Sarah and Amanda are delighted to talk with marathon legend Meb Keflezighi, the first person to win both the Boston and New York City Marathons plus an Olympic marathon silver medal. These races, plus 23 others, are the basis for his thought-provoking new book, 26 Marathons: What I Learned about Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career. Part of the AMR Father’s Day tradition, Meb shares about:
–his first-ever run, undertaken for a T-shirt and an A in school
–being carried to victory at the 2014 Boston Marathon by spectators doing The Wave and chanting “USA! USA! USA!”
–being bedeviled by injuries (and poor nutrition) for several years, then coming back “feeling more grateful”
–bucket-list races he wants to run
–mantras he repeats during races
–the 2016 Olympic Marathon in Rio, including his now-famous fall at the finish line
In the intro, Sarah and Amanda talk about goings-on in their respective son’s lives, including Amanda’s son’s college choice. The amazing (yet humble) Meb enters the scene at 12:40
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Here is a transcription of the interview:
Sarah: Meb it is a pleasure to have you on the show, thank you so much for joining us.
Meb: Thanks for having me appreciate it.
Sarah: So this is our annual Fathers Day episode, so let’s start by having you tell us about your three daughters.
Meb: I have three daughters, Sara is thirteen, Fiyori is eleven, and Yohana just turned nine, they are part of my life journey, and obviously Sara was born in 2006, about a month before I debuted at the Boston Marathon, [inaudible 00:00:32] in, and Fiyori was born in 2008, she was very young during the trials, and Yohana was, which means with blessing victory. She was born after I won the New York City marathon, and Yordanos and I are very happy that we have healthy kids.
Sarah: It’s wonderful that you can kind of target their births, and where they fit in into your running career.
Amanda: It’s funny because I think we’ve all seen the images of you reuniting with them at the finish line, and so they’re kind of frozen in my mind as this [crosstalk 00:01:09]
Meb: I think especially Sara, when I won New York, Fiyori was young, but Sara was three years old, and change, three and a half. She goes, “Did daddy win?”` There’s a picture here screaming that my grandma and my mother and Fiyori is kind of just in the picture, but she can see that expression, “Did daddy win?”.
Sarah: I love that because so many of our own kids ask us a mother runners, “Did you win mom?”, and we get a good laugh out of that one. When your children ask that, you can often times say yes.
Meb: I used to, I used to.
Amanda: So Meb, I think everyone knows you from your amazing career and wins, but give us a little bit of a picture of how you got started in running.
Meb: Well I started playing soccer beforehand when I was in Eritrea, which is in Horn of Africa, a third world country. The world that was going on, so we didn’t have a soccer, we used to make a makeshift soccer, stuff it with a long sleeve arm shirt, or long socks and stuff it with plastic so it compounds, and you have a soccer. Bare in mind you have play that in the dirt or gravel, so it gets worn out very quickly, but when my dad has to walk over 225 miles to Sudan to save his life, and leaving behind a wife and six kids, and eventually when we got reunited in Italy after five years, my dad’s vision was to play on Saturdays with his kids, work money to Friday, and then see if he can go to the playground, so we used to have a soccer, and play on the field, but he would wear them around the field for a couple of laps, do stretching, do the jumping jacks, and [inaudible 00:03:04] things like that. Obviously that was [inaudible 00:03:07], but eventually we came to the United States in 1987, after the 21st, it feels like it was yesterday, just for better opportunities.
Meb: It can be more about our run to overcome the journey but, just came to, did get education opportunities, the accident when we lived in an apartment next to Balboa Park, which is in San Diego, and people were running. We used to dribble the soccer ball from our apartment to the park, and we’re like, we see people run, “Why are these people running, they’re not chasing anything, they’re crazy.”. I know I’m going to be the crazy people running, chasing nothing, but keep running for 26.2 miles, they were probably just doing a 5k. To make long story short, our parents expected the best of us, in academics, P.E., math, history, what ever it was. In P.E. class said of course, declared in seventh said “If you run hard you’re going to get an A or B, but if you miss a run and go for a run you’re going to get a D or F.” you run out in this baseball field, go to the middle of the campus, run around the soccer field, and then finish in the middle of the campus, and you have to keep an eye on people. My tallest brothers were running, they were wearing a T-shirt that says Roosevelt Junior High, and I wanted to get that A, so I just ran as hard I can, and I ended up running a 5:20 mile.
