This year’s Boston Marathon was perhaps the most inspiring in the race’s 117-year history. There was the “Boston Strong” spirit, the record crowds, the healing moments – and then there was Meb Keflezighi. To put it mildly, Keflezighi crushed this year’s marathon. From the first mile he took ownership of this unforgiving course, maintaining a blistering 4:54 pace, setting a personal best marathon time, and becoming the first American to win in 31 years. We caught up with Keflezighi to talk about what he rightfully calls “an epic race and an epic moment.”
What was it like to run – and win – this year’s Boston?
To see so many people with signs saying “Boston Strong” on the road, and the crowd – thousands of people on the road, saying, “USA, USA” – it pushed me to have gutsy race, and get a personal best. This is beyond the most meaningful victory for me. To have this, what happened to us as runners last year, to come back and to be the first one to cross the finish line is just beyond – I believe God led me to this moment in my career
Can you talk about the last two miles, where Wilson Chebet closed the gap from over a minute to just seconds.
At Mile 24, I felt like throwing up. I was going up the hill taking drinks, and all of a sudden I didn’t think I would be able to hold my fluid. At the same time, I looked back and I saw Chebet. I didn’t know who it was, to be honest – all I saw was an orange singlet and I was thinking, ‘Oh no, he’s coming.’ Then, on the 25th mile, I thought he was going to catch me, but I told myself, ‘Just save a little bit, in case he comes.’ There’s so many tactics, so many strategies in your head, but I just worked to keep the lead. With 1K to go, there’s a downhill, and I used it, focused on the mechanics, and made the final left turn. Then I crossed myself, and said, ‘God, give me this opportunity, the strength to go and use the energy of the people to drive me.’ And as I crossed the line, they said, “USA champion.” It was wonderful, it was an epic race, and an epic moment.
Did you change your nutrition up on this race all?
Most definitely. I have to watch my weight. I took my scale to the marathon with me, and I’d been weighing myself every day. I was 122.2 on race, and most people know that who have read my autobiography, Run to Overcome, it said, if I’m 125 under, that’s my racing weight, but if I can be 121 that’s even better. To do this, I’ve been eating a lot of salad, and beef jerky with all the different spices, and a lot of blueberries. I constantly snack: I’ll have a little bit of a power bar, Krave jerky, or a shake after a hard run. I don’t wait until I get hungry. I always carry a heavy backpack filled with food. One of my coaches says you should have enough in your bag for about three days – and I always do.
You also trained differently for this, with much more rest. Do you think that was helpful?
Definitely. I used to have all hard days all through my training. But I’ve been running for such a long time, I’ve just got to bring that fitness back. I don’t do so many hard days and my recoveries are easier. I just listen to the body because of my age – I’m going to be 39 soon. Sometimes you just need to relax – and I did a lot of that this year.
Has this been a trying year for the running community?
It was catastrophic last year and all those people just joyously finishing proved that we never give in – we never give up. Some 36,000 signed up and then 32,000 people finished – a 90-percent success rate. It’s like they caught up and they dug deep to get to that finish line. That’s what runners do. And I’m proud to be in that pack. You never know when you’re going to race 100 percent, I was ready to come back and go for the win and I’m happy that it happened.