“Nothing changes. We do learn from our mistakes but as a person, hopefully, my teammates from high school or college would still say the same thing [about me]. And that’s my goal. The demands on my time change, and we evolve, and have learning experiences, but the person I am hopefully hasn’t changed.”
It’s an honor and a pleasure to welcome Meb Keflezighi to the podcast. The recently retired 42-year-old is the only runner in history to capture an Olympic medal and win both the Boston and New York City marathons. He joined me last week from his home in San Diego to talk about his career, the various triumphs and disappointments he experienced along the way, and just how hard it was for him to keep going after making his fourth Olympic team in 2016 at the age of 40.
“I was burned out, not physically but mentally. I was done,” Keflezighi admitted to me. “Those three marathons, to this day—and maybe New York was a little closer to satisfaction—but the three of them did not go the way I planned them, the way I trained. And I worked very, very hard for all three of them.”
We also discuss his role models in life—and why he takes the responsibility of that role so seriously himself—to his relationship with longtime coach and mentor Bob Larsen, the support of his family, sponsors, and fans throughout the years, as well as how he’ll continue to make a living for himself, inspire others, and promote the sport of distance running even though he hung up his racing flats after finishing 11th at last fall’s New York City Marathon.
In the course of this conversation we cover training, racing, and injuries, including how he considered retiring after suffering a pelvic stress fracture at the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon, what he learned from that experience about listening to his body—”One day off, or two days off, or a week off could have changed my life,” he told me, “maybe become an Olympian again, or maybe another medal, but I didn’t listen to my body.”—and how he was able to bounce back to post some of the top performances of his career from his mid-30s into the early 40s.
Keflezighi also provides advice for older runners who want to continue competing at a high level, makes a case for why younger runners should wait until they’re older to race marathons, and explains why he’s so meticulous and deliberate in everything that he does, whether it’s preparing for a race, fulfilling a sponsor obligation, or giving a speech.
“People think you just run and run and run,” he explains. “I wish it was just that simple. … I think you’ve got to do the small things that make a big difference and sometimes you question those, but you just have to go out there and get the best out of yourself every day and that’s what I did.”
Finally, we talk about the upcoming Boston Marathon, which he’ll be running as an honorary member of the MR8 Foundation, who and what is exciting him about the sport of running today—”The women’s Trials is going to be crazy in 2020!”—the legacy he hopes to leave on the sport, and much, much more.
“I just want to be a positive example, a doer, someone who does things versus talking about it and never accomplishing anything,” explains Meb. “I hope to be a complete person. I try to live by my name: Maintain Excellent Balance, and I hope to do that for the rest of my life. I try to do that every day of my life and not just when the camera’s on.”
Related links, references, and resources:
— Check out his website.
— “I’d like to give something back to the sport,” Meb told me back in 2006. “It’s given a lot to me, so hopefully through running I can do something positive and have a positive influence on somebody’s life. As long as I do the right things and surround myself with good people, you never know what blessings the future holds.”
— Watch: Meb Keflezighi wins the 2014 Boston Marathon. “This is beyond running,” he said after the race. “This is for the people, Boston Strong. We’re resilient as runners, we want to give it back, we wanted to change what happened last year—last year was known to be the bomb explosion on Boylston but this year it was an American winning it.”
— The Mystique of Meb Keflezighi. “It was championship style,” Meb told me after his Boston win in 2014, “and I don’t think anyone has been as consistent as me in those types of races.”
— Skills and Drills: A 6-part video series produced by Meb, myself, and Steve Godwin for competitor.com and CEP in 2013. We go over a number of skills and drills Meb uses in his own training to hone form, improve speed, and prevent injuries. “All these drills that I’m talking with you about, I do them six days a week,” Meb explained to me. “I do them every time after I finish a run or after my warmup and before my intervals.”
— “He was attentive and driven at everything,” his longtime coach and mentor, Bob Larsen, told Runner’s World‘s Amby Burfoot back in 2007. “Whatever he needed to get done in the classroom and on the track, he do it all. He just had the discipline and toughness you need.”
— Eat like Meb. “Back in the day, most people thought you needed to eat carbohydrates and then more carbohydrates,” Meb explained to GQ. “For me, though, as I got older, I had to eat a lot more protein in order to maintain my skills.”
— A Brotherly Bond. “People probably assume it was an easy hire,” admitted Merhawi Keflezighi, Meb’s brother and agent, “but it was probably the toughest interview process I’ve gone through.”
— Meb to run 2018 Boston Marathon for Team MR8. “I’m going to be running the Boston Marathon in 3 hours as an honorary member of the MR8 team,” Meb told me. “When you do it for a greater purpose, it’s an honor.”
— “Today, my mind says, ‘Go,’” Keflezighi told Sarah Lorge Butler of Runner’s World after crossing the finish line of last November’s New York City Marathon, his final competitive 26.2-mile effort. “My body says, ‘You can’t go.’”
This episode of the morning shakeout podcast was edited by John Isaac at BaresRecords.com.
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