Keflezighi first ran the marathon in 2002 but hit a wall at the 21st mile and vowed to never run a marathon again, but he would break that promise to go on to become the face of U.S. long-distance running and the only person to have won both the New York and Boston marathons as well as an Olympic medal in the sport.
He will retire from the sport at the age of 42 after Sunday’s race.
“It’s very emotional coming back,” Keflezighi told the New York Times. “I’m excited, but at the same time it’s bittersweet. It will be a sigh of relief when I get to the finish line.”
Keflezighi was born on May 5, 1975, in Eritrea as part of a family of 11 children. He was raised in an East African village with no electricity, where his brothers hid in the bushes so they would not be forced to join the military to fight against Ethiopia.
He moved with his family to San Diego in 1987, graduating from San Diego High School in 1994. Keflezighi then attended UCLA, winning the NCAA indoor championships in the 5,000 meters, the outdoor championships in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 and NCAA cross-country championship, all in 1997.
Keflezighi won a silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics, becoming the first American man to win a medal in the marathon since Frank Shorter won a silver medal in 1976.
NYC Marathon officials told the Times they will retire the “MEB” bib after the race. Keflezighi said he will spend more time with wife, daughters, run some half marathons and work with his MEB Foundation after his retirement. His foundation, which stands for “Maintaining Excellent Balance,” works to promote healthy living and motivation for youth.
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