Meb: He kind of had take up a look at the watch, and he goes “you gonna go to the Olympics?”, and I’m like um “A?”, I didn’t speak English, so I’m making the signal of A, you know, A, did I get an A? Do I get the T-Shirt? The rest is history, and he called the high school coach, Ed Ramos, and he says “We have an [00:04:53], this little one is better than the two oldest ones.”, so the rest is history, so that’s how my running got unfold.
Amanda: So Meb, the name of your wonderful new book is “26 Marathons”, with each chapter dealing each of the marathons you ran as a professional runner, but unlike many retired pros, you’ve added to your marathon count since your retirement. Tell us about running the 2018 Boston Marathon, in which you ran for the Martin Richard Foundation, and tell us a little bit about that awful weather in 2018.
Meb: It was awful weather for people that were running, but for me, but it wasn’t awful for Desi, so congratulations to Desi on that.
Meb: 26 Marathons, what I have learned through faith, identity, running and life through my 26 competitive careers, but I was at one point burnt out, I didn’t want any more marathons. I got an email from Bell Richards, Martin Richards dad, probably like September or August even, 2017 I was getting ready to do my 26th marathon in New York City, and I just wanted to get over with this marathon, I didn’t think I wanted to do anymore marathons, at least not in the near future, maybe down two three years down the road, maybe I’ll get some foundation, but I got that email, which I got to know his dad really well, different functions from charity teams. I get an email from him, then I run, and on our fifth anniversary, I run it for Martin Richard foundation, and bringing awareness, and the causes [inaudible 00:06:26], what a young man he was, and way ahead of his time. So I ran the Boston Marathon 2018, the weather was rough, at least when I’m like “Oh, I good I don’t have to wear my [inaudible 00:06:38] to try to be competitive.”
Meb: I was smiling a little bit. I would try to avoid the puddles, here and there, but then I would just like, just run through it. I had the hand warmers on my hand, that just shut down from the rain, it just shut the hand warmers off. I was hoping to have it for the rest of marathon, maybe even afterwards. So about three miles into it, the warm was gone, and I was hypothermic, probably down the road I start seeing the lights, probably about 19-20 miles. I think I was 20 or 21 miles, and I saw a cardboard that said “Desi won, not kidding.”, and I just “Yay.”. So that was pretty cool, and then I saw the winning time on the man Yuki from Japan, and I said it was like 2:15 something, almost 2:16. I’m like “Wow, that was a missed opportunity, I could’ve won that race.”. So that’s what that journey that I had but it was a great purpose to be able to just fundraise and bring attention to Martin Richard foundation, which I’m happy to do.
Sarah: That’s wonderful. So let’s stick with the Boston Marathon, in 2014 and marathon number 19 that you detail in your book. As you’re heading down Boylston Street to the finish line to be the first American to win that race in more than thirty years, and just one year after the bombing, I’ve gotta ask, could you hear all the standing and cheering “Go Meb go.” at or computer screens, like urging you on? It’s like when my husband yells at the Kansas City Chiefs, on TV, I’m like “They can’t hear you honey”, and I’m like “Meb can hear me I know he can”.
Meb: I did and I kept picking it up.
Meb: That was a magical moment, to think back of that day, there was a greater purpose than myself. For the city of Boston, for the running community internationally and nationally. We all have … I title this, we all have our day when everything clicks. If you recognize when its happening you can produce something that’s bigger than yourself. For me I remember on mile five, the Kenyans and the Ethiopians were trying to slow it down.
