A few years ago, a lot of people thought Meb Keflezighi was done. With an Olympic silver medal in the marathon in 2004 and his performances starting to tail off as he approached his mid-30s, many assumed Meb’s tank was empty. But then he turned in one of his best seasons ever in 2009, setting road PRs at numerous distances and winning the New York City Marathon. Two-and-a-half years later, Meb has continued to ignore father time. Now 37, he’s coming off a solid sixth-place showing at last fall’s New York City Marathon and a win at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on Jan. 14 in Houston.
We caught up with Keflezighi recently to talk about his buildup to this Sunday’s Olympic Marathon, which will be his third Olympic appearance. In addition to his stellar performance in 2004, he also finished 12th in the 10,000 meters in Sydney in 2000.
Competitor.com: How different is your preparation for London given the significant amount of experience you have under your belt since the 2004 Olympics in Athens?
When I medaled in the 2004 Olympics, I was only running my fourth marathon. Now I have over a dozen major marathons under my belt. The Olympic Games comes every four years and I am glad to be a part of it this year. But in terms of competition, I face this level of competition every year in the World Marathon Majors events, such as the New York City Marathon. I am approaching the London Olympic marathon with the same type of preparation as for all of my marathons. Through trial, error and improvement, I have found a system that works for me.
Today we hear so much about various methods or pieces of equipment that promise to enhance performance. In preparation for this marathon and others, how have you approached finding what is right for you in this area and what, if anything, do you believe really is a great asset to your performance?
The key to improvement is to stay healthy and train consistently for a long period of time. I try to do all of the little things to get the most out of my ability. I train hard and smart, I eat right, I get my rest and pay attention to my diet, and use equipment to help maximize my God-given talent. You can have all the equipment in the world, but you still have to put in the work including all the ice baths, stretches, etc. In terms of nutrition, I use [a variety of bars and supplements] to compliment my healthy diet. In terms of equipment I have worked with [my shoe sponsor] on developing great racing shoes, compression socks have been very helpful, along with my [GPS watch]. I also use [recovery boots] for recovery.
What are the three key areas of performance that you have focused on going into the Olympics in order to perform your best on the day?
I visualize during my training. I balance the work I want to do to maximize my fitness with my need to stay healthy. On race day, it is all about execution, so I am trying to do all the work now, so my chances to achieve my goal on race day are as high as possible.
We know getting your nutrition right is key for the marathon. Starting about three days out from the marathon, what does your nutrition plan entail?
I don’t have a very specific plan. Throughout the years, my nutrition has improved gradually. So I have a pretty healthy diet at any time during my training cycle. But I become even more cautious about what I eat during the last two weeks before a big race. The night before a race, I always try to have pasta, which is my routine since high school.
How have you focused or modified your training in order to prepare for the London Olympic marathon course?
I believe in training for the distance, not just the course. At the end of the day, 26.2 is always 26.2 miles.
About The Author:
Sports nutritionist and exercise physiologist Krista Austin, Ph.D, has been a consultant to numerous U.S. Olympic runners and triathletes.