The U.S. Olympic marathon trials proved that it’s never wise to write off Meb Keflezighi.
The Athens Olympic silver medalist, running on short rest after competing in the 2011 New York City Marathon and being slowed by a foot infection, won the trials Saturday in Houston and earned a spot on the US. team heading to the London Olympics. His personal-best time of 2 hours 9 minutes 8 seconds was five seconds off the time the 36-year-old Keflezighi ran at New York.
Keflezighi, a UCLA alumnus who trains in Mammoth Lakes, was born in Eritrea and became a U.S. citizen in 1998. He's the oldest man to win the Olympic marathon trials.
“It was quite an attention-getter,” said Keflezighi’s coach, Bob Larsen, the former UCLA coach who left to co-found the elite distance running program in Mammoth Lakes.
Larsen said last week that Keflezighi’s experience and sheer determination would help him compensate for the training time he lost. The foot infection developed after Keflezighi, who likes to wear a nasal strip while he runs, forgot to take the strip out of his shoe and the strip rubbed his foot raw.
Keflezighi ran in New York “because it’s been so good to him and he knows he won’t have that many more chances,” Larsen said. “He came back faster than what we expected.”
That was obvious Saturday.
“He’s so mentally strong,” Larsen said by phone from Houston. “You work with elite athletes and you see that it’s so hard to get over that mental hump when you’ve missed that much time. But when he made the U.S. team for the 10,000 in 2000 and the marathon in 2004 he was coming back from injury, too. We’ve worked together for a long time and you learn how much he can tolerate and not break.”