Meb: I said I came with three goals in mind, to win, top three, or runner up personal best. If I’m going to do that I need to push as hard as I can, they let let me go, they kind of made a mistake, I’m telling them, this is the biggest mistake they make in their life. Don’t they know that I won New York, they don’t know I have a silver medal[inaudible 00:09:09], as I kept pushing and pushing I said, “Well, if they’re gonna catch me I’m going to make them earn it.” I just kept pushing and pushing and not that Boston is point to point course, not that I know far I was ahead but, I kept pushing, and about mile fifteen or sixteen at the Boston Marathon before you make that right hand turn. That 5:20 mile, my god given talent that I talked about earlier, was a 4:31 and ten miles to go, but when the weight of the nation is on your bacK, and people are chanting “USA! USA!” People are doing waves to get emotional. I start chanting, pumping my fist, “USA! USA!”. Concentrate on the race, concentrate on the race. Then I see people just doing the waves, above Boston College, and just people do what they “USA! USA!”.
Meb: It was a thrill of a lifetime, but you think you get emotional, but at the same time you’re like “Oh my goodness, I got to hold on to this, I got to hold on to this.”. It got close and close, but people tell me where they were every day, how they cheered me, whether they were at their computers or at the stands, or on mile 5 or mile 10.
Meb: When I was racing they heard that I won, and it was just amazing and I felt blessed that god gave me that glory to be able to carry the victims name on my bed. Technically you’re not supposed to do that, but it went viral once I wrote the four victims names, I draw the inspiration from them every time I look down on my thighs, or looking down I think “You’re doing it for them, you’re doing them.”. Just keep pushing, and you put your body through a lot, but the sound coming to Commonwealth, or Hartford, or Boylston Street I just a dream come to true to be able to chant “USA! USA! USA!”. It’s not over till the tape touches your chest, but you are hopeful and obviously the tape could not come fast enough, but the last 200 meter, I’m like “I’m loving this one, keep going, keep going.” I was just thankful looking to the heavens, and saying “God thank you for giving me this opportunity, and for allowing me to be the first one across the finish line.”. It was my dream to win the Boston Marathon, to do it on that day on April 21st, 2014. After the bombing, you have to pinch me how it all came together for me.
Sarah: It was a really beautiful thing to watch so, thank you for taking us through that.
Sarah: As we often do, we’re going to ask questions gathered from the Another Runner Mother community on Facebook, but in that slew of questions we got I have to share two comments from there. A woman named Sarah Day said, “Tell Meb we love how kind and giving he is to fellow runners and fans,” and then Joy who was lucky enough to be at the finish line in both 2013 and 2014, I got the sense she was probably in the stands. She said “Thank you for never giving up, always giving your all, showing us little folks it possible.”
Meb: Wow, very very thoughtful of them. It’s an honor to hear their voice, people to kind of express where they were, how that race, or that silver medal, or New York win has changed, changed and encouraged them. Sometimes 2008, was one of my lowest career, my prime time, prime age, couldn’t make the Olympic team, but I was told by people just “Stay faithful and stay hopeful, and never give up, if you can do that, good things are waiting,” but you have to go the valleys to realize how grateful you are when things have taken away from you, you appreciate it even more greater. I talk about those in the 26 Marathon and others, but I just love my runners. They inspire me equally, people encourage each other, we support each other, we encourage each other to get the best out of ourselves.
Amanda: That’s excellent. So going to our Facebook page and checking with some questions, Kelsi would like to know how you balance running and family, it’s obvious that family is very important to you.
Meb: Family Is very important to me, I would be [remense 00:13:08] if I didn’t say a lot of me credit goes to my wife, Yordanos. When I travel a lot, or when she does a lot of our financial work, around the house and all these things that goes household. She puts it together for me, she just gives me the freedom to do what I love, inspire others and encourage others. It’s very important to me to take the kids to school, pick them up from school, and be the Monday through Thursday, or whenever I can.
Meb: Unfortunately or fortunately the running world is in the weekend, so I travel quite a bit, some marathons they have gone with me, they have experienced it with me, and beyond just what the classroom has to offer, but I try to live a balanced life, and that’s been the case since I was out of high school, when I was a student at UCLA, and I was professional and a husband and a father I try to do that. That’s my best, I try to maintain an excellent balance, I try to [inaudible 00:14:03] on my name, and sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not good enough, but at the same time I try to be the best that I can, and some people acknowledge it, and I’m very grateful for that. Some people say to thank for your wife and kids for you sharing with us this weekend and things like that so it means a lot and I try to be there with my kids as much as I can
Sarah: Often times in the Another Mother Runner community talk about there’s good and there’s good enough, so I love that you are right there with us.
