Published July 3rd, 2010
While I was thrilled with the opportunity to interview Meb Keflezighi, winner of the 2009 New York Marathon and Olympic silver medalist, I started to panic. I wanted to ask him about running, but I hoped to ask him something I could relate to. What could we possibly have in common? Yes, we both ran the 2010 Boston Marathon, but he crossed the finish line more than two hours before I dragged my sorry ass across.
Mind you, I didn’t have much time to prepare — I had only found out about the opportunity two hours before I was to meet him. Since I hadn’t actually spoken to the Sony PR rep myself, I had no idea if I’d be meeting him one-on-one, or if it would be a group interview. But my darling and I mulled over a couple of questions as we drove back to the expo.
We arrived at the Sony booth to find a long line snaking around waiting for his autograph. I spoke to one of the Sony reps who had just found out I’d be coming. The autograph session was supposed to go until 1 p.m., then he was all mine. I decided to hop in line myself in order to get my bibs signed (I brought my Boston bib as well). When I realized the session would go long, I told the Sony rep we could skip the interview as I didn’t want to take even more of his time. But they kept assuring me it’d happen (perhaps they thought I was some big-shot running blogger!)
When I finally got to sit down with him, I was starstruck; it was as if I was in the presence of royalty (extremely humble royalty!) He greets you with a warm smile that lights up his face, grasping your hand in both of his. He’s clearly appreciative of the opportunities his adoptive country has given him, and I couldn’t think of a better ambassador. (He was floored — and extremely honored — when my darling asked him to sign his passport as a patriotic gesture).
When asked what opportunities he sees for his young daughters that he didn’t have in his native Eritrea, he beamed.
“This is a great country, a melting pot,” he said. “I want them to follow their passions. If it’s running, great, but if it’s something else, that’s fine. It’s all about self fulfillment.”
His two oldest daughters, ages 4 and 2 (his youngest is 5 months) are already expressing some interest in running. They’ll position themselves as if on a starting line for a track race, then yell out “On your mark, get set — GO!” and sprint off. While he’d love them to follow his passion for running, he simply hopes they’ll stay active.
“Anything to get them off the couch,” he said. “Sports teaches you a lot about life — accountability, hard work — there are no short cuts. Same with education; you wouldn’t skip high school and go directly into college.”
In addition to fitness, health and education are his other passions, and to promote and support these causes he is launching the MEB Foundation, which he says stands for “maintaining excellent balance.”
I was also curious how he approached his races in terms of a goal. I assumed his “A” goal would be to win, but does he come up with secondary or even tertiary goals? Ever since my blowup at the North Olympic Discovery Marathon in 2008 — where my end all/be all goal was to BQ — I’ve learned to come up with other goals to keep me motivated should my A goal slip away. Do elites think the same way?
Turns out Meb does. “You don’t want to make your primary goal untouchable, but you should some up with A-Z goals. It’s all about self fulfillment.”
As I left the expo clutching my autographed Rock ‘n Roll bib, it dawned on me I blew it with Meb — Food! THAT’S what we ALL have in common! Here I am a personal chef and runner, why didn’t I ask him about food? What does he eat before a race? Does he allow himself any guilty indulgences afterward? Is he able to find food from his native country here in the U.S.?
Oh well, perhaps I’ll get a second chance to talk to him in Boston next year