Boston Marathon winner stops to rest in North Carolina

CorrespondentMay 4, 2014 

— It’s easy to forgive Meb Keflezighi if he isn’t working as hard as usual right now.

The first American winner of the Boston Marathon since 1983 might deserve a little slack.

Keflezighi is in North Carolina this weekend to promote Generation UCAN, a carbohydrate energy drink he uses a couple of times a day and is also a nutritional aid for children unable to break down glycogen and other carbohydrates.

The former UCLA track All-American, born in Eritrea, made a promotional appearance at Life Time Fitness on Saturday and is scheduled to make another at the All American Marathon in Fayetteville on Sunday.

Keflezighi won’t be running a step, and hasn’t since his 2:08:37 personal best on April 21.

“Nothing,” he said with a laugh, making the two-handed gesture that indicates “safe” or “incomplete” or “no goal.”

Running 120 miles a week in preparation to go 26.2 miles will do that to a man.

The affable Keflezighi, who turns 39 Sunday, said he’s planning to run the New York Marathon on Nov. 2.

“If I’m healthy (knocks on the wooden desk),” said Keflezighi, who runs in two majors each year now.

Keflezighi, who made his marathon debut in 2002 in New York after winning 5K and 10K national track titles and an individual cross-country championship for the Bruins, in 2009 became the first American to win at New York in 27 years.

But he said he almost quit marathons after that one. Fortunately he didn’t, finishing second in the Olympics in 2004 and fourth in 2012.

“I said after that one, ‘I never, ever want to do this again,’” said Keflezighi, who discovered his talent when he ran a 5:20 mile in middle school. “I hit ‘The Wall’ at about Mile 21 and finished at about a six-minute pace. The first time I ran a 10K I didn’t want to do that, either. But the runner’s high is a beautiful energy.”

He said the win in Boston was about as good as it gets.

“It’s hard to put into words, but I’ll try,” said the 121-pound Keflezighi, who loves omelets and eschews sweets. “It was an amazing experience. I was there last year and I was scheduled to run, but I withdrew due to a training injury. I was still there to support UCAN and my other sponsors.

“On race day I was watching on TV in the hotel lobby, but it didn’t feel right. I went to the grandstand to watch on the big screen to see people cross the finish line. I was there for four hours, and I left five minutes before the bomb explosion because I had an appointment. If it wasn’t for that I would have been in the middle of it.

“I was chasing the sun to avoid being so chilly. And then I heard something loud a few hundred meters from where I was standing, and I didn’t think anything of it. But someone had a radio and said ‘There’s been a bomb on Boylston Street!’ My brother was down there and there were four people from my foundation in the race. We just started crying thinking about how much devastation there was. But that night we were at a bar mingling with people and someone said ‘Are you going to come back?’ And I said, ‘Of course I’m going to come back!’ I have to support it. As runners we have to be united.”

So he vowed to give “110 percent” this time.

“My goal was to win it,” he said. “If I can’t do that, top three, if I can’t do that, to run a personal best. If I run a personal best and finish 15th, I will celebrate like I won because that’s the fastest I ever ran.

“Training didn’t go quite as well as I wanted it to go, but I had stamina, and speed-wise I was strong. Giving 110 percent is not about speed, but about endurance. I got to the front (early) and controlled it. ... And at about 19 miles I’m pumping my fist and they were saying ‘USA! USA!’ Coming in, the guy (Kenyan Wilson Chebet, who finished 11 seconds back) came close with about three miles left. But when I got to Boylston Street, I just said ‘God, give me the energy of the victims and the spectators and drive me to that finish line.”

Keflezighi, married with three daughters between four and eight, said his final marathon will probably be in the Olympics in Rio De Janiero in 2016.

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