Meb: So it’s like a marathon, sometimes you feel like, yeah, I hit a home run, or nailed, and other times you’re like “Aw I couldn’t have done better,” so that’s what life is.
Sarah: Exactly. In keeping with that here at AMR, we know that mother guilt is real, and Gretchin wants to know, do you have dad guilt sometimes?
Meb: Dad guilt? I’m pretty sure I do. You say something, and your regret it, and sometimes you spend time with them, hopefully that’s good enough for them, because you know couldn’t do other things as well. At the same time, try to cherish the family life as much as we can. I really do cherish my kids more so now than when they were younger, but at the same time, they can ask us what they want, what they, need and I’m ready to oblige to that now.
Amanda: That’s great, so a question Julie. She would like to know how you teach balance to your girls in setting goals and expectations, given all of your achievements.
Meb: We try to tell them “Give it your best.” At the end of the day, the grace they get. We’re more concerned about the effort versus the, “Oh you got a B+ or C+,” We want them to be for excellence, of course my wife and I, type A personality, but at the same time, we just kind of realize they are their own individuals. Would you like for them to be parallel to your ideas and things like that? Sure. The expectation is higher and, sometimes I do forget they’re kids. I have to kind of scale it back and say, don’t get to disappointed, and I get mad at times, I’m just a regular dad, or dissapointed, but at the same time try to appreciate what they’re doing, and be therefor them at the same time, and maybe some times you have to go with an apology the next day.
Sarah: That’s good to hear that I’m not the only parent that has to apologize after the fact. So Moreen wants to know do you always feel as positive and upbeat as you seem, or at times do you feel a need to fake the positivity a bit?
Meb: I’m not always as positive as Pete, when I’m on and on, and I get energy from the few people but, if your energy is high, that energy’s like, when you see a runner, and say “Hey, good job, lets go,” why not? That person may have a cramp or was walking, but then they hear that, you motive them to keep another five steps, maybe jog, you get them started. The same thing with life, sometimes I’m a very energetic and other times I’m not. You draw for inspiration, and try to learn from others. I usually have quotable runners that I do, but at the same time when I’m around I have my down times, but it depends on what’s going around the house, where’s the positive or not negative, just ordinary household how it goes on. When you are at work you try to be the positive, positive energy. You can’t, well at home I’m as positive as I should be.
Sarah: So you alluded to 2008 and coming off that rough patch those couple of year when you were dealing with injury. It’s a situation so many mother runners can relate to, so I know they’d love to hear how you coped both physically and mentally with being injured and having not the result in races that you were hoping for.
Meb: It’s very difficult. For me, I get all that [inaudible 00:18:32] on my first win. I even dropped out on a race, London Marathon, 2007, and hoping, that this is too tough, I’m gonna risk my injury, I might tear my achilles, so it’s not worth it. You do everything, try to do everything you can, and you recover from that, you work hard, you have the best summer you’ve ever had probably, and then you’re like “Okay I’m ready for that.” When you go to the trials, ” I overworked, I was too lean for too long. I cut my weight down really hard, I was in that shape for July all the until November. I overdid it. I got basically fried and I had a pelvis stress fracture.
Meb: I’m pretty sure I didn’t have enough calories, I had low vitamin D, calcium all that stuff, that I talk about in the book. That devastation, I was losing my good friend Ryan Shaye, so going to the Olympic was not a big deal. Life is bigger than anything, so that kind of puts in perspective, never give up on your dream. I remember I could not even stand up, I was on my knees and elbows, crawling from one place to another because I could not put weight on my body, and I had to use my hand to shift on one side of the bed to the other. You have to evaluate what internally you have, the drive. I knew from training that that was not my best, just like we talked about the dad not being the best. Even the expectation is higher, sometimes. Failure kind of teaches you those things, to be humble, don’t take things for granted, makes you appreciate even greater.
Meb: Ever since I have to rehab my body, and I couldn’t go to the 2008 Olympics, but I said New York City marathon was going to be my Olympics, was going to be my gold medal. I’m going to go for it, and to have the silver medal there, to have the four time Boston champion there, to have the second fastest guy in the planet there. It was a great honor to be stacked skilled, and I went for it. If you ask my personal gratification, that was it because for me that was my goal.
