Caitlyn Pilkington shares what she learned after an hour-long group run with the reigning Boston Marathon champion.
We all know Meb Keflezighi as an Olympic silver medalist, the 2009 New York City Marathon champion and this year’s Boston Marathon champion. His three-letter household name among runners warrants run-nerd gawks when he strides by, and his professional elite resume between Nike and Skechers is quite impressive. The guy is a class act—never brings the negative drama and always lays down the law on the roads. He’s a proud U.S. citizen that looked pretty iconic wrapped in our nation’s colors on Boylston Street last April. One might argue that he’s the greatest American marathoner to have toed the line over the last 10 years.
I’m fortunate enough to see Meb’s face and exchange quick stories with him on a fairly regular basis. So when he stopped by earlier this week to do some media housekeeping around the office, I joined a handful of colleagues for a quick run around the area. Unbeknownst to him, that one hour spent with one of my favorite runners taught me three unexpected things about the leaders of our sport:
Even The Greatest, Most Stoic Elites Know How To Have Fun With It
Meb takes a great selfie—in fact he took several of them as we all cruised over to a nearby trail. He joked for us to “go easy on him” and ran shoulder to shoulder with us age-groupers, talking about everything from running to what he did with his family last week. I admittedly grabbed Mr. Keflezighi for my own selfie, to which he responded with, “Can I get a copy of that?” Depending on whom you ask, there’s a fine line between adoring your favorite runner and becoming a total fan-runner-geek over them. I was probably balancing that line that would probably cause some eye rolls, but Meb welcomed it and even encouraged it. If a guy with that type of speed tells you to have fun on the run, you better have a freaking party.
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Elites Are Just Thrilled To Hang With Other Runners
Obviously none of us could hold a 2:08:37 marathon pace, but we can all hold a conversation with the guy who did it earlier this year. And that’s even better. In the not-so-distant past, I placed so many of these runners among the rankings of celebrities I would never meet. Unbeknownst to me, Meb is quite the opposite. He loves being accessible, he loves getting involved with the sport beyond his next keynote race and he loves hearing stories before telling his own. Place him in a room and everyone falls silent, just waiting to hear anything he has to say. But as I ran next, behind and even in front(!) of him, I witnessed where he thrived the most: letting others speak. One can argue that this may be because he’s told his story one billion times this year, but I doubt it. He’s just that guy—the guy who co-owns his city’s local running store chain, leads pace groups in local races, stops mid-workout to take a picture with a fan and helps Women’s Running execute a somewhat sarcastic opener for an upcoming issue.
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They Are Pretty Humble
It’s pretty simple but still so surprising sometimes. Meb is just a nice, professional guy. I’ve chatted it up with others runners above my pace grade (literally, way above it), and I’ve unfortunately been met with a hint of arrogance and a dash of entitlement at times. Everyone has different reasons for running, but in the end, we all share the sport and the pain that comes with it. That’s true even for Meb, and he doesn’t hesitate to relate his own experiences to my own, on a very real, we-are-both-runners-so-you-get-it level. And that’s pretty damn cool.
Thanks for keeping it real for the rest of us, Meb!