Hometown marathon hero Meb Keflezighi is spreading the run love at Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego. The iconic and international running series—which started in 1998 with 20,000 runners hitting the streets of San Diego—has become synonymous with fun, so it only makes sense that the Olympian and winner of the Boston and New York marathons would pump up the volume.
In addition to usual expo appearances, Keflezighi is pacing the 1:30 group at the half marathon on Sunday. Even more special, Keflezighi finished the Saturday 5K with his family, including daughters Sara (10), Fiyori (8) and Yohana (6). The proud papa ran close to his two older daughters, calling out splits and videoing them in action. He said this is the third 5K that they’ve done.
“They don’t train. They just wake up and do it,” Keflezhighi says with a laugh. “A 5K is good for fun. I’d like to see them do a mile or 2-mile, but a 5K is good. They’re not racing-racing, they’re just trying to get to the finish line, which is very crucial and important. They’re disciplined in hard work and perseverance, and they enjoy the outdoors. Both my wife and I try to encourage them to go outdoors.”
Keflezighi is also spending much of the weekend with one lucky fan. Kathleen Pettit of Rocky Point, N.Y., won the Ultimate Meb Experience through Rock ’n’ Roll, which includes a trip to San Diego and VIP race entries. Pettit and Keflezighi met at a Thursday dinner and their weekend will include an ElliptiGo ride and lots of fun freebies.
“I’m trying to help the spirit—it’s not how fast you get there, but sometimes the experience itself,” Keflezighi says. “I enjoy meeting people and helping them have that positive experience with the Rock ’n’ Roll and other marathons, that platform. It’s a running family.”
Keflezighi will connect with even more runners as he paces the half marathon. “I love pacing people,” he says. “I remember I was doing the Las Vegas Rock ’n’ Roll, and a woman said her husband was in the military, and he was hoping to come but got delayed again. She said, ‘Will you say hello to him?’ So I said, I think his name was Chris, ‘Thank you for all your service and what you have done for the freedom and liberty that we live in. I hope that you come home soon.’ She had tearing eyes. You hear those things: it’s not about the 1:45 or the 1:30 pace, but the stories that they tell.”
Meb himself also shares tales over the course of the 13.1 miles to keep those around him motivated and engaged. “I tell them stories from New York, Boston, the Olympics.…It eases their pain, hopefully, and makes the time pass by. Almost like having a coffee,” he says with a laugh. “I really try to get to know them; I might not know all their names by the finish, but at least I have interactions with them—and a lot of selfies.”