When Meb Keflezighi announced in April of last year that he planned to run in the New York City Marathon and the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials just 69 days apart, few pundits gave him a chance of winning either. At 36, Keflezighi was nearly nine years older than the average Olympic marathon medalist, and was battling a foot infection to boot. Longtime sponsor Nike had dropped him just months before, and Keflezighi had skipped the spring race season after the directors of the London and Boston Marathons refused to pay his requested appearance fee. But that was before the 2004 Olympic runner-up and 2009 New York winner smoked a strong field at the trials in Houston, becoming the race's oldest-ever winner and setting a new personal record in the process. "I don't count myself as an underdog," he says. "But everyone's entitled to their opinion." Keflezighi credits his quick recovery and win to his coach of 18 years, Bob Larsen, and to a carefully developed training plan that included three weeks of forced recovery from his infection. He'll find out whether that preparation was enough on August 12 at 11 a.m. London time, when he and his U.S. teammates line up for the Olympic marathon. A host of strong runners like Kenya’s Emmanuel Mutai and Wilson Kipsang stands between Keflezighi and a place on the podium, but as he showed in Houston, it may not be wise to count him out. “I've been there, so I know what it takes,” he says. “If I can stay healthy and be competitive, I'll be satisfied.”
To make the training miles go by faster, Keflezighi turns to music; sponsor Sony even makes him a signature version of its Walkman mp3 player. We talked to Meb to find out what’s on his playlist. If you have Spotify, you can listen to his complete Olympic training mix here.
"Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z
The week this came out, I won New York. It makes me think a lot of that.
"Eye of the Tiger," Survivor
When I'm training in the heat or in the snow in Mammoth Lakes, it gets my heart racing. It never gets old. If I'm in the hotel skipping through the channels and I see [the Rocky movies], I'm like, All right, I've gotta watch that.
"Beat It," Michael Jackson
He's a legend. I heard it on the radio when I first came over, in the sixth or seventh grade. That's an older one, but even my six- and four-year-old girls love it.
"Crazy in Love," Beyonce
You want to get into the mood. If you're going to be climbing up a hill, you want it to be faster; before a race, I want to get pumped up. But on the bus, I'd listen to "Crazy in Love." Once the gun goes off, I'd want a faster beat.
"Lose Yourself," Eminem
He has great lyrics. When I visualize—and I do a lot of visualization in training, I'm training three months for one race—"Lose Yourself" gets me pumping.