Today I watched history in the making, MEB Keflezighi, at 38 years old, claiming the ribbon to win the Boston Marathon, the first American to do it in almost 30 years. That he is an immigrant, makes it sweeter for me. The Eritrea-born runner moved to the US as a lad, and somewhere along the way, he decided he would achieve the greatness that the American dream promised. In 2009, the first year I really watched the NYC marathon, MEB won. And ever since then, I could see the fire in his eyes as he challenged other races but always fell short of another win. At last years marathon in NYC, I was standing at the sidelines, cheering for him close to the 22 mile mark. At the time I snapped the picture below, I saw how far he lagged behind the leader, I knew that wasn’t his race.
But today, in Boston, at the race that all marathoners aspire to, the race where even the slowest qualifier is a fast runner, Meb won! Today in Boston, where the race that was marred with sickening violence last year, the race where spectators were hurt and spectators were killed, the race where so many hopes and dreams died last year and were reborn in a different way, dreams of overcoming and seeing the city of Boston reemerge stronger, at a race where every runner was a hero for running past the fear, MEB won.
I don’t know why I feel such an affinity for this runner. I don’t know MEB personally although I feel like I do. I have a photo of him falling behind at the NYC 2013 marathon and I remember wondering if it’s over for him. At that time, he hadn’t won a marathon in 4 years and he was getting older and his competition was getting faster. But he seemed oblivious to the cards being stacked against him and he just kept on training and running fast. I watched his training online and I wondered if he wasn’t deluding himself.
But all the doubts and naysaying aside, today, MEB won.
I’ve been there. I’ve doubted myself. I’ve had people doubt me. And I’ve seen myself come back in ways I never thought I could. And I think that’s what I love about Meb’s performance today. His strategy was just so beautiful to watch. He started out with a group of 12 men, 12 elites athletes, some of the fastest men in the world and he knew what he had to do to win. He had to break away from the group, run slightly faster than they expected to establish a distance and then keep running at or just a little faster than their speed to maintain the distance. In the last 2 miles of the race, it seemed like one of his challengers had recovered the handicap and was gaining on him. Meb’s lead diminished from over a 1 minute to 25 second to 7 seconds, to 6 seconds, and then he did what only an experienced runner could know how to do and when to do it – he just started to accelerate. In the last mile of the race, his feet barely touched the ground – his turnover rate was so great that before his foot registered contact with the road, it was up again. He was flying! As he gave it everything he had, the gap between him and his challenger just widened again.
It was fantastic to watch and it’s something I want to watch over and over again, if I ever doubt myself that I can do something. It’s not over until you give up! Sure others may give up on you, but if you never give up on yourself, you leave the door open for a comeback.
Today Meb’s victory is for all of us who have had our dreams dashed one or two or three times and like him, we might have to change our strategy. Today a positively middle-aged man raced and won and put the ageists and naysayers to shame.
Today MEB won the prize money and the title but if you have overcome MEB-like challenges, and have faced MEB-like discrimination, and have had MEB-like doubts, if you’re like me and you’ve ever felt like a Meb, then CELEBRATE because that victory is for us too. Just remember, MEB won the race because he never stopped believing in himself and most importantly, he never stopped running.
Go MEB! #runwright