August 01, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) Meb Keflezighi dug into his pocket to divulge how an elite athlete can stay healthy during a whirlwind of travel.

Holding up a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, he said with a grin: ''I'm always prepared.''

Keflezighi has been a very popular guy since his Boston Marathon title in April. He became the first American man in more than three decades to win the famed race, and to accomplish that feat a year after the bombings there made him an inspiration to folks who had never before paid attention to the sport.

So the last three months have been a blur of airports and hotels, making appearances around the country.

Keflezighi joked that he woke up Thursday in New York and asked his brother: ''Where are we?''

Keflezighi hasn't run more than 70 miles in a week since Boston, a paltry figure for a world-class marathoner who needs to be doing at least 90. Eating right, staying hydrated, recovering properly - all are daunting on the road.

So far, so good, though his hamstring is a bit tight now. And he eagerly mentions Aug. 17 - the day he resumes his beloved routine and starts training for real for the New York City Marathon.

First, though, he's got a few more obligations, including a dinner with the president at the White House.

Not so long ago, Keflezighi was promising that he'd be long retired by the 2016 Olympics, when he'll be 41. But then the 2012 NYC Marathon was canceled because of Superstorm Sandy, and he missed Boston the following spring because of injury.

Suddenly he was talking about the Rio Games. And now that he's the reigning Boston champ, of course Keflezighi intends to defend his title in 2015. From then, it's only 10 months until the U.S. Olympic trials.

If he can stay healthy, Rio sounds realistic.

His wife recently joked to him: ''You string me along.''

He's learned to stop giving himself ultimatums. Back in 2011, Keflezighi was irked that Boston Marathon organizers didn't offer him a spot in the race - and he wondered if he'd lost his last chance to win it. Three years later, he crossed the finish line first, weeks before his 39th birthday.

Keflezighi's career has been so durable that his greatest achievements come in increments of a half-decade. At the 2004 Olympics, his silver made him the first American man in 28 years to medal in the marathon. In 2009, he became the first U.S. champion in 27 years at the NYC Marathon.

He plans to run New York for the ninth time Nov. 2. Keflezighi's personal-best time is far slower than other major marathon champions. But he's a force in championship-style races such as New York, Boston and the Olympics, which don't use a pacer and demand racing skill.

Keflezighi finished fourth, just out of a medal, at the 2012 London Games.

''My career has been fulfilled,'' he said. ''How good the frosting will be - time will tell.''

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