NEW YORK -- On the day when the first 10 names from a record 140,000 applicants were selected for the 2011 ING New York City Marathon in front of a live audience assembled at the southwest corner of Central Park, Olympic silver medalist and 2009 ING New York City Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi said he planned to run the famous Five Borough race here on Sunday, November 6, then rally back 69 days later to compete in the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston next January 14.
Keflezighi, 35, a two-time Olympian and a father of three who lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., said that he and longtime coach Bob Larsen had devised a plan which would allow him to be competitive in both events, similar to the back-to-back second place finishes he achieved at the Athens Olympics and the ING New York City Marathon in 2004. Those races were 70 days apart.
"Marathons are always challenging, but I'm challenging myself further with my goal to run both the ING New York City Marathon 2011 and the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials," Keflezighi said in a statement. "This timing and challenge is very similar to 2004, when I won the silver medal at the Olympic Games and was the runner-up in the ING New York City Marathon 70 days later. This experience gives me, Coach Bob Larsen, and the rest of my team the confidence to pursue the goal of winning the ING New York City Marathon again, and making a third U.S. Olympic team."
For Keflezighi, this will be his seventh run on the hilly course from Staten Island to Manhattan. In his first run here in 2002 --in his debut at the distance-- Keflezighi made a rookie mistake, surging on First Avenue in the 27th kilometer to take the lead, only to falter in the final five kilometers and finish ninth in 2:12:35. He ran again in 2004, holding back on First Avenue when Kenya's Enos Kibet Ketter and Timothy Cherigat surged with South Africa's Hendrick Ramaala. Keflezighi patiently stalked the trio, eventually taking the lead, and was only beaten to the finish by Ramaala.
"It took a lot of energy to catch up to those guys," Keflezighi said at the time, after lowering his personal best to 2:09:53. "Ramaala had his day today. People had doubts about what I was going to do, but the doubts have been answered."
In 2005, Keflezighi made the podium here again, this time finishing third to Kenya's Paul Tergat and Ramaala, who provided one of the race's most thrilling sprint finishes (only 3/10ths of a second separated them). In 2006, Keflezighi had his worst ever run at New York, finishing 20th in 2:22:02 after he suffered from food poisoning. He competed in the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2007, also held here but not part of the New York City Marathon (he fractured his pelvis in that race and was out of competition for over a year).
In the 2009 contest, the former national 10,000m record holder used all of his experience and training to rally for victory, the first by an American here since Alberto Salazar in 1982. Pulling away from four-time Boston Marathon champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot in Central Park in the 24th mile, Keflezighi clocked a personal best 2:09:15. He pointed to the "USA" printed on his vest as he crossed the finish line adjacent to Tavern on the Green, then immediately broke down and cried before hugging his wife, Yordanos.
"My wife told me I wasn't to take the lead under any circumstances," said Keflezighi after his victory. "She said, they make you do all the work when you lead."
Keflezighi found out today that he will face 2010 New York champion Gebre Gebremariam, whom the New York Road Runners said had already committed to this year's race. The 26 year-old Ethiopian won New York in his debut at the distance last November, then showed his class again with a third place, 2:04:53, finish at the Boston Marathon on April 18.
The Road Runners also announced today in their "Opening Day" broadcast, that 2010 women's champion Edna Kiplagat, recently third at the Virgin London Marathon in a personal best 2:20:46, had also decided to come back to New York. In addition, three-time American Olympian Jen Rhines said she would also run New York, and she planned to skip the 2012 Marathon Trials so she could focus on making the Olympic team on the track, instead.
"It is with great excitement and anticipation that I return to the streets of New York this fall," said Rhines, 36, who last ran New York in 2005 and has won national road running titles this year at 15 kilometers and the half-marathon. "My training this year shows me that I am stronger than ever, and I will be ready to reach a new personal best."
Short track speed skating champion Apolo Anton Ohno was also on hand for Opening Day and he too committed to running the marathon, his first. The most decorated USA Winter Olympian ever, with two gold, two silver, and four bronze short-track speed skating medals, said he was answering a challenge from Subway sandwich chain pitch man Jared Fogle who ran last year's race.
"Running a marathon is something that I've never done, and I am super excited to take on this incredible challenge," Ohno said in prepared remarks. "I hope my journey can serve as an inspiration for others to meet their health goals, get their nutrition in order, and ultimately make smarter lifestyle choices."
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission