Solinsky-Rupp in 2010 was like Keflezighi-Kennedy in 2001
Exactly nine years ago yesterday, on a Friday night in Palo Alto, Bob Kennedy toed the line at the Stanford Cardinal Invitational and prepared to break the 10,000 meter American record. A legend of the sport, he was as much a favorite as there was and a throng of supporters were on site to see him do it.
But it didn’t happen like it was supposed to.
Meb Keflezighi, the American with an odd-sounding name, dropped Kennedy halfway in and ran 27:13.98, breaking a record that stood for 15 years. To do it, Meb took an astounding 40 seconds off his previous best at the distance. It was unexpected, to say the very least.
The circumstances on Saturday night were eerily similar to 2001. At the very same meet, and only a couple days shy of the anniversary that the 10,000 meter record was last set, Galen Rupp lined up in Kennedy’s shoes, projected to set the record. As we can only now know, Chris Solinsky played Keflezighi’s role of spoiler.
It was one of the things Solinsky and Keflezighi chatted about late Monday night, as the new record holder finally returned the former’s flurry of congratulatory voice, text and, yes, even twitter messages.
So what’d the conversation sound like?
“I congratulated him and he thanked me,” Keflezighi told me last night, a couple minutes after their call ended. “He said I was an inspiration to him as a young runner. I felt honored that I could be a small part of the record.”
They also talked about the parallel circumstances heading into their respective races, and how the unexpected can always happen.
“The race was set up for Bob Kennedy,” Keflezighi recalled. “But that’s why we race.”
Keflezighi also said that he was surprised his record had lasted as long as it did. He himself attempted to break 27 minutes several times in Europe in subsequent years but the conditions were never ideal.
Looking forward now, Keflezighi is quick to mention that he’s not permanently handing the baton to Solinsky and believes his fastest days are still ahead of him:
“I’m not retired. I’m still competing. My best years are still ahead of me. Can I run faster in the 10K? I believe I can.”