Meb Keflezighi out for a Sunday stroll.
I was in San Diego, about eighteen-nineteen years ago, heading out of San Diego Airport, heading to Foot Locker Cross Country. I procured a taxi driver, and in the following conversation, I was told, by the Eritrean-American taxi driver that his nephew was a pretty good runner.
That was how I found out about Meb.
Meb's coach, Bob Larsen, I have known of since the 1970s, when he coached at Grossmont Community College, a cross country powerhouse. During that time he coached iconic Jamul Toads. Everyone wanted to be a Jamul Toad, but few were chosen.
In the U.S. coach athlete relationships of four years were long, and with Bob Larsen and Meb Keflezighi, we see a relationship that goes on nineteen years, perhaps closer to twenty years.
They are good for each other.
In Coach Larsen, one finds a man who loves his sport, loves his athletes and provides input to Meb that no pulse monitor or team can provide: that input, that sounding board is part of the complex reason why Meb is so successful.
Meb Keflezighi is a talented athlete, whose gift is championship racing. They guy smells a top position, and if he has an ounce of a chance, and any glycogen left in his legs, well, good luck.
His 2004 Olympic silver medal put tears in my eyes. I was there, and the conditions were absolutely atrocious. Perhaps Meb is able to concentrate better in such situations. Perhaps all of the challenges of growing up as a first generation American toughens him. I believe it is many, many things.
His victories in New York and Boston were huge. The funny thing was, in both races, if one looks at the tapes or were there, other athletes had chances to crush him, but they did not. Meb, an Olympic medalist, NYC and now Boston winner, tends to be underestimated.
Take today's race. A beaming Bob Larsen, Coach of said Meb, is in the Media Center after the race. Meb was fourth today, out kicking Stephen Kiprotich, Olympic and World Champion, and Geoffrey Mutai, two-time NYC winner, Boston winner in their course record, with a fine 2:13:18 on a cold and hellaciously windy day.
Coach Bob said that he was truly surprised with Meb's performance as Meb had about three and one half weeks where the training was going seemlessly. Meb is one of those guys who has so much muscle memory that, recover, rest and key workouts seem to be the rule.
But what made Coach Larsen smile broadly about his athlete was how Meb finished. " Think about it, " Coach noted, " Meb was in fifth, why didn't he just wave at everyone? Instead, he ran the last 800 meters and took over fourth."
I have this postcard in my office. It says, " It is Frank Sinatra's world, we just live in it."
I have amended that card.
It now say, " It is Meb Keflezighi's world, we just live in it!
And so, it goes, with the wonderous career of the thirty-nine year old Boston, NYC winner and Olympic silver medalist, Meb Keflezighi.