Meb: To win New York City marathon, and to be able to do with that stacked skill was huge, and to where USA cheers you on and chanting “USA! USA!”, Central Park was huge, and gave me a great honor to be the first American to win it in 27 years, you have to be thankful for, I’m a lot more grateful for that 2008 trials because that kind of, god took it away from me, maybe I was a little too confident why not, or I think I could do it all. When it’s something at stake and you reminisce yourself and like “Okay, I gotta scale it back”. You have a greater appreciation. Anybody if you guys are challenging or having difficult times, the reason I went overboard is because I was driven to work hard, to win, and I know you’re trying to finish or trying to get out extra miles and things like that but, once you recover don’t give up on those miles that you put in and they’re gonna carry you for the next marathon or for the [inaudible 00:21:37] that is coming.
Amanda: Nice. So Becky would like to know what inspired you to keep going to Marathon 26, and now beyond.
Meb: My first marathon was in New York 2002, after I finished I went for the win, and I hit the wall. I went slower and slower and slower. The finish couldn’t get fast enough. I would usually about 30:30 one for ten kilometers, that was 37 minute or so the last 10k. I was just crawling in, I never ever wanted to do another marathon, my mom was there, my dad was there. My mom said “No more marathon for you, 5k, 10k no problem you can do it but no more marathon.” I couldn’t have agreed with her that time. I was just in pain, but I tell my coach Bob Larsen, “this is my first and last”, he just kind of giggled and said “I heard that one before”,[crosstalk 00:22:30]. “You were in the lead in 16th mile, 17th mile you’ll come back.”. I’m like “No way I’m not.”
Meb: Eventually I just went to Eritrea with my mom for a month and a half, and I still had people living day in day out, survival. No electricity no running water, I said “You know what, don’t take things for granted”.[inaudible 00:22:48]. Got motivated, and I got motivated by the Eritrean people to do something better, and I was accepted to [inaudible 00:22:56], Boston marathon, but of course talked me out of it, because it was a tough course, because New York, my first marathon, missed it by 35 seconds to get the “a” standard for the Olympics, so I’m like “I got to do another marathon to get thirty five seconds? That’s horrible.”.
Meb: All this was challenging so I went to Chicago, and I did the Chicago marathon around 2:10:03, [inaudible 00:23:17] two and a half minute. I said “You know what, this is not as bad as I thought it would be.”. I was silver medal at the Olympic games, and then I’m like “Oh this could be fun.”. I and I kept going, but I didn’t plan to do 26 marathons, but eventually when I was probably about on my 20th marathon is when I said “maybe I could do 26”, because people ask “how far is the Boston marathon, how far is the New York City marathon, how far is the Dallas marathon?” I said ” They’re all 26.2 some of them are flat, some of them are hilly, some of them are just a downhill.” In honor of that I just decided to do one marathon for each mile, so people know it’s 26 marathons, 26 miles.
Sarah: Nice. Teach them all a lesson all of us don’t have to answer that question. “Yes, that marathon is also 26.2 miles [crosstalk 00:24:06].”
Sarah: So Laura on our Facebook page asks “What is your favorite race other than the major marathons, and the Olympics?”
Meb: Well I love Falmouth Road Race, Falmouth Road Race is seven miles, Beach to Beacon is another one, more of a community, I love Bix7, Bix7, Davenport, Iowa. I’ve been doing it since 2002, I won a few times, people go to Iowa. The community, you see this Superbowl banners and things like that. They have the banner that says “Bix7, run with the best.”, and their community is behind it, the quad city does an amazing job. In terms of scenery I love Falmouth, and then in terms of community events, Bix7 was great, and they got big hills. They think “Oh Iowa, cornfields.”, and whatnot, and I was looking big hill, big hill, Brady Street, they have a challenge relay and stuff like that. They think I was looking at that flight, the topography of the course, and you go “Oh you’re going to Iowa? Flat as a pancake, and cornfield.”, but I said “not according to this chart”, and they were right.
