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Wall Came Early
For most marathoners, hitting “the wall” is inevitable. Elite distance runners work day in and day out, trying to perfect a strategy that gets them around the roadblock that can ruin a race in an instant. Bill Rodgers, winner of the Boston Marathon and ING New York City Marathon four times apiece, is noted as proclaiming that the marathon can humble you, thanks to the darn wall.
At the Olympic Marathon in 2012, the wall came early for Keflezighi.
“At one point I wanted to stop. At 13 miles, I wanted to drop out I was struggling so bad,” he revealed, his voice slowed to emphasize just how bad the middle miles were. “I had New York [City Marathon] lined up and I had my silver medal already [from the 2004 Olympics]. But it wasn’t about me why I was racing, it was all about the USA jersey, my family, and friends who support me over the years.”
Sitting in 17th position with half the race remaining, the Eritrean-born Keflezighi altered his mentality, focusing on positives rather than the negatives that hampered him leading up to and during the early stages of the race.
“I just changed my mental focus and said I need to get to that finish no matter what, no matter how many people come from behind and pass me, if I finish 40th or if I beat a couple people,” he said. In the third group at that point, Keflezighi chose the second chase pack as a focal point.
“Once I was there in the second group, I said if I could beat five of those or one of them I’d be satisfied. But I just changed my mental thinking every mile. Every new thing was positive and more positive,” said Keflezighi.