“I feel like I’ve never really won something that big.”
A day later, Ardmore’s Michael McKeeman was still coming to terms -- and working out the aches and pains -- after winning the Philadelphia Marathon in a time of 2:17:47 Sunday morning. The time was just seconds off his career best but good enough for his his first marathon win.
McKeeman says he had a secret weapon -- his knowledge of the course, especially the twists and turns of the river drives that make up about half of the marathon course -- during his winning performance.
“One of the reasons I wanted to run here this fall was because I know the course so well. I did a lot of my training out on the course. A lot of my long runs I started out in Manayunk and I would run down the Kelly Drive.
“I just know every little turn and I know how the wind blows even. Because I feel it’s almost always the same wind direction out there. So I know from doing so many runs out there alright we’re gonna come around this corner the wind’s going to be in our face for a while so I need to kind of relax or tuck in but then once we make this other curve then it’s gonna be at the side so we can push the pace a little more -- so that definitely helps.”
The 36-year-old (who could easily be mistaken for a college student with his young looks) also wore a secret weapon.
“It definitely helps to have Bryn Mawr Running Company on your chest,” said the employee of the running store who also wore a company shirt during his visit to NBC10 studios Monday. “It is something that everybody knows in the area.”
He even got to see some of his co-workers and friends outside the Manayunk location of the running store.
He also almost drank a beer during his trip through Manayunk.
“Someone did try to hand me a beer. I guess around mile 19 there’s a group of guys who do beer but I had to turn it down.”
McKeeman was too busy dropping runners as he pushed the pace on his return trip down the Kelly Drive.
“I was the instigator after we passed the halfway point.
“I usually go out pretty conservative and I run a strong second half. So I have a lot of experience running races like that where I’m either catching people or I’m the one trying to push the pace.”
He pushed away all challengers and by the time the Art Museum came into view McKeeman was all alone but that didn’t mean he hit cruise control.
“At that point, probably the biggest thing I was thinking about was keep going because I was hurting. I didn’t know how far ahead I was.”
Turned out that the North Penn High School grad had plenty of cushion -- he beat second-place Scott Macpherson of Austin, Texas by 42 seconds.
McKeeman says the support of his wife and parents (his biggest fans) helped him reach his goal. They even took turns riding alongside on the bike as he trained.
“It’s an individual sport once you’re out there in the race… there’s nothing anyone can do for you but the process of getting ready for the race isn’t an individual thing for me.”
What’s the fuel of this champion? McKeeman eats balanced throughout the day before the race with some rice, pasta and other carb-loaded foods but doesn’t buy in to eating a huge pasta dinner the night before the race.
“If you’ve properly fueled all week and the day before you don’t need to eat that much in the morning to make it through the race. You already have all that stuff stored up.”
He opts simply for a bagel or power bar the morning of the race.
But after the race McKeeman, who says he loves to eat, let’s loose.
“After the race I went to Jake’s Sandwich Board and had a turducken sandwich and a Peanut Chew milkshake. And then for dinner, I had a bacon cheeseburger that had a grilled cheese for each bun.”
The online running coach, running store employee and semi-pro runner’s win in Philly was his first win in seven marathons and McKeeman says his last.
“This is probably the first time in 20 years where I finished a race and didn’t have at least some semblance of a plan for the next step.
“I’m going to go out on a high note. I don’t want to do it again. It hurts. … it’s just a lot of time and effort and sacrifices and I’ve been doing it for so long… I’m gonna still train and run some shorter races but I think for the marathon I need to step back… If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it 100 percent and I don’t feel like I can do that anymore. I put everything I had into this one so I could do it well and go out on a high note.”
So will he actually pull a Brett Favre and come back to defend his crown?
“I keep telling people I’m going to retire from the marathon and no one believes me… I’m George Costanzo, I’m going out on a high note. There was that one episode (of Seinfeld) where he would tell the joke, people would laugh and he would just leave. That’s what I want to do.”