Amanda: Ana would like to know on the topic of races other than majors and the Olympics, do you have any bucket list races that you have to run?
Meb: Yeah, there’s a few others. I’m a part owner of the Carlsbad 5k, and Silicon Valley half marathon, but there’s other things I want to do, Bloomsday, Cherry Blossom, but not competitively. That’s another good one that I haven’t done. You get to [inaudible 00:25:56] 15ks, people talk about it, but there is other races that are exotic, places, where there’s Paris, or Norway, or other place that I would love to go visit and do, but shorter races I’m good with, I don’t want to do marathons unless there’s a cause behind it.
Sarah: So Bloomsday has an enormous hill.
Meb: Is it?
Sarah: Yes, it’s towards the end, and it just seems to go on forever.
Sarah: So, [Katy 00:26:30] wonders what is the key to a long and enjoyable running career, and that’s something so many mother runners are striving for, being able to run a long time as a masters age athlete.
Meb: Back in the days people used to say “Go that extra mile, put in the extra mile”. I don’t agree with that, as we get older, when you’re getting somebody motivated maybe that’s the case, but as we get older I think its better to run one less mile and do it more occasionally. Instead of running six miles, run five miles and stretch before and after so you can avoid injuries, and also as much as you can run on soft surface, even for me sometimes, I live in the hills of San Diego. I drive down, just a mile a down, so I don’t have to run it downhill before my bodys warm. I don’t mind riding up, but going down, your knee, the impacts on your knee, so be smart about that. Obviously changing your shoes as frequently as you can, because you don’t want to be having holes in them and not have absorption on your joint, invest in that, and then invest in once in a while to do a massage, or prehab instead of rehab. I talk [inaudible 00:27:37], a lot of that, but my other book that is. Be able to just enjoy yourself, have fun, run with people, when you run with people you have something to share, and the camaraderie that brings together running is huge and just do it consistently, just make a regiment, those are probably the four or five tips I would recommend.
Sarah: You’re a mother runner in disguise Meb, because we’re all about running with people, having fun, the prehab instead of rehab. So you know we’re just gonna have to get you in Another Mother Runner shirt.
Amanda: On the subject of masters runners, Sandy’s wondering how you manage fatigue, and she says she’s running her third marathon at almost fifty, and she’s overwhelmed by how tired she is.
Meb: Fatigue is part of the sport, it’s gonna get it at one point or another, especially in a marathon, but you would rather get a mile 21 versus mile 13, which I talk about in my book that I, reexperience, or Boston 2017, somehow, some way, it clicks and other times it doesn’t click. Proper training I would advise her to do proper training. You would rather delay the fatigueness or the cramping or lactic as long as you can until probably mile 21 or so and then tough it out the last four, five miles versus, “Oops what happened?”. Don’t go out too fast. Be patient, you rather just go slower, slower, saying “So good, so good, so good.” Until you say “I’m mile 19, I’m mile 20, now I can try to push.” Don’t push on mile 5, don’t push on mile 7 or 10, because if you do that, you’re going to dig more hole into the mental fatigue and also the physical fatigue. So pace is a virtue and I think people need to understand that you need to wait and wait and wait till you push. Sometimes you rather have negative split, if you can run faster during the half marathon or the full marathon, you’re gonna be better off, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and you’re going to recover faster and have a better finish.
Sarah: In reading your book 26 Marathons I was struck by that for mere mortals like Amanda and me, we kind of set our time goal for a marathon, and we think “Oh okay I want to finish it in this time.”, and that so much of it is, as a pro that your pace is, if you can control the pace, but sometimes it’s also dictated by what your competitors are doing. So could you talk a bit about that as what its like to be, “Oh I’d like to finish Boston 2:08 or what 2:06 or whatever.”, but if the fields going out slow the fields going out faster, how do you handle that?
Meb: I think for elite runners it’s difficult to go on time. You go off time like London or Chicago, and stuff like that, but Boston and New York, which I’ve done the most racing is. It’s all about the title. You wanna get their title, if you can win it, or top three, or top ten, have those mind goals, and whatever the time is, time. This time I did mention the Boston victory a few times, but I did not say the time, for elite [runner 00:31:05] the victory is more important than the time. For the Olympic Games or New York or Boston.
