Meb Keflizighi is a long distance runner of a rare breed: one who has won Olympic medals and the New York City and Boston Marathons. Anybody who knows a thing or two of what it takes to win an Olympic medal in a full marathon and replicate the same at some of the world's biggest and most prestigious marathons would know the calibre possessed by the Eritrea-born American. Keflizighi's finest hour was bagging the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, a moment that changed his life forever and he still reminisces that feat with fondness.
"Winning the silver medal at Olympics was huge for my career. Athens is where I met my dad for the first time after separation of five years at the Olympics. He had left Eritrea for Sudan leaving all of us behind. Finally when he saw me, he confused me for my younger brother. That was a special moment for me. And to win the silver medal made it extra special,'' he added.
The only regret Keflizighi has is missing out on a potential gold.
"I missed out on the gold by 35 seconds and it had to do something with an injury suffered in training where a German Shepherd jumped onto me and I fell hurting my knee,'' he revealed.
"People always said that I was suited for full marathon" - Meb Keflizighi
The 48-year-old runner's fascination with marathons started in the year 2002.
"I was a 5k and 10k runner and I ran my first full marathon in 2002 in New York City. And in just two years in 2004, I won my silver medal at Athens OIympics. People always said that I was suited for full marathon with the pace I was setting at the 5k and 10k,'' he said.
Keflizighi felt the NYC and Boston Marathons were both challenging in their own ways.
"The weather poses a big challenge in NYC but I acclimatised myself to it and figured out a way. Boston was a packed field. I always lead and people push for me. I told myself that I'll do this strategically and wait until the last two miles and then go for it. It was almost like winning at the Olympics for me,'' he added.
"I did it for those people who lost their lives" - Meb Keflizighi
Keflizighi also felt he had a close shave with the infamous Boston Marathon bombings of 2013 when he was a spectator and left the venue just five minutes prior to the bombing.
"I was a spectator when the bombing happened for four plus hrs and I left five minutes prior to the bombing because I had an appointment. I came back next year to win the Marathon and I did it for those people who lost their lives,'' he added.
"He's a hero" - Meb Keflizighi on Neeraj Chopra
He also felt Mumbai Marathon stands out as it has a half-marathon which even NYC and Boston Marathons don't. The American was effusive in his praise for India's very own Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra.
Meb Keflizighi | ASACHIN
"I've heard about him and my brother has met him at the Grand Prix. He's breaking barriers and he's a hero. I remember someone who won the bronze medal at Athens Olympics went absolutely berserk and it meant so much to him. Running with the flag and stuff and I can imagine how it was for Neeraj,'' Keflizighi added.