Olympic marathoner Meb Keflezighi talks to reporters in Central Park in New York City on Friday.
(Photo: By Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY)
NEW YORK - Olympic marathoner Meb Keflezighi says he had some tense moments earlier this year in the wake of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings.
During a lunch in Central Park Friday, Keflezighi, 38, pointed out that initial reports after the blasts that killed three indicated one of the suspects might be a "dark-skinned male" and may or may not speak with an accent. Keflezighi is from Eritrea, in Africa, and speaks with an accent.
Keflezighi, who now lives in San Diego, widened his eyes as he stressed "African American with an accent" as if to say, "Look at me."
The 2004 Silver Medalist said that when he arrived at security with his passport the next day at Logan Airport, security staffers seemed to take a longer time with him than he had experienced in the past.
"When I got to the airport to the security, I felt all eyes were on me," he said.
They asked him where he was going and he said Mammoth Lakes, Calif., he said. They kept questioning, "Mammoth Lakes? Mammoth Lakes?" Keflezighi said. "Two FBI came by."
The FBI representatives appeared to be looking him over and taking their time, Keflezighi said. He added that he was nervous. He had only one bag with him, a black bag, and said he wondered to himself if that seemed suspicious too.
Just at that moment, a group of people recognized the runner and began going crazy, asking him for his autograph. Keflezighi believes that's what saved him from perhaps being detained.
"Everybody wanted to take a picture," Keflezighi said.
Keflezighi, who will be running the ING NYC Marathon on Nov. 3, was in New York to help promote the newest version of the Walkman, an MP3 player by Sony, one of his sponsors.
The incident happened one day after a bomb site hear miss for the runner.
Keflezighi said he was sitting in the bleachers watching runners finish and he was enjoying the feeling of being a spectator. He snapped about 60 to 80 photos of people's faces as they approached the finish line, and he was moved by the people who were coming in just under the four-hour mark, and who had clearly made that timing a goal.
But at 2:50 p.m., he decided to go to the media center at the Fairmount Copley Plaza Hotel because he was scheduled to do his first stint as a television commentator at 4 p.m. and he wanted to prepare.
"As soon as I opened the door, I heard something," Keflezighi said.
And he heard it again.
Someone pushed him into the media center, where journalists covering the marathon were working. When people realized what happened, they began crying.
"You feel helpless," he said. "You feel like, 'How did this happen?' "
Later, when Keflezighi learned more about the bombings, he realized he would likely have been hurt or worse. He pointed to a person in the restaurant about 30 feet away. "That's how close I was" to the bomb spot when he was in the bleachers, he said.
On a lighter note, Keflezighi said all hope is not lost for actress Pamela Anderson, who also is running the ING NYC Marathon but admitted recently that she has barely been training. Most marathoners running New York are approaching the peak of their training and are looking toward the taper period when they rest up for the race. Anderson told a reporter her longest run in preparation for the 26.2-mile race has been around 10 miles.
Marathon training usually includes one long run per week that allows the body to get used to performing for hours at a time. Some say it's the most important part of marathon training.
Pretending to speak to Anderson, who he says he used to watch on TV's Baywatch, Keflezighi said, "You've got time for an 18-mile run, a 15- to 18-mile run. There's still time."
He said Anderson, however, should not worry about time.
"Just cover the distance," he said. "It doesn't matter how long it takes."
Keflezighi did warn, however, that she probably won't feel too great the next day.
And he said that he is looking to his taper period - dropping back from roughly a 130-mile week to a 90-mile week the week before the big race, which he won in 2009. He said his philosophy is to run to win, and that he reminds himself that temporary discomfort is not so bad in the scheme of life.
"Run to win is getting the best out of yourself," he said.