Q&A: Meb Keflezighi

The Boston Marathon champ talks retirement, the Olympics, and his training philosophy.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY ELISE AMENDOLA/AP IMAGES

On April 21, 2014, an Eritrean-born American named Meb Keflezighi charged down Boylston and became the 118th men’s winner of the Boston Marathon.

It was a momentous day for Keflezighi, who, the instant he crossed the finish line, became the first American to win running’s Triple Crown: an Olympic medal, the New York City Marathon, and the Boston Marathon. But for a city still grieving from the tragedy of a year before, watching an American wear that ivy crown for the first time since 1983 may have meant even more.

Keflezighi, 41, plans to retire after this year’s New York City Marathon, finishing his career after a symbolic 26 marathons. Before he lines up in Hopkinton one last time this spring, we asked Keflezighi about his historic Boston victory, his impending retirement, and why New Englanders are so tough.

Do you have a philosophy that guides your training?
I always say run to win. Get the best out of yourself, not only on race day, but every day. Put in the work, and visualize that good things will happen.

You’re running your final Boston Marathon this year. How does it compare to other courses?
It’s definitely one of the hardest ones, if not the hardest. You have to think ahead and have something reserved for those Newton hills. Even the slightly downhill is not a pleasant downhill because your body’s beat up at that point.

None of it seems pleasant.
That’s why I’m retiring! [Laughs.]

What’s your least favorite thing about running?
The cold weather. I’m not a cold person. I live in San Diego; I don’t have to complain. Running in the bad weather—I’m not a big fan.

It’s good you don’t train in Boston, then.
They say that New Englanders are tougher because they train in tough conditions. On race day it is what it is, but I wouldn’t want to train there year round. Much respect to them, though.

Which was better: winning Olympic silver in 2004, or winning the Boston Marathon in 2014?
The Boston Marathon. It was more meaningful for me. I already had won New York in 2009 and an Olympic medal in 2004. Boston was the thing that was missing. There was something higher—I believe in God—that put it all together for me that day, two weeks shy of my 39th birthday.

Did the victory carry more weight coming a year after the marathon bombings?
The slogan “Boston Strong” carried me through day-to-day training. I just wanted to do something really positive on Boylston Street. To be able to be in the lead, in front of 36,000 people, and hear the crowd chant “USA, USA”…it’s hard to put it into words. The Bostonians never said congratulations, really—they just said thank you. To have them say thank you means a lot to me. For the Bostonians, after what they went through, hopefully it’s just a small gesture of expediting the healing process.

We have to ask: Did you ever consider ending your career in Boston?
After I won, I said, “This would be a great way to leave the sport.” But then you just want to be able to enjoy it for a few more years, try to make another Olympic team. It made sense to finish in New York, just because that was the first opportunity I had to do a marathon. I just didn’t know there would be 25 other ones in between!

Think you have one more victory in you?
Can it be? Never say never. I guess we’ll wait and see what happens on April 17.