Meb will be in his element as part-owner of Carlsbad 5000

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Meb Keflezighi hasn’t slowed down a bit since retiring from competitive running.

Among his latest ventures is being part-owner of the Carlsbad 5000, so he’ll be in his element Sunday when he’ll jump into one of the age-group races just for the fun of it and then hold the tape for the elite runners and hand out medals and high-fives.

The famous road race in the coastal community in northern San Diego County was in danger of folding before Keflezighi and other local runners bought it in December.

“I always admired that kind of race,” Keflezighi said this week. “I have gone and watched and participated. I thought, ‘Wow, this is a great race, with a great view of the ocean, a wonderful spectator course, so it’s great to be able to be part of a community event. … It’s a great way to get people active, get them outside.”

Keflezighi, 43, retired from competitive marathoning after finishing 11th in the New York City Marathon in 2017. He is the only runner to win an Olympic medal and the Boston and New York marathons. His stirring victory in the 2014 Boston Marathon — the first by an American since Greg Meyer in 1983 — came a year after bombings near the finish line of that race killed three people and injured at least 264.

Keflezighi was already plenty busy in his post-running career when the chance to buy the Carlsbad 5000 came along.

Keflezighi won’t be tempted to jump into the elite race.

“The elite runners need to have clearance on the roadway and go as fast as they can and those days are behind me,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind jogging the 5K with the people.”

He’s often done that before, whether it’s when cooling down after a race or simply pacing the amateurs. He’s found that average runners enjoy having a famous face among them as they work toward the finish.

“People appreciate it in different ways,” he said. “They’ll go, ‘Hey, it’s Meb.’ It’s all about having fun and interacting with people. Probably 99.9 percent are happy to see you, and 0.01 percent say, ‘Hey, get out of my way.’ But the majority are OK with it.”

Keflezighi recently published his third book, “26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career.” He still does promotional work, including helping to launch a beer for runners, 26.2 Brew, and does community work through his MEB Foundation.

He became a U.S. citizen in 1998, a decade after his family left war-torn Eritrea. He attended San Diego High and UCLA.

Leading the way in the Carlsbad 5000 men’s field will be 17-time NCAA champion Edward Cheserek, who graduated from Oregon in 2017. He will be joined by U.S. Olympian Hassan Mead and former world junior champion David Bett of Kenya. The men’s field will be chasing the modern IAAF-recognized 5K world record, which was set by Switzerland’s Julien Wanders with a time of 13:29 in Monaco in February. The Carlsbad 5000 record and all-time world 5K best is Sammy Kipketer’s 13:00, which he ran at Carlsbad in 2000 & 2001.

Kenya’s Sharon Lokedi and the British trio of Alice Wright, Charlotte Arter and Jenny Nesbitt head the women’s field.