JACK FLEMING: Thank you, Meb. Thank you, Craig, for joining us. I was just asking Meb whether he was aware of the couple of records that we were referencing here in the press center while he was out there trying to beat them, and I think maybe he was aware of one but maybe not the other. Meb did establish the fastest time by a Master at the TCS New York City Marathon but also an American Masters record, formerly held by Mbarak Hussein. Meb, congratulations. Tell us about your race.
'He's a Rockstar. He's Meb!' - Craig Leon on Meb Keflezighi at NYC Marathon
NEW YORK — After finishing seventh and eighth as the top Americans at the TCS New York City Marathon, Meb Keflezighi and Craig Leon addressed the media near the finish line in Central Park.
Keflezighi finished in 2:13:32, which broke the U.S. Masters record by 20 seconds and marked his 10th NYC Marathon of his career. He finished three minutes behind race winner Stanley Biwott, who won his first World Marathon Majors victory in 2:10:34. Keflezighi’s performance was his second marathon of 2015 after finishing eighth at the Boston Marathon in April.
Leon claimed eighth overall in a finishing time of 2:15:16, which marked his fourth marathon in 2015. He placed ninth at the Houston Marathon in a season’s best of 2:14:43, first at the Eugene Marathon, and fifth at the Toronto Marathon in 2:19:26.
Watch Keflezighi and Leon react to their NYC Marathon performances on Sunday:
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: It's great to be back here for the tenth time. Definitely has changed from my first time here in New York.
It was a phenomenal day, in terms of the crowd, in terms of the weather. The pace obviously was slow at the beginning. Took a lot of patience just to hold it back. As the race unfolded, I was in the lead in the mix. That's not what I wanted to do. I want to come out okay, ahead in this race. I think I have done that.
At the back of my head, I definitely wanted to get the American Masters record. So I used the Japanese guy to be able to push a little bit and help each other and barely got it.
To do it in New York gives me great pride because New York has been through ups and down with me, New York Road Runners and TCS.
The race was solid. As you know, the time overall was slow. It is what it is. That's competition. Congratulations to the top three guys that won it, but I was hoping that I could get -- fourth and fifth was definitely possible today. I just don't have the turnover. I could see it when working with the Japanese. You try to get your mind in but it didn't happen. The gap got big.
There was one decisive move that kind of did it. There was one turn that was a little sharper. Wilson Kipsang made the big move, and I couldn't cover it, and that was it.
JACK FLEMING: Craig, we saw you up front running alongside -- I think as we were looking at it on the screen, you were on the right side of Meb running with a big name on your bib. Congratulations here. We were talking about your performances prior, but tell us a little bit more about yourself, Ohio moving out to Oregon.
CRAIG LEON: I was a college walk-on at a mid-major school at Ohio University, and never certainly would have thought that I would go on to have the career that I've had over the last four or five years. It happened by accident, honestly. The pace kind of slowed down. I never would have thought I'd be in the lead running up First Avenue.
I remember turning to Meb somewhere on First Avenue and just saying, "This is a lot of fun." It was a lot of fun out there today. I'm definitely built for these kinds of races. I like Boston. I've done well in Boston. I like that there's no rabbits; it's just racing. It feels more like cross country.
I mean, I couldn't stick with these guys if it was a 10K. I think I've run under 30 minutes once or twice in my career. But I can run a marathon. That's what I'm good at. This is my first New York, and I definitely would like to come back and hopefully run a little faster over the last 5, 6K.
Q. Why do you think it was so conservative? Was it just the quality of the field? Or what do you think was going on?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: There was definitely a lot of teamwork with the Ethiopians and Kenyans. It was great to see Nick and Craig here and be with my fellow Americans. But I think the weather, because everybody said it might be warm, it might be warm. With the humidity, I think about 45 or 50 percent or so, that kind of kept everybody on. Obviously, we were waiting -- really kept going and going strong, but nobody took that lead.
We were watching Kipsang and Yemane from Ethiopia and Lelisa, and I was in the mix a little bit. Nobody really wanted to go. The wind was a little bit of a factor at times because it kind of made you stop, I don't want to be in the front and pacemaking others.
So there was a lot of hesitation on everybody's side. A couple times, whether it was me or Kipsang or Yemane all wanting to make a move, but it was like, oh, just wait. Give him some space. You know you're going to catch up to them. Really that big decision was on the last one, Kipsang made a move, and he wanted to go for the decisive win. I just didn't have the turnover.
I felt proud to have accomplished this, to be able to be in the mix. We'll get ready with Craig and Nick and myself and the rest of the Americans to try to make it to Rio. So personally for me, I was a little bit conservative on that. 1:07 is fine. Hopefully go 1:04, 1:05, negative split, and it's not going to take a lot out of you. You have to play that in your head.
At the end, I was thinking about the time. So I want to make sure I get that.
