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November 7, 2010

Meb Keflezighi


RICHARD FINN: Our 2009 champion, Meb Keflezighi put in another great show. It seems that New York always brings out if not the very best in Meb, right near the top of the best of Meb. Sixth place here, top American, 2:11:38. We welcome back Meb. Congratulate him on a great run, a great title defense, and some comments of what it was like out there today in your race, Meb?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: First I'd like to congratulate Gebre Gebremariam in his debut. It was a special day when he can win the New York City Marathon, the ING New York City Marathon. It was my day last year, it was definitely his phenomenal debut here today. So congratulations to the finishers.
It's always a great honor to compete in the ING New York City Marathon because it's a very, very special place. The crowd was phenomenal, "go Meb," "go USA" the whole way through, especially when Dathan and I were running down First Avenue, they were cheering us on.
The make-or-break decision was on First Avenue. They were really sprinting full out, and I tried to be patient, but the gap was so big that that was it for me to be able to. I ran down a lot of guys at the end, but they were -- when seven guys go, three will survive and they did. It got close to James Kwambai who has run a phenomenal time, so for me it was good self confidence.
So I was thrilled to be here as always. Thank you to Mary and the New York Road Runners for having me. The community, the volunteers, it was phenomenal just to cheer "U-S-A, U-S-A." You know, I gave it a shot, and that's all you can do. It just shows that when you finish 27 years straight and try to do that again, if it was easy, it would get done a lot easier or a lot sooner. But that's the marathon. Congratulations to the people that had a phenomenal day today.

Q. Did you feel pretty comfortable in the lead pack up until 16 or 17 when that break happened? Did you feel at that point that you had a chance of hanging in there?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Yeah, for the first 15 miles I was fine. Just I was staying on the outside because of the few touching of the legs a little bit. Almost got hit a couple of times and fell, so I was staying on the outside. But, no, I felt very comfortable.
I think it was 1:05:15 or 1:05:17, close to where we were last year, so I said, "hey, maybe we can get it done again." But, you know, that just when Haile got out and I didn't see him, some guys made a huge move and that kept it going.
I was 4:37 on First Avenue, and 4:46, I think, again. So that was the difference. They wanted to get away from Haile, and three guys survived and the others didn't.
RICHARD FINN: Meb went through the half at 1:05:19 officially.

Q. Was it hard to know in the first half of the race -- there was a huge pack but some guys were making surges -- was it difficult to know what would be a smart move? Were you tempted to try to go to the front maybe later in the first half of the marathon?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Yes, definitely. I think about six miles or so there was a lot of surging going on. But we were consistent. It wasn't a superfast time, so you have to react to it a little bit. But all the contenders were there, and you have to be in the game for it. I was comfortable being in the front.
Obviously the first mile was 5:53 or so on my watch. That's 20 seconds or so slower than last year, which is okay. But it was cold and windy the whole way, so tried to attack it as much as possible, but I was on the outside a little bit so I was getting the wind.
But it's racing, and that is what the marathon is about.

Q. After the race, Haile told us that he was not going to run anymore, that he was retiring. I'm wondering if you could comment on what his impact on the sport has been and what you feel his legacy is for your sport?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: I mean Haile, for me, has been a role model on the course and off the course just what he has done. He's a great ambassador for the sport. Anywhere from the 5K to the marathon, he has nothing to prove. 2:03:59 says it all. He's won back-to-back Olympic Gold Medals and many, many other world records.
I'm honored to be in the same race, even though due to the injury he didn't finish, but to be the greatest probably distance runner ever, to be on the same sideline with him and compete against him for a little bit, it's an honor to be in the same event with him in his last race. He's an amazing individual.
We've known each other since Sydney and Edmonton and World Championships. We sat down and had coffee and talked about Ethiopia and also just training. He tells me some of his workouts at 8,000, 9,000, it's like, wow. And he does what's best for his body. His legacy is going to keep going for a long time. And Gebremariam just showed that there are new guys in Ethiopia that are doing very well. And he's been a great role model not just for them, but for international running.

Q. Could you tell from the beginning that he was struggling or did it just seem like he was trying to tuck in with the cold the same as everybody else?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: No, Haile was early on, probably about nine, ten miles, he was fine. I could tell probably at about 12 or 11, I kind of sensed him. I kind of said, maybe I should make a move now, but it's still early still. The same kind of thought that I had when I raced in Athens with Paul Tergat. I had the honor to race with phenomenal guys and to be in the same field with them.
But at one point I thought maybe I can go now. But obviously at 15 miles he said the downhills is what his problem was. The uphill he was fine.

Q. Were you and were any of the other runners immediately aware that Gebrselassie was no longer in the race? Did you know he had dropped out?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: No, I did not know he had dropped out. But I remember just after the bridge I was a little bit behind. Caught up to the front and then coming down First Avenue he was no longer there. We didn't know if he -- there was a station, a water drink or special fluid, and that's when he went there and I didn't see him. I kind of looked over, so I was kind of surprised.
But then a couple of the guys, Goumri and a few other guys, James Kwambai, kind of made a huge move when they didn't see him. I said, well, I've got to go with them. But they were just full out sprinting and still got about 10 to 11 miles to go.

