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San Diego • Meb Keflezighi will be a true champion of the people in his hometown Sunday.
Not recovered enough yet from winning the Boston Marathon to run the full 26.2 miles, Keflezighi will be the pacesetter for runners hoping to break 90 minutes in the Suja Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon.
After the elite runners take off, an estimated 200 runners will then start from the "Meb corral." It'll be Keflezighi's job to get them around the course, from Balboa Park to Petco Park, at a pace of about 6 minutes, 51 seconds per mile.
"You're going to see a lot of selfies," Keflezighi cracked.
Meb's ultimate goal is to have as many people as possible from his group holding hands and crossing the finish line at the same time.
Of course, there's bound to be some carnage.
"Some of them might fall off but some of them are going to say, you know what, with a half mile to go whatever, they might just want to take off and say, 'I beat Meb,' which is fine," said Keflezighi, who turned 39 on May 5, two weeks after winning the Boston Marathon. "Anytime you can get people out to do activities, it's great.
"The beauty of our sport is you get to line up with the best in the world, share the same roads, and sometimes, like Boston, I was fortunate enough to lead the way and help 36,000 people come across in first place."
Keflezighi is still enjoying the afterglow of his win at Boston, which came a year after the deadly bombing. Keflezighi wrote the names of the three dead on his bib along with that of the MIT police officer killed during the manhunt. Keflezighi was the first American in 31 years to win the men's race.
But he's also glad to be running in San Diego, where his family moved in 1987 as refugees from Eritrea, via Italy. The half marathon course goes within a block of the apartment where Keflezighi's family first lived in San Diego. One of 10 children, he graduated from San Diego High in 1994 and from UCLA in 1999.