LONDON – Eight years after his Olympic silver, Meb Keflezighi
(Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) returned to the Olympic marathon at the age of 37 to finish in fourth place in 2:11:06 under hot and humid conditions on the streets of London.
Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda brought home his country’s first medal of the London Games and only their third athletics medal of all time as he won gold in 2:08:01. He was followed by Abel Kirui in 2:08:27 and Wilson Kipsang in 2:09:37, both of Kenya.
It was an unfortunate day for Ryan Hall
(Flagstaff, Ariz.) and Abdi Abdirahman
(Tucson, Ariz.) who succumbed to injuries mid-way through the race and stepped off the course around 18km. Hall withdrew after the first large loop and moments later Abdirahman also called it a day. Abdirahman ran with the lead pack for the first 5km before fading to 29th at the 15km mark. Hall found himself running in no-mans-land by the 10km split where he stood in 38th place before fading back to 50th place at 15km.
A large pack ran together through 12km, with Keflezighi and Abdirahman appearing at the front of the pack for much of the race. Frank DeAlmeida of Brazil surged ahead wildly at 6km, but the pack ignored his surge and eventually he faded to rejoin the group after 10km.
The race began to develop in earnest at the 12km mark when Kipsang made a decisive move to the front, and quickly developed a 16-second lead over the chase pack. Kipsang held onto the lead for 14km before Kirui and Kiprotich reeled him in.
With three runners chasing the lead pack individually, Keflezighi was able to run with a pack of eight men who were just two minutes behind the lead at the 30km mark. Over the next 5km, Keflezighi increased his pace, pulled away from the chase pack and set his sights on picking off the lone athletes separating him from the podium. During the final two miles of the race, Keflezighi passed both Marilson Dos Santos of Brazil and Kentaro Nakamoto of Japan to secure his fourth place finish.
Keflezighi’s performance is the best by an American since his 2004 silver medal in 2:11.29.
“Coming here I told my wife, ‘I have a feeling I’m going to finish fourth.’ Did I want to finish fourth – no. But at the World or Olympic games I’ll take it, especially considering that I did not make the Olympics [in 2008]. I 2004, to be a silver medalist, I know how that feels, so I congratulate those people who finished first, second and third. Everybody works hard to accomplish such a thing and I am very proud of myself and our country to finish fourth. It’s not where you want to be sometimes, but fourth place at my last Olympics – I’ll take it anytime.”
“It was my right hamstring. I don’t know if it is tendonitis or something up high in the connection. But it was nothing that was that serious in training. We’ve been doing a lot of work on it to keep it clean, but it is just something that got progressively tighter as the race was going on. I felt like I was really favoring my stride and didn’t want to get injured. I’ve never DNF’d a race before, so this is a first for me. Not finishing a race is not an option unless I think I’m going to do serious damage to my career. Those last couple of miles I’m weighing in my head, ‘do I sit out here and could I have run 26 miles and finish in 3 hours or something.’ But my stride was getting worse and worse…This wasn’t something I could work through.”
: “I felt like I was feeling good during the race. I was in good position and feeling really good. I thought I was going to make a move at 13 miles, but something happened. There was just this pop in my [right] knee, I don’t know what it is, but it just popped when we turned and I tried to run a couple more miles, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was just painful. There was no warning. I had a little problem in training, but it was nothing. We looked at it at the USOC and there was just some water on my [right] knee. But it didn’t bother me while I was training. I did a 20 miler a week and a half ago. I had great workouts last week, everything was going well for me, but unfortunately something popped and I don’t know what it is.
“It was the hardest thing for me to do, but at the same time I didn’t want to push it and limp in dead last. That’s not what I was here for. The best thing for me was to shut it down.”
For more information on the 2012 Olympic Games, visit www.usatf.org