Q. At about 17 miles they all knew?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: That's when I remember just looking back and they didn't see him in the picture. So then they surged big time.

Q. Just like you mentioned Haile was your inspiration like he is for many other people, you're an inspiration to many runners, including half marathon world champion in Zersenay Tadesse. And Gebre Gebremariam, this was his first marathon, and he was a half marathon runner. So do you think chances are very good for people like Zersenay Tadesse to come and run in these types of races?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Thanks for the nice comments. I always try to be the best that I can as a human being. If you do the right things, things will fall in places.
I know Zersenay Tadesse hasn't hit the home run on the marathon, but he's definitely done five times the world champion, and 58:38 I think is the world record. So his day will come. And Gebremariam, he just I remember on First Avenue he was like, come on, let's go. Because he asked me for advice right when we laid down in the tent, what do we need to do? I said, be patient on First Avenue. I remember I was behind, he said, come on, let's go, let's go. I tried to go with him. But he was able to connect with the other guys.
It's all about passing the knowledge. Give them good advice, and hopefully like you said I inspire some people. They'll inspire others to do the best they can. It's great to see. The ING New York City Marathon is not an easy thing. But to come here and do it like he did, and Alberto Salazar, now the status is way up here. So I wish him the best and hopefully I'll see him again on the road.

Q. Haile said that he didn't want to complain anymore. He was hobbling off. He basically sounded as if he had enough of the injuries. Do you understand that mentality and how hard is it to keep coming back every year? After his career and announcing this today, does it make you think how long can I keep doing this?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Well, New York is always a tough course. As you remember, I did my first one here in 2002, I said my first and last. Of course, it was the first thing I said.
But Haile has accomplished many things in his life, not just in running but in business. Who can -- you have to understand. Just to win a national title is huge. To win an Olympic title is huge. To get 27, 28 world records. Nobody can complain just winning nationals or silver medal or whatever. That's the way I was in 2008 when I had my pelvic fracture. I said, God has an amazing thing in my life. If this just one that I've accomplished out of all the American record, medal, nationals, anybody would be satisfied with, no complaints. And that's what he's looking at. Hey, I had a phenomenal run. Since 1996, just imagine, 14 years. That's just the Olympics. Before that even the World Championships.
He's accomplished so many things, you know. For me I even said, look, I said I wish I had finished Top 10 in 10K in the world, just because that's self-satisfaction off your check list. And he has some phenomenal runs in his career. Nobody can complain. I don't think anyone can blame him for making it a retirement because he has done so much for the sport. He's passing the torch. Like Gebremariam and others that are in Ethiopia that look up to him. That's what part of it is.
For me my goal is 2012, 2013, after that hopefully to pass on to the younger generation. I'd like to see them succeed to that level. Just whether it's winning nationals or setting the American records or getting the podium for our country or winning the ING New York City Marathon.
It was easy, it wouldn't be 27 years, like I said earlier, or whether it's Boston the end of the streak. So whoever has that day that can win. I think I was ready for this race. I feel really prepared, but it was windy and I just couldn't cover that move.

Q. What makes this race, this marathon event so much different in this sport than other sports where there is such a brotherhood between all of you guys? You seem to help each other. You're instructing and mentoring each other. You don't see that in some of the other sports.
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: The uniqueness of distance running, I mean, distance running is something that you share. If I see Haile on the trails or Dathan or Ryan Hall or Gebremariam, or Ramaala, I say, hey, you're going to go a 30-minute run, can I join you? There is no other sport that can do that.
For us, I didn't think Haile was going to retire. But I wished him luck and gave him a hug at the starting line.
Usually you run a 100 meter, get out of my lane. That is the distance. Or intimidate -- if you're going to play football or things like that -- you have to intimidate your opponent. But here it's a long way. Let's help each other out and get the best out of ourselves.
Everybody's happy for Gebremariam, you know. Edna, who won the women's, everybody's happy for her because we know how long it takes, how hard it is just to get to the starting line healthy. The rest is to be competitive, and whoever has that better day, just like mine was last year, we're all satisfied for the person who won.
I remember Mary Wittenberg last year, Abdul was down, and said Meb won, and went up, and Hendrick the same thing, so we all cheered for each other.

Q. I think it's too early to make this determination, but do you think you'll be running marathons in 2011 or would you be more likely to wait for the trials to do your next one?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: No, I'm going to run the marathon in 2011. I haven't decided which one yet, but I'd definitely like to do that in the spring for sure. We haven't decided about fall yet.
RICHARD FINN: We congratulate and thank Meb for another stellar performance. This was his fifth Top 10 performance here in New York. That's pretty good. We welcome him back and hope he continues to run. We look forward to seeing him in New York in the marathon, the half marathon and other races as long as he continues his career. Thanks, Meb.
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Thank you very much.

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