America's Top Contender at the 2013 New York Marathon

Meb Keflezighi won the prestigious NYC race in 2009, and is a force in every marathon he runs. But he'll need to overcome injury—and some hungry young competition—to nab another title.

Meb Keflezighi (center) leads the pack at the New York City Marathon.     Photo: Henny Ray Abrams/Associate Press

Popular veteran Meb Keflezighi will be America’s best hope to do something special in the 2013 New York City Marathon on Sunday. The race will be his 18th marathon, and his first since he placed fourth at the London Olympics. But a partially torn soleus muscle in his right calf this September left the 2004 Olympic silver medalist doing much of his recent training in a pool, on a bike, and—like the star of a late-night informercial—conspicuously rolling around his San Diego home town on an ElliptiGO. The 5'-5", 125-lb. American star spoke to Outside on Friday, the anniversary of his 2009 victory in New York City.

Outside: At 38, you’re Mr. Longevity in this sport. How do you endure?
Keflezighi: Do the small things that make a big difference. Stretch, eat right, sleep, and have a very, very supportive wife.

Keflezighi: You left the finish of the 2013 Boston Marathon minutes before the bombing. Does it impact the way you think about an open-road race?
You have to have it in the back of your head. It’s so fresh. If you ask me in two years, three years, maybe less.

How did you tear your calf muscle?
Running tempo intervals, maybe landing on an uneven spot. It wasn’t like: Ooh, what happened? It wasn’t that drastic.  The first time it happened was probably September 9.

At least it wasn’t another dog incident like those that kept you out of the 2013 Boston Marathon, 2005 London Marathon, nearly derailed your Olympic performance in Athens, and killed your chances at the 2011 New York City Half. Are you more conscious of dogs or potential terrorism on the course?
I’ll be honest. More dogs than danger on the course.

You’ve only DNF’d once, in London in 2007. Given your recent injury, any chance that could happen on Sunday?
My intention is to finish the race as strong as I can. The body’s ready to go, it’s just: can I last 26.2 at that pace? I don’t know. The foundation is there, it’s just: Can I retrieve it?  That’s the mystery. I still got it in me, I think. My goal is to run to win.

In 2002, you made your marathon debut in New York. Have you decided where your last hurrah will be?
Honestly, we thought New York 2013 would be my last one. I think I’ve got a couple more years. But most likely, in New York.

Do you see any young Americans coming up who might be able to match your accomplishments?
I definitely see people at the collegiate level running faster than I ever did, but are they willing to commit? Many people could take my place, but are they willing to sacrifice? It’s not easy.

Are your three young daughters running yet?
No, but they like to race each other. And they like to hula dance.

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