Hometown Hero Keflezighi Rocks The Field In San Diego

Meb Keflezighi, proudly wearing his USA singlet, breaks the tape at this morning's Dodge Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon. Photo: Ollie Neglerio/Competitor

The Olympic silver medalist thrilled to win Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon.

Written by: Mario Fraioli

SAN DIEGO — The look on Meb Keflezighi’s face in the first mile of this morning’s Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon said it all: this was his race, in his hometown, and it was going to be run on his terms.

Tearing through the first mile in 4:47, only three-time New York City Marathon champion and two-time London Marathon winner Martin Lel of Kenya went with Keflezighi, who was running his first half marathon in the city where he grew up.

Lel sat contently on Keflezighi’s shoulder through the 5-mile mark (23:27) before the Olympic silver medalist decided enough was enough. After Lel refused Keflezighi’s invitation to take over the lead 5-1/2 miles into the race, the 2009 New York City Marathon champion broke free and opened up a large lead he held all the way to the finish line. Keflezighi, who went through 10K in 29:03 and 15K in 43:45, broke the tape at Sea World in 1 hour, 2 minutes and 40 seconds–1:58 up on second-place finisher Drew Polley, who represents the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Lel, who finished second at the London Marathon just 7 weeks ago, dropped out of the race just after the 10K mark.

“It wasn’t my plan to take the lead right from the gun, but sometimes things don’t always go according to plan,” Keflezighi said just moments after crossing the finish line. “When I saw Martin didn’t want to take the lead, I knew it was my race. I had to be aggressive.”

Gina Slaby breaks the tape in the women's half marathon. Photo: Ollie Neglerio/Competitor

Keflezighi, who finished seventh at the Bay to Breakers 12K last month, is pointing toward the New York City Marathon in November and the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon just 69 days later–a double that excited the 35-year old now based in Mammoth Lakes. This early stop along the road to capturing a second victory in the Big Apple and making another Olympic team in Houston,  however, was nothing short of sweet, for the proud San Diegan.

“It’s exciting to win here in my hometown of San Diego,” Keflezighi said. “Lots of people were calling my name out on the course. I saw my high school classmates. I recognized a lot of people out there. It was a great day for me.”

In the women’s half marathon, 29-year-old Gina Slaby was first across the finish line, breaking the tape in 1:16:33. The, who runs for the U.S. Navy team, won by a minute and a half over 41-year-old Joanna Zeiger of Boulder, CO.

“I went out a little too fast,” said Slaby, whose first mile was 5:30. “I wish I was about 30 seconds faster, but it’s always exciting to win.”

Slaby, who like Keflezighi led from start to finish, is gearing up for the Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston next January. She qualified with a second-place finish earlier this year at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon.

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