Q. Do you think this is a record you could take down even further at the trials? I know the trials is about coming in first, second, and third, but most people say if you run 2:10, you'll make it anyway. Do you think this record could come down a lot at the trials?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: I've been fortunate to have Bob Larsen as my mentor, and it was nice to get the record, but if I'm going to make the Olympic team, I'd better run a lot faster. It's going to be very interesting.
To be in the front in the mix, I'm excited about that, and I think it's going to take that at the trials to be able to do it, unless the weather is really hot. Other than that, I think, to get the American record Masters here at the New York course has a special meaning, but it's also a very challenging course, as you guys know.
This is my 22nd marathon. I think there's four marathons left. Hopefully, Rio is one of them. Otherwise, it's getting very, very close to my heydays of running marathons. I still want to be involved with the sport of running because it has done so many amazing things in my life. I want to give back, whether it's pacing people for the 5K, 10K, half marathons, things like that, and with the foundation I want to do more things.
Trust me, I'm not going past 27 marathons. 26 is it, I think. I'm going to stick with it.
Q. Craig, where does this rank among the marathons you've run in your career in terms of performance? How do you feel about it? Also, has it changed your mindset heading into the trials?
CRAIG LEON: It's tough. I'm actually proud of this race. I don't know if it rates better than when I finished tenth in Boston in 2013. Both of them were a lot of fun. I'm proud of this race because this honestly was probably my worst buildup for a marathon in the last four or five years.
My training has been pretty irregular this whole year. I ran Houston in January and have been struggling with plantar fasciitis issues for the past eight months. I got sick beginning of October and missed my last tune-up, and basically wasn't able to really train for ten days. That actually was a blessing in disguise. My foot has basically been pain free for the last four weeks.
So I do feel reenergized and rejuvenated that I'm healthy again, and I'm looking forward to putting in a solid training block over the next few months. I don't feel like I went into the well because the pace was so conservative early on.
So it's a quick turnaround. Hopefully, ten days' recovery and get ready for the trials. I know anything can happen. I enjoy being an underdog. Just show up on that day and hopefully run well.
Q. Craig and Meb, when you guys do go back to the drawing board to get ready for the trials, based on what you saw out of yourselves today, what are you working on to get in the top three?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: First things first, recover. Even though I don't feel like my body is beat up a lot, I have to be very cautious. I've just got to bring the fitness back. I'm not going to start from scratch zero.
I'm going to start eating some proteins and I already did my stretching and hopefully some therapy tonight and some Epsom salt. There's a lot of things to do in the next 24, 72 hours to make sure my body is refueled and reenergized.
But I'm going to take a little break to go to Naples, Florida to visit a friend who's been a big supporter of the foundation. I think he has an elliptical. So I might try to jump on that, on the elliptical.
Other than that, I think I'm fit. I'm strong. What I need to do is sharpen up. I think this has kind of been training for New York but also the back burner for the trials. So I feel comfortable where I am, and if I can get a little bit sharper, I think I've got a good shot.
The question is we don't know -- that's what racing is. We don't know who's going to show up with what. I feel Nick and Craig here, and to be in the lead, you think about those moments. You imagine it in the trials. Obviously, I did not have a strong finish, but the time wasn't really a concern. Also, I had a little tight hamstring. So you have to play it a little cautious. Now I feel this is behind me. Now focus and refocus for the trials.
CRAIG LEON: Naples, Florida? Isn't that where old people go to retire? What is this?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: I am 40.
CRAIG LEON: I think really for me, I just need a consistent training block. Again, like Meb said, recovery is absolutely key over the next two weeks and then back into training.
If I can just have a consistent training block, I feel like I'll be at the fitness level that I need to be at heading into the trials. A race like this does give me some confidence that, like Meb said, you just put yourself -- you give yourself an opportunity, and you never know what can happen. So I just want to be healthy over these next three months and give myself the best chance for February.
Q. At 20 miles, the pace had been relatively slow, and that's when Geoffery kind of took it out, and a few guys went him, really like three; Wilson couldn't do it. They ran that last 10K in 28:33. Do you think that fast of a 10K would be possible, even off that slow pace?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: This is the first time I'm hearing about the time. Yeah, you have to because it's possible to go fast. We were 1:06 something, 1:07 for the halfway point. You know it's going to crank up at one point.
Just for me was trying to get through Central Park with them, and once the separation happened, I was digging pretty deep and trying to close the gap in case somebody falters.
Yemane was hurting, you could see it. Once the gap separation from here to the wall, it's not -- because he's looking back trying to maintain the gap, and I'm trying to measure him, trying to close the gap and use the Japanese to help close the gap. If there was somebody in front of me going faster, I know I could have closed the gap, but I just couldn't do it myself. That's what I need to work on for the trials.
Yeah, it was good weather. I think we got a little tailwind at the end. So I'm not surprised they ran that fast.
CRAIG LEON: I'm not surprised either. It was such a slow pace, that I knew that injection of speed was coming. I was just hoping actually it would have been faster and some people would have fallen off the pace, and I could have picked up a couple people coming in. But that's impressive, especially on the hills.
