Meb Is Back at Boston with a Time Goal—and Super Shoes

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On Wednesday, New Balance announced they have partnered with Meb Keflezighi—one of the most decorated American marathoners ever. Keflezighi will run the Boston Marathon this year to mark the 10-year anniversary of winning the race in 2014.

The deal marks Keflezighi’s departure from Skechers, after signing with the brand in 2011. For over a decade, he was the face of the company, and he even had his own shoe line, the GOmeb. Keflezighi’s contract with the brand expired last year, and he said their relationship is very amicable.

Runner’s World caught up with Keflezighi ahead of his return to Boston to talk about his new deal and training process for the marathon after a six-year hiatus.

He’s running Boston this year for an important cause

The 2014 Boston Marathon carried a lot of significance. It was just one year after terrorists detonated bombs near the finish line, killing three people and injuring over 250 others, and the city was looking for hope. Keflezighi, 38 at the time, shocked the world by winning the race, becoming the first American man to win since 1983.

“I know on that day I had an impact,” Keflezighi told Runner’s World this week. “I wanted to be able to be something greater than myself and impactful to the sport of running. That was a defining moment for me.”

Keflezighi said he’s returning to the race 10 years later to bring attention to the MEB Foundation, his nonprofit that works to empower young people and promote health and education. He last raced a competitive marathon at the 2017 New York City Marathon, where he finished 11th, but he raced Boston a year later as a non-elite on behalf of Team MR8, which was formed in honor of Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy who was killed by the bombings.

Keflezighi said he feels compelled to give back to the sport that he loves, and he believes that running can be a vehicle for change, especially with youth. New Balance will work alongside the MEB Foundation to provide gear and shoes to young runners in the future and show them how running can improve their lives by forming healthy habits.

“Running is fundamental to all sports,” Keflezighi said. “Some kids look at it as a punishment, but I want to change that.”

His training has gone (mostly) well

To prepare for Boston, Keflezighi has scaled back his mileage from what he used to do as a pro. Before he won the race in 2014, he would log as many as 140 to 150 miles during his 9-day training cycles, which averages out to 15 to 16 miles a day. Now, he’s still taking training seriously, but most of his runs are around four to six miles, with regular off days.

“Sometimes I’m like, ‘That used to be my cooldown,’” he joked.

Keflezighi was sidelined for most of December because of a quad injury that he suffered on Thanksgiving, but he gradually increased his training volume and long runs to a point where he feels prepared for the race. At the peak of his block, he hit 22 miles for his long run.

Boston Globe//Getty Images

Keflezighi celebrates winning the 2014 Boston Marathon.

He has a goal—and knows how to run a strong Boston

When Keflezighi won Boston, he crossed the line on Boylston Street in 2:08:37, good for 4:54 mile pace and the second-fastest time ever by an American on the course. This year, he’s not focusing on squeezing every second out of the day—he’ll start mid-pack and is excited to run with the crowds—but he does have a time in mind.

“My goal has been to try to run around three hours,” he said.

He’ll have to average 6:52 mile pace to achieve that, which he knows will be challenging, but he remembers how to approach the course.

Keflezighi believes that a successful run at Boston is made on the downhills. They can be disruptive to a runner’s rhythm, but he thinks you still have to take advantage of the momentum. He visited part of the course last month and remembered how many downhills there are after Heartbreak Hill.

“You have to be in good shape to use those opportunities, to use gravity and turn over, whether you’re an elite, middle of the pack, or back of the pack,” he said. “But you can have a super fast finish.”

A lot has changed since his win

In today’s world of groundbreaking shoe tech, it might be surprising to learn that Keflezighi has never run a race in super shoes. (Skechers released its first carbon-infused shoe, the GOrun Speed Elite Hyper, in 2020, three years after his retirement.)

But that’s changing on Monday, when he’ll lace up a pair of the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v4. Keflezighi, however, is no luddite—he said he’s looking forward to having some carbon company.

“I’m not trying to break any records, but I’m going to be having a great time running in them,” he said.

Above all, Keflezighi is hoping to have fun while raising money for a good cause, although he knows the marathon distance is nothing to underestimate.

“I’ve been away from [the marathon] for six years, but you’ve gotta respect the distance and you’ve gotta respect the course,” he said. “I’ve trained pretty hard, but it wasn’t easy, so to be able to get to lace up my shoes, I’m excited for it.”

You can track Meb on race day using the BAA Racing App or the live results page. His bib number is 2014.

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Theo Kahler is the news editor for Runner’s World. He is a former all-conference collegiate runner who’s based in Easton, PA. Previously, he worked as the newsletters editor at Runner’s World, Bicycling, and Popular Mechanics.

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