Training Secrets of Some of the Olympic's Oldest Runners: 'Go One Mile Less'
On Sunday, 41-year-old Meb Keflezighi will represent the United States in the men’s marathon at the Rio Olympics.
Keflezighi is the only runner in the world to have won both the Boston and New York City Marathons and an Olympic medal, and he’s set to make his fourth Olympic appearance in a grueling sport from which many athletes burn out in their 20s.
The secret to his continued longevity, he told Outside magazine, is not going the extra mile.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to go one mile less,” Keflezighi explained. “[What’s important is] staying healthy and being consistent.”
“You’d rather do one less mile and be able to say, ‘I could have done more,’ versus, ‘I’m totally drained,’ ” he said.
Unlike other runners he has faced, Keflezighi said he’s always viewed relaxing as an essential part of training.
In an interview with the New Yorker, Gregory Jimmerson, Keflezighi’s former competitor and longtime friend, explained that even if Keflezighi only spent 12 hours a week running, he spent the rest of his week focusing on recovery.
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“He would finish the workout and immediately get a protein shake, and then he’d go sit in an ice bath or the creek,” Jimmerson told the magazine. “Then he’d get massaged and stretched and do core workouts. Then he’d take a nap and do it again.”
“It was an all-consuming lifestyle with a singular focus,” Jimmerson said. “That’s where his strength was.”
Keflezighi attributes his dedication to his love of the sport. “I have God-given talent,” he told the New Yorker. “And I love to do it. I love exercising. I love the natural high.”
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Keflezighi is not the only 41-year-old representing the U.S. in track and field. On Wednesday, teammate Bernard Lagat will compete in the men’s 5000-meter – an event in which he destroyed his competition, most of whom were 15 years his junior, to come in first place at the Olympic trials.
Like Keflezighi, Lagat’s training regimen emphasizes rest and relaxation. According to the New Yorker his runs half as many miles per week as his competitors
Both men, two of the oldest Olympians at Rio, have announced that these games will be their last; and both have said they’re most excited to share the experience with their children.
They’ll be racing younger, faster runners, but they’ll have their own advantage – having each made four trips to the Olympics, they’re able to treat this year’s competition as just another race.
“I’m looking to just have fun and whatever happens in Rio doesn’t define my career,” Keflezighi told Outside. “My career has been solidified as a medalist and New York and Boston champion.
“The last two-to-three years has been the icing on the cake, so it’s a wonderful position to be in.”