Q. Meb, the hamstring you alluded to, how much of a factor was that? What did that feel like before the race and how much of a factor was it in the race?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Besides making a lot of appearances, I've been doing a lot of therapy in New York. I've been very busy. It's not going to make or break it by making appearances, but I had a really, really busy schedule.
In the meantime, my brother Merhawi, my manager, we've been trying to get a lot of therapy, chiropractor, massage and stretching. So I really haven't had time to myself going in. The hamstring was okay. I'm pretty sure there was a minor strain when I was doing a workout a week ago Thursday. To cover the distance, I hadn't tried to run 61 or so for a quarter. (Indiscernible) to be able to make the transition, to make the surges. So I hadn't done a few of those. That's why I was a little bit tight. As I worked on it, it got better and better.
A little bit toward the end, about mile 20, it was getting stiff. I thought, you know what, 6 miles, maybe 19 miles 35 minutes, hold onto it. Think about the trials. If somebody was going, challenging me or go neck to neck, I think I would have gone with them and got a little bit of time off. But the whole point for the number one goal for this one is to come out healthy and build up on it for the trials. It's the right leg.
Q. Meb, when you saw the pace was slow ten miles through halfway, did you ever think about making a break like you did in Boston last year? And why or why not?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Most definitely. When the pace is getting up there, you're waiting for somebody to make that move. It did cross my mind. Because the wind was a challenge, but I always say run to win. Mix it up and get the best out of yourself. I know New Yorkers were very supportive. I would love to win, but they want to see me run through the streets of New York.
It was a thrill of a lifetime to be in the lead and have my fellow Americans with Craig and Nick, and they've got something to cheer for. I really had a blast. I felt comfortable. I was in myself the whole time. I didn't have that sprint that I wanted, but other than that, breathing-wise, endurance-wise, it's where I want to be. Never felt like, oh, I can't go anymore. It's just even pace. We were moving toward the end. Like you said, he ran 28-something. Going through Fifth Avenue, still felt strong going up the hills, nothing that was disturbing. Just having a ball and being in New York. This is my tenth time. It's pretty memorable. I can tell you one story of each year, but this was just, to be able to be there, my first marathon as a 40-year-old, feeling comfortable and strong.
As you know, those guys got the turnover a lot faster than I do. Kind of what I used to do back in the days. I don't have that anymore, but I can work on it with Coach Larsen and hopefully get ready for the trials.
Q. Meb, one of the amazing things about your performance is that you had about a bazillion appearances you had to do this week, and you were smiling through all of them, smiling on the starting line, and probably smiling until the pace took off down First Avenue. Can you talk about how it's different to be at this stage of your competitive career where you don't have to prove a whole heck of a lot, and you can just be Meb?
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: You know how it is. Once you win the Boston Marathon, you have no pressure to get it done again. Not that we don't want to win again or get the best out of ourselves, but I'm blessed to be in the position I'm in, to be the only person to have New York and Boston and an Olympic medal. Those are a part of my life forever. Anything that I do, I've been saying this is frosting on the cake for me.
I would love to represent our country one more time. I would love to have my girls there to be able to see what their dad does. The youngest one doesn't remember, Yohana. If she can be there, I have the honor to represent the Olympic team and have them there, it would be fun.
But for me, going through this process now is fun. I'm having a blast. I'm not pushing the envelope to where I have to win and I try to get -- I want to stay healthy and give a good performance versus in the past I probably said I've got to do it, I've got to do it. Maybe I slightly went overboard and had numerous injuries.
As you know, to start running in seventh grade and to be where I am now and be part of the sport, and thank you for having been selected as one of the top most influential people running, that's an easy title to have. But I love making appearances. I love greeting people. I wish I could give them more time because we are a running family. They want to tell you what they've gone through. They want to tell you this is their first New York City Marathon or their second one or they're doing it for somebody special. I'm just delighted to hear their story and to be an ambassador for Team for Kids, for NYRR and be an ambassador.
Many come after the event and say, "Thank you for being a great ambassador for the sport of running." That's amazing feedback to get. When I ran the Boston Marathon, people said, "Thank you." And I always try to make an effort to say thank you to the people who helped me because I have not got here by myself. So many people helped me to get to where I am, and I want to give back to the sport that has done amazing things in my life.
CRAIG LEON: I want to comment, too, on that: He was even taking pictures in the last like -- here he is warming up in the Ocean Breeze facility, and he had runners coming up to him while he's trying to do his drills, and I'm thinking, like, man, he needs security just to warm up. He can't even go and warm up. But he took every single picture, smiled. I mean, he is an amazing ambassador.
CHRIS WEILLER: He's a rock star, right?
CRAIG LEON: He's a rock star, absolutely. He's Meb, one name.
MEB KEFLEZIGHI: Thank you. Wish you all the best. Thanks for all you do for the sport.