With his 2014 Boston Marathon victory, American racer Meb Keflezighi became the only man to ever win the storied event, take first in New York City (2009), and claim an Olympic medal (2004). The Boston win came just weeks ahead of Keflezighi's 39th birthday and notched his 20th marathon. He credits his experience for giving him an edge that day, and calls his first marathon, 2002's New York, his PhD in the event. "I was miserable that day, but I learned so much." After following the leaders for 22 miles, Keflezighi's legs grew heavy and his body cold as the leaders sped off to leave him finishing in 9th place. Keflezighi shared his favorite marathon racing, training, and nutrition tips with us.
Details Keep You Warm
Keflezighi says he made two new-marathoner errors at New York in 2002. "It was cold out, 38 degrees, but early in the race I tossed my gloves and was pouring water over my head." As the course entered the shaded streets of Manhattan after 15 miles, Keflezighi couldn't warm up, soaked from the water and his having tossed his gloves miles before. Now Keflezighi tucks gloves into the waist of his short if he warms up and saves overhead water for warmer days.
Turn Hot Days Into an Advantage
Keflezighi's breakout performance came at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The marathon was run on a sweltering day, but Keflezighi took second while also running a personal best. His advice is simple, "If it could be hot, train in the heat. Go out during the hottest part of the day to get used to it."
But Still Manage Your body Temperature
Keflezighi's success in the heat didn't come from hot training alone, he prevents overheating with two tricks. "First, I pour water over myself, getting the backs of my hands and shoulders, every 5K," says Keflezighi. That's about very 15 minutes for us non-elites. Second, even if it seems counter-intuitive, he wears a hat. "The shade will keep your head cooler for sure."
Feed Your Long Runs and Races
For most runs, Keflezighi fuels up with half an energy bar and tea 30 minutes ahead, but if he's running longer than 90 minutes, he takes additional calories. Keflezighi, who's sponsored by Powerbar, prefers gels, and in races takes one at the 15km and 35km points. He also prepares on his marathon mornings with a caffeine tablet an hour before the start, and takes an electrolyte drink at his water stops.
That's Keflezighi's top advice to all marathoners, and says it's the best he's received — courtesy two-time Olympic medalist Paul Tergat. There's no rushing training or a race, so focus on incremental improvements instead of risking an over-training injury, or blowing up after starting a race too fast.