I read today that Meb Keflezighi has been nominated for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year for 2014. If I had a vote, I would be stuffing the ballot box for Meb. I love Meb. I am not ashamed to say it. I say it loud and proud. I LOVE Meb!
The Sportsman of the Year award is given to the “athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement.” Meb has demonstrated these qualities not only this year but throughout his running career. That is just who Meb is.
Meb’s achievements in the marathon are undeniable. In fact in the highly competitive world of marathon running, Meb is the only marathoner in history to win the Boston Marathon, the New York Marathon, and an Olympic medal. In 2004 he won a silver medal in the Summer Olympics – the first US medal in the men’s marathon since Frank Shorter won the gold in 1972. In 2009 Meb was the first American to win the New York Marathon in 27 years – two years after breaking his hip in the 2008 Olympic Trials (held in November 2007).
In 2012 he won the US Olympic Trials and was fourth in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. I remember watching the Olympics and cheering for Meb from my family room couch. Meb didn’t win a medal but I will never forget what he did after the race. He didn’t slink off to mope in a tent. Meb stood at the finish line cheering the runners who crossed after him. Yes, Meb demonstrates sportsmanship.
Meb’s 2014 Boston Marathon win will be etched in my memory forever. When he came to the start line, the announcer pointed out that Meb had written the names of each of the four victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt on his bib. He was running for them – and he was running for us.
His performance that day was breath taking, exciting, and unforgettable. Nobody had expected an older runner like Meb to present a challenge but he dominated the race. I cried as he ran the last few miles and wept with joy when he won. Meb had planned to retire in 2012 but he still felt he could run. I think the world of marathon running is blessed that he did. Meb has brought excitement to the sport like no one else could.
We all had high hopes for Meb in last weekend’s New York City Marathon. The weather had other plans. The high winds made the race difficult for everyone. He kept with the leaders until Mile 20 when he dropped back to 8th place. But Meb was not done for the day. He reached down into what was left of his reserves and went to work. In the last two miles Meb passed the Olympic champion and the defending New York City Marathon champion to finish fourth place. One can never write off Meb.
I was fortunate in 2012 to meet Meb in person at the Pittsburgh Marathon Expo. I saw a short line of people waiting to talk to him and get his autograph. I decided that it was worth the wait. When I got up to the table, Meb shook my hand, signed my bib – “Best wishes & run to win – Meb” – and we posed for the obligatory picture. Afterward he turned to me and asked how I was feeling about the race. I explained to him that I was nursing a pain in my left foot. He listened to me then advised me on what to do for it. An elite athlete giving me advice – I was over the moon.
I have met other elite athletes in my travels to races all over the US. I won’t call anyone out but suffice it to say that most were fulfilling some obligation to a sponsor to do a meet and greet. None of them showed any real interest in talking to me. Meb made me feel like we were old friends.
So yes, if I get a vote, I vote for Meb because I love Meb.
P.S. If you are interested in hearing what Meb listens to during his workouts, here is a link to Meb’s playlist.
I also found this interesting video that analyzes the science behind Meb’s running ability. Meb’s physical capabilities are incredible. Definitely worth watching.