Perhaps fellow American Craig Leon said it best.

"He's a rock star," Leon, 30, of Oregon, said. "He's Meb. One name."

Of course, he has a last name too -- Keflezighi and, thanks to his 2014 Boston Marathon victory the year after the Boston Marathon bombing -- he has become one of, if not the most, recognizable face in American running. The fame has come quick and, no matter the situation, he handles it all with a giant smile across his face.

"Here he is warming up and he had runners coming up to him while he's trying to do his drills," Leon said, recounting the scene prior to the start of Sunday's New York City Marathon. "I'm thinking, 'Man, he needs security just to warm up.' He can't even go and warm up. But, he took every single picture and smiled. He is an amazing ambassador."

Despite the fame, accolades and constant attention, Keflezighi continues to perform at the highest levels. The 40-year-old San Diego resident was the highest American finisher Sunday, crossing the line in 2:13:32 on a balmy Manhattan morning. The time was good for seventh overall. Kenya's Stanley Biwott won in 2:10:34. Leon finished eighth in 2:15:16, the only other American in the top 10.

"The race was solid," Keflezighi said. " . . . The time was slow. It is what it is. That's competition . . . Fourth or fifth was definitely possible today. I just don't have the turnover. I could see it when I was working with [sixth-place finisher Yuki Kawauchi of Japan] . . . The gap got big."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Although not in the top five, Keflezighi's time did break the Masters (age 40 and above) course record of 2:14.34, set by John Campbell of New Zealand in 1990. It also bested the American Masters mark of 2:13:52, set by Mbarak Hussein in 2006.

"At the back of my head, I definitely wanted to get the American Masters record," Keflezighi said. "So, I used [Kawauchi] to be able to push it a little bit, help each other, and barely got to [the record]."

The historic moment came in his 10th New York City Marathon. He debuted in 2002 with a ninth-place finish (2:12:35) and won in 2009 (2:09:15).

"It's pretty memorable," he said of his extensive New York City Marathon career. "I can tell you one story from each year."

The role of ambassador is one that Keflezighi relishes and thrives on, one he doesn't have any designs on relinquishing.


"I love making appearances," he said. "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, or they're doing it for somebody special. I'm delighted to hear their story."

And it's a good thing because, at this point, it's pretty certain that they know his.