Keflezighi ready to roll at Birmingham
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Information Manager
USA Track & Field
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – U.S. men’s 10,000m record holder Meb Keflezighi is ready to take on America’s best at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Marathon Saturday in Birmingham, where the top three finishers qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team that will compete in Athens, Greece.
The Trials are presented by USA Track & Field, the Alabama Sports Foundation and Birmingham Marathon, Inc. The Birmingham course is slightly downhill with three loops downtown and designed for fast times. Although the average high temperature in Birmingham this time of year is 56 degrees Fahrenheit, the forecast for Saturday is for temperatures to range from the low 20s to the low 30s, with little or no chance of precipitation.
Considered a strong favorite to make the Team USA roster for Athens, Keflezighi owns a personal marathon best time of 2 hours, 10 minutes, 3 seconds from the 2003 Chicago Marathon. A member of Team USA California, in the last three years, Keflezighi, 28, has established himself as the top U.S. distance runner from 10 to 15 km, winning two U.S. cross country titles, two 10,000m championships and three U.S. 15 km road titles and setting the American record at 10,000m of 27:13.98 in 2001. Born in Eritrea, Keflezighi’s family moved to the U.S. when he was 12 and he became a U.S. citizen in 1998. Despite battling the flu, Keflezighi placed 12th in the men’s 10,000 meters at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. He trains at altitude (7,500 feet) at Mammoth Lakes, Calif., running 80-100 miles a week, and sometimes trains with U.S. women’s distance ace Deena Kastor (formerly Drossin). Keflezighi is a 1998 graduate of UCLA, where he was a four-time NCAA champion.
The following is a Q&A with Keflezighi:
Q: There’s been a great deal of discussion of late about you being ill. How is your health going into Saturday’s race?
A: I’m healthy and 100% now. I had the flu a while back that hit me pretty good and it was not fun. I took a flu shot before that and still got sick. I finally got rid of the flu about four weeks ago, after having it for three weeks. I also had a small knee problem, a little bit of tightness, but that’s gone now too.
Q: What have you been concentrating on with your training lately?
A: I’ve been running a lot of quality intervals, and not a lot of miles. I’ve gone easier on the miles because I don’t want to get injured or sick. I’ve been conservative, but I’m healthy and happy and ready to go.
Q: Who are your major competitors in Saturday’s race?
A: It’s going to be tactical, obviously. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses, but I think I’ll have to watch out for Dan Browne, Alan Culpepper, Ryan Shay and Eddy Hellebuyck among many others. It’s a championship race and the last four or five miles will determine who makes the team. I just want to make the team. I’m not worried about time, and although I’d love to win it, my main goal is to qualify for the team.
Q: What are your thoughts about competing in the cold weather?
A: I ran New York and had cold weather. I’d rather have it warm, but it’s going to be cold for everybody, so I’ll wear my beanie and my gloves and probably long sleeves.
Q: What are your thoughts about the course?
A: I haven’t seen the course yet, although I ran four miles on it earlier today and it seems pretty nice. There are a few turns I’m told, but it should be fine.
Q: What would making the U.S. Olympic Team in the marathon mean to you?
A: Ever since I was a sophomore in high school, people have told me I’m going to be a marathon runner. At that time I was a miler, so I didn’t think that would be true, but that day has come and it would be a big honor to represent the U.S. and to do well in the marathon at the Olympics.
Q: Will you run the marathon in the Olympics, or is competing in the 10,000 meters a possibility for you instead?
A: Right now that’s my intention, but I’m going to keep my options open to make the team in the 10K. I’ll decide on which event will give me the best chance to medal.
Q: What are your thoughts on the state of U.S. men’s marathon running?
A: We’re really improving, and we’re improving in all the distance races. At the high school level, and at the collegiate level where we saw Dathan Ritzenhein recently win (NCAA) cross country. About seven years ago, nobody had broken 28 minutes in the 10,000 meters, and we now have a lot of guys that have done that, and that’s going in the right direction. We also got a team medal at the World Cross Country Championships in 2001, which was a big thrill for us. Marathoning is going in the right way for us as well. I’m happy to have been part of the resurgence in the 5K and 10K, and I’m happy to contribute to growth in the marathon.
For more information on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Marathon, visit www.usatf.org.