Coming into the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, Meb Keflezighi wasn’t just the oldest runner in the field, as he came into the race with the fastest qualifying time, out of the 162 men who started. Previous to the trials, Meb’s most recent race was a 7th place finish at the 2015 New York City Marathon in November.
In 2014, Meb ran 2:08:37 to win the historic Boston Marathon, making him the only person to ever win an Olympic medal (silver ’04), the New York City Marathon (’09) and the Boston Marathon (’14).
Going into the trials, everyone knew that this would be Meb’s last go around for a shot at the Olympics, and he had no reason to hold anything back. But days before the event, doubts rang in from the media.
Chatter from the public ranged from, “Has father time caught up with Meb Keflezighi?” to “Can Meb handle the heat?” (it was in the 80’s) and “Will Meb be able to hold off the young guys, who have much greater foot speed in the end?”.
All valid questions. But Meb is the most experienced U.S. Marathoner and still putting out performances that many would dream of.
A bit over an hour before the start of the race on Saturday, February 13, the men were escorted from the race hotel to the staging area, close to the start. As nerves were high for many, Meb kept his composure, going about with his usual warm-up routine.
This race was special for him. He wanted his daughters to remember him running in the Olympics, since they were too young to have memory of his London 2012 Olympic run.
As the race unfolded, Meb hung with a pack of 20-25 men through the early stages. He wasn’t hard to miss, as he donned his UCLA (alma matter) themed race kit and white hat. Meb mentioned afterwards in the press conference of how he could feel the spirit in the air of both his California roots and UCLA teammates cheering along the course.
Keflezighi led much of the latter portion of the race, as 2012 Olympic Silver medalist Galen Rupp, was hot on Meb’s heels.
Just after 22 miles, Rupp threw in a surge and put a small gap in front of Keflezighi. Rupp went on to win the race, in his marathon debut, with a time of 2:11:12, 68 seconds ahead of Keflezighi (2:12:20).
Meb came down the finishing stretch, with a small American flag in one hand, fist-pumping and waving to the crowd with his other. As he crossed the finish line, he let out a huge shout of excitement and called over his wife and children to hug him, as he was draped with a large American flag.
Coming into this race, Meb wanted to win. He was seeking to become the oldest champion of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, as well as being the back-to-back winner of the event. He fell one place short, but 2nd place and heading to his 4th Olympics, is still a victory in itself.
Meb will be 41 when he runs the Olympic Marathon this August, in Rio. Making him the oldest Olympic Marathoner ever, for the United States.
To get more detailed information on exactly what the Olympic Trials Marathon are all about, read on here.