NEW YORK (AP) — The reigning New York City Marathon champion boarded a plane to come defend his title, and another passenger asked, “Are you Meb Keflezighi?”

The first American man in 27 years to win the storied race is no longer an anonymous U.S. distance runner.

“It’s a year that changed my life,” Keflezighi said Tuesday, back in New York and suddenly the center of attention.

Before the 2009 marathon, Keflezighi flew in the Thursday of race week and told his sponsors he needed to focus on his preparations.

“When you come back as a defending champion, you can’t really isolate yourself like that,” Hawi Keflezighi, his brother and agent, said with a smile.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.


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