America’s top marathon hopeful Meb Keflezighi is sidelined with a calf injury.
America’s top marathon hopeful Meb Keflezighi is sidelined with a calf injury.
seth wenig/associated press

Meb Keflezighi, who had the best chance of ending a three-decade domestic drought at the Boston Marathon, withdrew from the 117th running on Friday because a nagging calf injury had cost him too much training time.

“I’m very disappointed,” said the 37-year-old Olympic medalist who would have been making his third attempt in eight years on the Hopkinton-to-Copley Square course. “My training was going well in January and February, which had me very excited about the possibilities this spring. I even skipped the New York City half marathon [March 17] to focus on getting healthy for Boston but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. I ran out of time to recover enough to compete for a victory.”

In the wake of Keflezighi’s withdrawal and last month’s pullout by Ryan Hall — whose clocking of 2 hours, 4 minutes, 58 seconds in 2011 was the fastest ever by an American — the top US contender will be Abdi Abdirahman, their teammate at last year’s London Games who has a personal best of 2:08:56. If he wins here on April 15, Abdirahman would be the first American to manage it since Greg Meyer in 1983.

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Keflezighi, who was third in his Boston debut in 2006 and fifth in 2010, is the most decorated active US marathoner. Besides claiming silver in Athens in 2004, the first US runner to win an Olympic medal since Frank Shorter placed second in 1976, Keflezighi won in New York in 2009, the first domestic victor there since Alberto Salazar in 1982.

After winning the Olympic trials in a personal best of 2:09:08 and finishing fourth in London, Keflezighi was looking forward to adding the title from the world’s most storied road race to his résumé. “I want to be like Bill Rodgers and win the Boston Marathon,” said Keflezighi, who was the race’s Grand Marshal last year. “I have a picture of the trophy.”

Force majeure and bad timing had kept Keflezighi from racing since the Games. The New York City Marathon was canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in November and Keflezighi got the flu before the Houston Half Marathon in January. So he pointed for Boston and was in fine form until he injured himself in mid-February while sidestepping a charging dog in training and lost irreplaceable preparation time.

“I’m OK now, I just can’t be competitive,” Keflezighi said on Friday. “I have to give respect to the distance. I gave it everything I had to get to the starting line. I hope people understand.”

Keflezighi, who’ll still be in Boston to make appearances for sponsor John Hancock, says he’d like to take the line next year. “Time is creeping up on me,” he said, “but I would like to have the chance.”