Meb Marathon Moment Mondays: 2005

Meb Marathon Moment Mondays: 2005

As the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon will mark Meb Keflezighi's 26th and final competitive marathon—his 11th in New York City—The Run On looks back at his past runs through the five boroughs. This week, we're recapping his 2005 race, when he placed third behind the closest 1-2 finish in event history.

In the Interim

Much like the year before, Keflezighi stepped to the starting line on the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge with a short training window. While he had 70 days between his Olympic silver medal and the New York City Marathon in 2004, the 2005 race would give him just eight weeks to prepare after suffering a ruptured quadriceps muscle in the 10,000 meters at that year's IAAF World Championships.

His Competitors

Adding to the challenge, he was lining up alongside defending New York City Marathon champion Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa, who had outrun Keflezighi by 25 seconds in New York the year prior. On top of that, the field also included Paul Tergat of Kenya, a two-time Olympic silver medalist over 10,000 meters, and the marathon world-record holder at the time, having run 2:04:55 in Berlin in 2003.

The Race

The early stages of the 2005 New York City Marathon played out much in the same way they did in 2004: A pack of just over 10 runners held together through the halfway point on the Pulaski Bridge, and would whittle themselves down over the second half. The way the pack would splinter, however, would be unlike any New York City Marathon in history.

Ramaala speeds up turning onto First Avenue, while Keflezighi  (right of frame) stays in contact.

Coming off the Queensboro Bridge, the defending champion Ramaala made an aggressive move to the front. Using the long, gentle downhill on First Avenue, he towed the rapidly dwindling field to a 4:22 mile, believed to be the fastest single mile in event history. Keflezighi, steps behind in 4:23, recorded his fastest mile since his World Championships race that summer.

After the breakaway, the race was down to four men: Ramaala, Tergat, Keflezighi, and Kenya's Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, the 2003 Boston Marathon champion who would later add three more titles in Boston, plus one in Chicago.

Ramaala, Keflezighi, and Cheruiyot at the front on First Avenue, with Tergat drafting behind the pack.

The pack would remain together over the Willis Avenue Bridge, through the Bronx, and back across the Madison Avenue Bridge; Cheruiyot would fade on Fifth Avenue, making it a three-man race as they entered Central Park.

Earlier in the year, Keflezighi ran through Central Park at the Healthy Kidney 10K—again facing Ramaala—coming in third behind the South African's runner-up finish. During that same trip, Keflezighi would take a walk through the park with his girlfriend, Yordanos. On their way, they stopped in front of a jewelry store on Fifth Avenue, where Meb surprised Yordanos by having her pick out an engagement ring. Six months later, the two were married.

Racing through Central Park, the race's top three bib numbers held the top three places.

Back on the marathon course—just a few weeks before the wedding ceremony—three men remained with less than three miles to go. Passing from mile 24 into 25, Tergat and Ramaala made it a two-man race, running shoulder-to-shoulder with Keflezighi only a few strides behind.

Turning onto Central Park South, the pair would extend their lead before sprinting to the closest 1-2 finish in race history.

Tergat and Ramaala sprint side-by-side down the homestretch in Central Park.

Tergat would win by three-tenths of a second as Ramaala fell to the ground.

Tergat would win by three-tenths of a second as Ramaala fell to the ground.

Although he had a comfortable gap back to Cheruiyot in fourth, Keflezighi continued to push the pace as he worked toward a podium finish. His 2:09:56 finish put him three seconds behind his performance from 2004, but he ran his final 10 kilometers in 31:49—17 seconds faster than the year before. It also marked two consecutive podium performances, the first time an American man had done so since Alberto Salazar's three consecutive wins in the 1980s.

Check back next week as we recap Meb's run at the 2006 New York City Marathon, a race that proved his toughness as he gritted through a difficult second half.

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