First Avenue, at mile 16. It's very gradually downhill and there's a great, amazing crowd, probably the loudest on the course. I've made this mistake so many times, because you get the energy of the people and you tend to go faster there, and now you’ve finally warmed up.
People are always talking about the crowds here in New York.
Oh it’s the most unbelievable crowd in New York. I mean, just the energy and millions of people coming and supporting out there or on their balcony, cheering for you... it’s just a pretty exciting place to be. Very vibrant, as I said earlier. Different costumes, different cultures, different ethnicities. And you notice those.
Could you tell me one or two things that a regular, middle-of-the-pack runner could learn from an elite? Whether it’s through training or on race day itself.
I think patience. Everybody could use it. You can only run your own race, looking at your watch and things like that. Nutrition is important as well — just being able to eat right and not trying something new the week of.
Let's talk about 2017. What are your plans?
In 2017, I'm hoping to conclude my marathon career in New York, but it’s not a sure thing yet.
That would be your last competitive marathon?
I’m trying to decide now and plan it out. I’ve accomplished all I wanted to accomplish as an athlete, and it’s rare to hear that as an athlete. I’m blessed to have done that, but in 2017 I'd still like to be competitive. Whether it’s finishing in the podium for a win or finishing in the top ten... I’d like to do it that way.