The legacy of Meb Keflezighi

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The first time I saw Meb Keflezighi run was at FootLocker Cross Country. I had flown in to see the meet and the taxi driver from San Diego Airport asked me where I was going. I told him, Balboa Park for the FootLocker. He told me that a relative was running there, who was quite good. The driver was fairly knowledgable regarding running but told me as I got out of the car to watch this Meb Keflezighi.

Keflezighi_MebWave1a-NYC17.JPGMeb Keflezighi paying respect to his fans, November 5, 2017, photo by PhotoRun.net

Watching Meb Keflezighi battle on the track at 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters for several years, I recall the Kim McDonald Invite at the Payton Jordan in 2001. That year, Meb broke Mark Nenow's American record from 1985 of 27:20 with his 27:13.85. I was standing on the infield of the track and watched Meb churn lap after lap, and finishing third in the race, run his finest track race ever. The 10,000 meters is a tough race, where one runs as fast as one can for 24 laps, with the fortunate athletes, those blessed with speed, able to excel over the last couple of laps.

Taking a PB of 13:11.77 for 5,000 meters and 27:13.85 for 10,000 meter might suggest immediate marathon success, but that was not the case. His first marathon was less than exciting. He told many later that it would be his first and only marathon. Yet, Meb persevered. He is what I call a championship runner, time is not as important to him as winning races. Meb is highly competitive, as his last marathon showed, where he ran 2:15;32 for 11th place in NYC Marathon just a week ago.

My favorite marathon of Mebs? I have to admit that his 2004 Athens' silver medal was momentous. It was also hot as hell, and Meb Keflezighi ran the near perfect race. His silver medal there, and Deena Kastor's bronze medal in the women's marathon inspired a generation of American distance runners. But my favorite race has to be his fourth place in London in 2012. On that course, where nearly 300,000 fans basked in the sun and watch the multi loop course, Meb ran his most calculated race, nearly catching third place. His fourth place there was his guttiest race, as he was not having a particularly great day, and willed himself into that fine race.

The legacy of Meb is this: there are no secrets. Train hard for a dozen years, work with a fine coach or group of coaches who get you and support you. Find some sponsors who believe in you, and never, ever give up. Meb Keflezighi is one of the toughest runners that I have ever seen. He is the American dream, one of ten brothers and sisters that his parents raised to be part of the society that that travelled half way around the world to join.

I will miss Meb immensley as a competitor. I will miss him in interviews, but I am happy that we got to watch him race for so long.

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