Two days after volunteering at the NYC Marathon, I caught word (via my fabulous running teammate Sam) that Meb Keflezighi was speaking at a FREE event at the New York Running Company that night. I had just enough time after work to prep dinner and vote in the midterm elections before heading up there. Score!
For those of you unfamiliar with running celebrities, Meb is one of America’s finest. He won the Boston Marathon this spring, as well as the NYC Marathon in 2009. He earned the silver medal for the marathon in Athens. And he was the top US finisher in NYC this year, finishing fourth.
He is also– despite being THE BEST MARATHONER IN THE COUNTRY and SHORTLIST FOR ESPN SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR and WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER etc– totally humble and down to earth.
Meb took plenty of time to answer our questions, share stories, and offer his personal tips for success. Here were just some of the highlights–
- On NYC race day weather conditions– “It was so windy, I lost my hair!”
- On his first thought upon completing the 2002 NYC Marathon, his first– “This is my FIRST and my LAST marathon!”
- On his competitors in the race this year– “I was in eighth place. I saw the next runner up ahead and thought, I wonder if I could convince that guy to do what Mike Cassidy and I did last year…“
- For reference, this is what Meb and Mike Cassidy did last year. You may need tissues for that one. As a bonus, Mike was in the audience and was called forth for a hug with Meb.
- On how he went from 8th to 4th– “I went after people, one at a time.”
- How he handles pain in a race– “Temporary discomfort is something we all go through. I chose this discomfort. Others do not.” (He was specifically referencing people in Eritrea, where he was born.)
- How he mentally prepped for Boston– “I was spectating and taking pictures on Boylston Street [in 2013]…for the next 365 days I thought, How can I positively change Boylston Street?“
- How to not slack off, part 1– “Just put your shoes on. If you can’t run, do pushups or situps while you watch TV.”
- How to not slack off, part 2– “Get an accountability partner. Make appointments to train. And don’t text them that you can’t make it!”
Afterwards, Meb spoke a little bit about his fuel (and event sponsor) Generation Ucan, signed autographs, and posed for photos. I use Generation Ucan for marathon training, and it has helped me a lot. When I shared this with Meb, he was pleased and smiled big for a photo.
As Greg McMillan says in his excellent three lessons Meb teaches us, how lucky we are to share the roads with him.