Meb Keflezighi competes in the U.S. Marathon Olympic Trials January 14, 2012 in Houston, Texas. Credit: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Whether you’re gearing up for the New York City Marathon this weekend or just preparing to set out for your first mile, last year's winner Meb Keflezighi shares his advice to help you cross the finish.
His regular diet
“You would think if I’m running 110, 120 miles a week I could eat anything and everything. That used to be the case; that’s not the case anymore,” Olympian and New York City Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi says. “My metabolism has slowed down quite a bit.” On his regular menu: egg whites and — no gluten aversion here — wheat pasta and lots of brown rice. “My mom makes homemade bread and I have that before a race. When a race day comes that’s my tradition.” For dinners, Keflezighi usually sticks with chicken, shrimp or steak before a hard run the next day. He also eats “at least three fruits a day” to keep his weight in check.
A typical day of training for Meb
• Wake up around 7 a.m. • Eat toast or a bagel, and possibly some hot tea. Stretch. • First run of the day: Usually a 10-12 mile run in different parts of San Diego. Mission Bay/Fiesta Island is one of his favorite routes. • Within 15-30 minutes after an intense workout, Meb has a Generation UCAN chocolate shake and PowerBar protein bar. He’s trying to get as much protein as possible in this small window to help his muscles recover quickly. • Post-run extensive active stretching. • 15-minute ice bath (in 55-degree water!) Meb reads the Bible in the tub. • Meb drinks coconut milk to help warm up and puts layers of clothing on. Even after just 15 minutes in the cold bath, it takes hours for the runner’s core body temperature to come back to normal. • First of Meb’s two big meals of the day (brunch and dinner). One of his favorites: the Lunch of Champions, a spinach salad with feta cheese, different flavors of Krave Jerky and dark berries. • Second run or cross-training. Meb’s getting older and therefore doing fewer second runs (there’s less pounding). He swims, uses the elliptical or goes cycling. • Two or three times a week, Meb will get a massage. Some are deep-tissue, others are ART (active release technique) — the type of rubdown that is more rough and not very feel-good. • Go to the gym or do some core work at home for about 45 minutes. • Come home by 6 or 7 p.m. to read to his kids and say goodnight to them. • Downtime: Meb has an early dinner, does some reading, catches up on phone calls and emails, and watches the news and some sports highlights.
Keflezighi’s ideal weight on race day. For a marathon, he says, he can get away with 125. He weighs himself every day and says he can feel even a one-pound difference.
At the gym
Keflezighi bikes and swims. “The pool gets my whole body working,” he says. On the floor, he’s doing plymotetics, flexibility exercises and body weight moves like push-ups and squats. “I’m trying to strengthen the ligaments,” he says. The runner spends about 45 minutes to an hour in the gym when he’s there.
His training must-haves
Intervals: “You need to do some faster stuff,” he says. “It makes you feel good. One minute on, three minutes off — you will become more efficient and you will become faster.”
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Meb’s marathon tips
Save your energy “New York is a course where you want negative splits. You are gonna have a pleasant memory if you can run your second half faster. … Pick up every mile by 10, 5 seconds. When you lose [time], you start to lose 15 seconds, 20, 30 seconds, or it could be a minute in the last mile or mile and a half.”
Don’t over-exert “The Queensboro Bridge is at the 15 mile mark. You wanna feel good, you wanna feel comfortable. After 16 miles I have to feel I’m not even working. … You shouldn’t be struggling. Mile 23, that’s a different story.”
Remember your training “It’s a lot of strategy. Once the gun goes off, 90 percent is mental. If you did the preparation, 90 percent is mental. How are you gonna execute your plan?”
Be patient with yourself “Life is about patience; the marathon is about patience. Your goal should be to finish, and finish damn strong. Once you hit the wall you never bounce back.”
When it gets rough, find your inspiration “I pray, think positive, think about family, sponsors, coaches or children — whatever gets you going. It doesn’t just come to you in race day, it comes to you in training. … Sometimes you move back to your childhood: My dad had to walk miles, he had to do it for survival. [That makes me think] it’s not bad, it’s just temporary discomfort.”