- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

Last year, Meb Keflezighi stunned the American running community by earning a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Nine weeks later, he did it again, this time with a runner-up performance against another world-class crowd at the New York City Marathon.

Seven days from now, Keflezighi will get a chance to better that second-place finish against one of New York’s top fields ever. Mary Wittenberg, the New York City Marathon race director, put the challenge to Keflezighi during a conference call Wednesday.

“Meb, after you indicated that you were coming back here, we made sure we went out and got you the most challenging field,” said Wittenberg, who was inducted into the Marine Corps Marathon Hall of Fame this week. “We have the reigning Boston Marathon champion [Hailu Negussie from Ethiopia], the reigning New York City Marathon champion [Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa], the reigning world record holder [Paul Tergat of Kenya] and the reigning course record holder [Tesfaye Jifar of Ethiopia].”

Jon Brown of Great Britain, who placed fourth in the last two Olympic marathons, also is in the field.

Keflezighi leads his top rivals in New York head-to-head in marathons during their careers. He is 3-1 vs. Ramaala, 1-0 vs. vs. Tergat and 2-0 vs. Brown.

However, Keflezighi didn’t train the same during the past few months as he has in previous years.

According to his coach, Bob Larsen, “we were advised to run without any intensity for eight weeks since Helsinki,” he said, referring to the world championships 10,000-meter final Aug.8 in which Keflezighi did not finish because he partially ruptured his right quadriceps. “Afterward, we went three-and-a-half to four weeks without running while we were in Florida. We missed the last part of the buildup to the marathon that we usually do.”

Said Keflezighi: “Last year I had a silver medal, and I had base training. But this year I am a lot fresher since I haven’t run a marathon in awhile. Last year I was wondering if I could run a marathon just after Athens.”

This will be his third trip to New York. Keflezighi made his marathon debut in New York in 2002 and finished ninth in 2:13:35. He was out with the leaders but could not hold the pace and gradually and painfully slipped back, still finishing as the top American.

“The first time I went out too fast, made mistakes,” he said.

Then last year, in the closing stages of the race, he missed a move that he said cost him the win.

“I was looking at [third-place finisher] Timothy Cherigat when Ramaala went for it,” he said. “I learned that in the last three miles, don’t underestimate anybody. And don’t go for the water, go for the leader.”

Ramaala ended in 2:09:28, 25 seconds ahead of Keflezighi.

Yellow rain — From a chat group, the best explanation why you do not want to start the New York City Marathon on the lower deck of the Verrazano Bridge, compliments of Alan Roth, whose brother Peter was a longtime race official there until 1999:

“It’s mainly a wind factor. Those on the upper level who didn’t get a chance to use a porta john before the start tend to use the side of the bridge as a urinal. With the right wind, it gets blown into the lower level runners. The lower level is the green start. You may be able to get your start color changed at the Trouble Desk [at the runner’s expo]. You’ll need to figure out a reason for changing other than the fact that you don’t like being rained upon by the upper level runners.”

No takers this time — The Washington Running Report Ten Mile Triple finished the 2005 season with no winners of the $2,000 first prize. One male or female runner had to win Cherry Blossom, Annapolis and Army. Susannah Kvasnicka won the first two races but opted for the Twin Cities Marathon on the same day as Army.

Whether she would have outrun Samia Akbar at Army is doubtful anyway.

The Ten Mile Triple will begin again next year April2, 2006, with Cherry Blossom.

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