Meb Keflezighi is nearing the end of the road, which by definition has been a long and winding one, what with him being the longtime face of American marathon running.
“I’m stopping at 26 marathons and the age of 42,” he said Tuesday at a promotional event for KT Tape, a kinesiology tape, at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan.
“I’m going to do it. Rio [de Janeiro, for the Olympics] will be my 24th marathon. I’ll do two marathons after that competitively, and I’ll be 42 next year. That’s the goal.”
Keflezighi, 40, said the 42 represents the distance of a marathon in kilometers and the 26 the distance in miles. He said he came up with the numerically balanced retirement plan about a year ago.
“It’s because of the history of the marathon,” he said. “My daughter asked me how come it’s not 24 or 23 and I told her the Queen [of England, in 1908] had to see where the finish was, and that’s why it’s 26.2.
“So for me, I love to run, so I probably will run marathons, not with my racing flats, but pace people and things like that. But competitively, I got what I want out of the sport. It’s done some amazing things for me, so it makes sense to stop.
“I didn’t plan it and say I’m going to do 26 marathons. It just came across that I’m at 22, 23 marathons, so I’ll stop at 26. Coincidentally it happened to be my age at 42 . . . I was meant to be a marathoner, I guess.”
Keflezighi won a silver medal in 2004 and finished fourth in 2012. He finished second to Galen Rupp, 29, in the recent Olympic marathon trials in Los Angeles.
He said he has no time-oriented goal for Rio, only a podium-oriented one.
“I have a lot of 2:09s under my belt, but I never trained for those; I always train to win,” he said. “Sometimes you get second place, sometimes you get third place, and sometimes you finish out of that realm. I have my target to try to go to the podium.
“Why not? I was fourth in the last one and since then I won Boston [in 2014], so I’d like to give it a shot. At 40 I feel like I should ease down a little, but I’m too competitive.”
Keflezighi believes the U.S. marathon team will be fine without him after 2017.
“I think the future of U.S. marathoning is pretty bright, because there are a lot of good 5Ks [5,000 meters] and 10 Ks, and that’s how I started. I was the best 5K I could be and then the best 10K I could be and then turned to the marathon . . . There are a lot of good guys, and I think the future is really bright.”