I don’t think I wrote yet about how I met Meb Keflezighi a few weeks ago. Did I?
It was epic.
I also felt epically large next to this fat-free 120-something pound man, but I digress.
For the non-runners, Meb is really incredible. He’s an Olympic medalist and the New York City Marathon and Boston Marathon champion. He won Boston this year with a personal best 2:08:37 — the first American man to win the race since 1983 — and was also the oldest runner to win the race since 1931. Meb turned 39 just nine days after his big win, proving age is just a number.
In an interview after winning Boston in April, Meb admitted his career is “100-percent fulfilled now.” Can you imagine reaching that level of achievement? To realize you’ve accomplished exactly what it is you set out to do professionally?
Meb was the keynote speaker at the Catholic Charities Spring Celebration earlier this month, which focused on the outstanding programming Catholic Charities provides for refugees and immigrants arriving in the United States. That same programming helped resettle Meb’s family from war-torn Eritrea by way of Italy in the late 90’s.
Two things have struck me most during his remarks. The first is his family’s steadfast dedication to education above all else. Despite his passion and talent for running, Meb always pursued his education, getting his degree in communications while running for UCLA, saying that his father reinforced that athletic talent is short-lived, but education pays for the rest of your life.
Next was a comment Meb made about his goal for Boston this year. He said that it was ultimately he goal to win the race, but that he would be satisfied and feel like he had succeeded as long as he ran a personal best and finished in under 2:09. You aren’t able to control what anyone else is able to do that day, he said, so as long as you run your best, you have to be satisfied.
I don’t generally consider myself a very competitive person, but I can admit a tendency for comparison (which might just be the definition of competitive). For example, I remember being really disappointed that my brother — who is fantastically fit and usually the best at most things he does — beat me in the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November. It was his first endurance race and he hadn’t given training his full attention, and I was bummed that he outperformed me. Meb’s thinking is absolutely right, though. I can’t control my brother’s training, his race day experience, or his talents or pace. My training, my race, and my best are the only things my efforts can influence, so beyond that, I have to let go.
Luckily, since I can’t imagine I’ll be doing much “training” in the next four months at minimum, there’s plenty of time to let that marinate. In the meantime, I got to meet Meb.
I’m pretty easily starstruck (ask me sometime about running into Ryan Hall at Sonsie a few years back. It’s a short story because I literally could not even say hello), but Meb was just about the nicest guy I’ve ever come across. He seemed genuinely appreciative of my admiration and was more than willing to shoot the breeze and talk about Catholic Charities’ work and his running. I told him how we had missed this year’s marathon because of our travels to India, but that we had followed the live feed from start to finish, wearing our Boston Strong gear, and cheering him on. He mentioned India being on his bucket list, so naturally, Nik told him to let us know if he ever goes so we can help plan his trip. After talking for a few more minutes and getting Meb’s signature in the front of his book, Run to Overcome, we took the photo above and were saying goodbye when he asked for our business cards… so he can call when he plans his India trip. Instant best friends.
He hasn’t called yet, but with such a reputation as a remarkably great guy, I wouldn’t be completely floored if we hear from him someday. Okay, that’s not true: I’ll be floored and surprised, but also delighted.
Hopefully by then my competitive edge will have softened because goodness knows I’ll have to let go of all comparison if we’re one day running side-by-side.