Meb: Boston was the only race that I ran my own race, in 2014. The rest of the other ones, its like okay you have a pacer, or you’re trying to hit time, or trying cover somebody else move, in fact in 2006, at the Boston marathon. I was chasing the Kenyans, and I end up running to fast, and I made the rookie mistake, I ran world record pace, and then I looked at my watch halfway. I saw 1:02:45 I said “It’s going to be a great PR day or it’s gonna be [crosstalk 00:31:38] day.” It was tough I went out back 107, that’s why when I tell people you have to negative split it, imagine if I ran 1:06 and came back 1:07 I could have potentially won that race, but when you’re going for competing you don’t have control of, three people go, one will make it, two might come back. If five people go, two will go and you might get third place because three will fall back, so you have to make those decision.
Meb: It’s tough decisions. There’s no coach to tell you that, you just got to make up your mind, depending on how good you feel or how much your body can assess how much you have to that finish line. Whether its mile 7, mile 13, mile 17, or mile 21 you gotta make that decision, some times a split second decision, so for the mere mortals or the people that want to get to the finish line, you are in a better control than the elites because you can control your pace, and say “You know what? I want to finish this goal, this is the pace I’m gonna go.”, but for us It’s like if somebody, like I did for 31 miles, miles 16 out of the Boston Marathon 2014, or for 22 miles 17 at the New York City marathon in 2005.
Meb: Those are the mind boggling, but at the same time you have to prepare and make those decisions because you’re making the move or somebody is making the move and you have a very quick time to react. Sometimes it pays off and other times it doesn’t, and both times for me has paid off because the whole point when I’m competing is get it down to few people as possible. So if somebody threw 4:22, I’m gonna follow up with another 4:35 even though I’m aching in pain, I’d rather get it down to five people versus leading with 13 other people. When you get five people say “Okay I just got to get two more, I get the [party 00:33:22], so mind games is big when racing as an elite athlete, just as is when people are going for the time. Okay, I’m mile 17, I hit my PR, I’m okay, and then you hit the next one within five or six seconds, you feel good, “Oh I feel good”. Versus if you hit it 40 seconds slower, you’re like “Uh Oh, I make too big of a mistake.” You’d rather just run even pace, if you can, but when you are an elite athlete and competing you can’t even have the privilege.
Amanda: Arlene would like to know, do you pray while you’re running?
Meb: Do I pray when I run? Absolutely. Even sometimes two different languages, whatever helps. I mean you pray, “god help me get through that second group” or “god get me through that next mile” or “god help me get in the top 10”. Whatever you’re thinking at that moment. Oh yeah I pray a lot, sometimes like I said in my native tongue, Tigrinya, or English, or you hear people, you see the cross, or you see a sign, and I give them a thumbs up, because they are talking to you so yeah I think it helps, personally for me.
Sarah: So do you use prayer rather than a mantra?
Meb: I use both, I use both. I pray, and sometimes I say, “run to win, run to win”,[inaudible 00:34:45]. So whether it’s “Hey god, help me get to that podium position”, or say “Hang in there, hang in there you can do this.” You repeat that stuff, getting the best ideas and stuff, you can close that gap, you can close that gap.
Sarah: Cathy on Facebook told us that we have to ask about the epic finish line fall and push up show off at the Brazil Olympics. She says “I think that moment put a smile on the face of the world and truly showed what a wonderful soul he is.”
Meb: That’s very sweet Cathy thank you, but yeah if you can’t win a medal I guess you got to do a push up you know.
Meb: Here’s what happened, that was a tough race. That’s one of the other tough races that I had. I felt great, my trainer was epic going into it and I was 41 years old, and the tougher conditions the more I dwell on, but that day was not the case. Halfway through the race, I was 105 and change, I said you know what I felt great, I feel like I could replicate the same pace for the same the next half marathon, I could run 210 and I think I could challenge for the podium. A minute later, or two, I feel like it hit hard, I start throwing up, but nothing would come out. I felt Jared Ward, my teammate “Let me out, let me out”, because I didn’t want to throw up on somebody who was in front of me so, “Let me out, let me out.”. Next thing is I was on my knees, and my hands were on my knees, and then I said “Don’t panic, don’t panic, you got fourth place at the Olympic from coming from behind, so just don’t let them grow, just close the gap.”, and I ran 508, 508 back to back, and it happened again. People cheer you on, runners encourage you, it was like a victory lap I had never had at the Olympic Games.
