Will Blunder Hamper Meb’s Last Shot At Olympic Marathon Team?

An absent-minded mistake at NYC Marathon led to a nasty foot infection.

Written by: Sabrina Grotewold

Meb Keflezighi is hoping he can bounce back from his blister blunder at the New York City Marathon and make the Olympic Marathon team. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Is it possible for Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the marathon who most recently finished sixth in a personal best 2:09:13 at the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, to secure a spot on the U.S. Olympic marathon team at the Olympic Trials just 69 days later, where he’ll face competition like 2008 Olympic Trials winner and American marathon record holder Ryan Hall, Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, who finished ninth in the Beijing Olympic marathon, and the American 10,000-meter record holder Galen Rupp, who qualified via his first gutsy half marathon but whose intent remains unconfirmed?

He certainly can—he did it in 2004 when he followed his Olympic silver medal in Athens with a runner-up finish at the New York City Marathon 70 days later—and he will. After lowering his personal record to 2:09:13 in New York on Nov. 6, 2011, despite suffering from digestive problems due to the blistering pace, Keflezighi confirmed on a Jan. 5 conference call that he will depart from his home in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., next Thursday to toe the line at the trials in Houston on Jan. 14.

“The key is preparation,” Keflezighi said. “If you do the preparation, you can recover and bounce back well.”

But an absent-minded mistake before the New York City Marathon, followed by an unlucky streak in the weeks following the race, has hampered the 36-year-old’s preparation for the trials race next Saturday. In New York, much like the other 40,000+ runners did, Keflezighi packed his pre- and post-race essentials into his race bag so he wouldn’t forget anything or feel rushed on race morning. The marathon veteran tucked Breathe Right nasal strips into his left racing flat and went to bed. The following morning, when he approached the first mile marker on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, he felt something rubbing in his left shoe—it was the Breathe Right strips. Accustomed to far worse pain than a little rubbing, Keflezighi didn’t stop to remove the strips and ultimately suffered a foot infection—twice. He tried to train after the race anyway and developed a compensation injury in his left knee; he couldn’t even cycle because it put too much pressure on the blistered foot. Keflezighi spent three weeks on the couch with his feet propped up. On top of the freak injury, he caught a cold.

“I wish I had more time, but as any experienced runner knows, you don’t start back from scratch,” Keflezighi said. He says he’s covered the marathon distance, has completed tempo runs and interval workouts and has spent the last several weeks running in the morning and cycling in the afternoon. Still, it’s not lost on Keflezighi that the majority of the trials field are men who are in their prime running years, which is when Keflezighi won the Olympic silver medal and pulled off the double. But Keflezighi isn’t planning to slink away on account of some bad luck. He’ll remain at altitude as long as possible before flying to Houston with the hopes that his fortune might shift.

If he doesn’t make the team in the marathon, Keflezighi will try to make the team in the 10,000m at the track trials this summer. “My plan is to have Skechers make track spikes for me,” he said.

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