May 5th is not an American Celebration but Americans do take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate this Mexican holiday (Mexican Independence day is actually September 17th but most of us do love a good margarita so why not celebrate Cinco de Mayo) and it is also the birthday of an American hero in the eyes of a runner, Meb Keflezighi. I assumed that all runners knew who he was because I assumed that all runners follow the Boston Marathon but over 20 people have come into Running Wild and had no idea who he was when I had extreme excitement for meeting him last week.
Meb and his family represent everything my dad ever spoke to me about America as the land of opportunity. His parents came to America as refugees with Meb and nine of his siblings in the ’80s from the war torn country of Eritrea, Africa. They spoke not a word of English and yet learned the language, worked very hard, and each has become very successful as graduates and post graduates in the medical or law profession. Meb excelled as a long distance runner with numerous awards including: a silver Olympic medal for USA, a New York Marathon win, and the win that that captured American hearts at Boston in 2014.
The year before two Punk terrorists robbed both runners and spectators by cowardly placing bombs at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon attempting to instill a broken spirit in Americans and all runners internationally.
So in 2014 this refugee, Meb Keflezighi, who loves our country and loves God, dug down farther than we thought he could, deeper than he thought he could, and for America, won the Boston Marathon! By Winning at Boston he brought the race back to the people of Boston and runners from around the world. He also became the first American to win the Boston Marathon (the world’s oldest modern marathon and most acclaimed) since 1983.
Last week he came to Page and Palette in Fairhope, Alabama to sign books, meet and greet his fans, and tell his story.
We learned that he is just a regular guy….with a hard work ethic, complete faith in God, and a family man. He is a people guy and oh my gosh, he has a sense of humor.
Paul, as moderator at the book discussion, tried to get inside Meb’s head. What makes an athlete get through mile 22 when in obvious pain and misery and find the fifth gear to pull ahead and stay ahead and win such a huge competitive race? Paul mentioned he had run the race 10 times and knows all too well what that 22nd mile feels like. Meb looked at Paul and said, “Wow! TEN times! I have only run this race four times. I should have called you the night before to ask for advice!!!” We all laughed, even Paul admitted, he had walked right into that.
The really important question that I wanted to know was answered: What were Meb and the other elite runners thinking of Derek Yorek, the unknown dad who blazed ahead of everyone for the first mile to make it on TV so that his kids could see him. There were critics who thought that was very selfish and irresponsible of him and could have messed up these professional runners. Meb said he knew who his competition was. What this dad did for his kids was great and he would have done the same thing…because really we all want to be heroes to our kids first and foremost. Boston after all is the “people’s Olympics”.
I was asked by a co-worker what the greatest part of meeting Meb was and my reply:
Taking pictures with him! When I was standing right next to him I involuntarily through my arms around him and hugged him tight. I apologized and said I was trying to get some of his greatness to transport through me via osmosis. He just chuckled and hugged me back.
Meb Keflezighi is the real deal. A real American Hero!
We learned from him the importance of setting goals. He believes that little things help as well: Compression sleeves…helps reduce muscle fatigue…a running hat or visor to break the brunt of the elements by blocking sun, wind and rain. The importance of a good diet…and during your training cycle, sometimes you forgo that precious beer to save some calories and stick with water. We left him that night after dinner with our awesome Fairhope team signing books for fans late into the evening and I wished that I had been able to stay up with them.
Happy 40th Birthday Meb!