Meb: People just know who you are, they cheer on you, they encourage you to go. I stopped like seven times, people say, “Go USA! Go USA!”, from different countries, and at the finish, that was at the carnival area on the street. I looked forward, I said I can’t catch that guy, I look back, I said that guy’s not gonna catch me, so I was like enjoy it, enjoy it as much as you can. It was wet, it was slippery, so I’m not sprinting, that’s why I looked ahead and behind me, and I said in honor of Joanie Benoit who took her hat off when she won the goal. I said “This is my lost Olympic, I’m taking the hat off.” and then as I took my hat off, my knee, my left knee went down, my right leg went to the side, and it was just dead silent quiet, and I thought about it, and the finish line is right in my eye level. I got to drag myself, get my chest to the finish line, I got to let them know I’m okay, and I did the push up, and I got the loudest cheer, of just letting them know I’m okay.
Meb: Little did I realize, I dragged myself to the finish line like a football. Then, the timing chip is on my foot, so I did take myself a few seconds down there. I forgot that runners it’s the chest for the tape, but for the timing purpose it’s on your feet. Everybody who made it didn’t make a lemon out of a lemon, I just had a really bad experience, seven stops, a fall at the end. To be there, to finish, because when you’re wearing USA jersey you got to say “You know what, how many people would love to be in your position?” my daughters were there, my wife were there, and it meant a lot for me to get to that finish line. It’s not the way I wanted to go out of the Olympics, but you have at least an appreciation. When I went to visit the white house, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama said “Great job finish, we’re proud of you”, it was meaningful to do the interview with the girls there, so it meant a lot.
Amanda: That is neat. So Jessica would like to know, what’s the best thing about being in retirement.
Meb: The three things the best about retirement, well maybe more than two things, One is, like today how I haven’t run yet. I was busy doing stuff this morning, so I run whenever I want to run. Eat whatever I want to eat, if I want to have wine, if I want to have beer, if I want to just have dessert, I’m okay with it, but as before, I was on a very strict diet because especially as I got older there were issues, metabolism slowed down, I gotta watch my figure, I gotta gain some weight, but all that stuff now. I paced my brother over the weekend, a half marathon, he’s doing his first one. I’m just enjoying just exercise, my daughter walked it, she wanted to run but we decided to let her walk with her aunt. I love getting out the door, I still enjoy running, exercise, it gives me a positive energy.
Sarah: So was that one of your two older brothers who you ran the half marathon with?
Meb: Yeah, my older brother.
Sarah: Oh my gosh.
Meb: He was a soccer guy, and he ran cross country and track, but soccer was his passion. He’s kind of fallen in love with it now and happy with his new life change experience going on. He gave me the tip before any coaches about breathing and all that when were just a [block 00:39:55] a part. The [inaudible 00:39:59] and when we warm up for soccer and things like that, that was kind of a return the favor for him. I had to coach him for the last 6 weeks, he’s like “6 weeks I want to run a marathon, what can I do”, and I’m like, “well we’re going to have to put you on a crash course and get you to enter the finish line,” he wanted to break two hours and he ended going 1:52 and change.
Sarah: And that was in a half marathon yeah?
Meb: Correct yeah.
Sarah: Wow, six weeks of training from Meb, –
Meb: They have the seven minute app, why not[inaudible 00:40:29] and six weeks of training, get you to the half marathon, training program.
Sarah: You heard it here first people, that’s the way to do it.
Sarah: Oh my goodness, well it has been just an absolute delight to talk with you Meb.
Sarah: Thank you so much.
Meb: Thanks Sarah, thanks Amanda for having me, Mother Runner keep up the great work you guys got it great, and it’s all about getting out the door, tying your shoes and making friends and getting the best out of yourself
Sarah: Exactly, exactly, and happy fathers day to you.
Meb: Thank you so much, I appreciate that.