Sunday, April 10, 2016

Four Days with Meb

A couple of weeks before the 2016 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run the exciting news was released. Meb Keflezighi was coming to DC for the race! I was thrilled at the idea of seeing - possibly even meeting - this inspirational man.

I still get chills when I remember April 21, 2014. The 118th Boston Marathon. The year after the bombings. I timed my lunch break so I could run on the treadmill while watching the finish. Watching Meb win the race was phenomenal. Seeing the names of the bombing victims in the corner of his bib; recognizing he was the first American man to win Boston since 1983 - it was cathartic, emotional, euphoric.

And this man was coming to DC. #MEBinDC

I was lucky enough to see Meb four times in four days. I heard him speak. I got to meet him for the briefest of moments. And it was awesome.

Thursday: Potomac River Running

On Thursday night Meb made an appearance at Potomac River Running in Arlington. He was scheduled to be there from 6-8: a talk with Q&A for the first hour, selfies and autographs the second hour. We figured it would be packed and headed out extra early...we got there at 4:30!

Jen, Kristen, me, & Susan - ready for an evening with Meb

The good thing about getting there first is that we got to sit in the front row for his talk. Which was amazing!

Another earlybird bonus - I finally got to meet Jennifer of Run Jenny Run in person!
photo courtesy of Jennifer

A captivated audience. (and this is only half the people!)
photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

He spoke about everything from his childhood in war-torn Eritrea, coming to the US and speaking no English, discovering running, and medaling in the Olympics, winning New York, winning Boston. He also talked about the less triumphant moments, the hard times. How to pick yourself up mentally when you fall down. And so much more!

Photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

I wish I had recorded what he said so I could listen to it again. I did write down the #Mebisms that struck me the most:

  • Advice for the "older" runner: Run one less mile for your long run, and use that time to stretch. You will get more out of that stretching time than you will out of the extra mile.
  • Family time: Meb & his family enjoy "Fruit Time" & "Dance Time" - eating fruit, playing music, and dancing with the kids.
  • On mental toughness: Training is 90% physical, 10% mental. It is the opposite during a race.
  • When you are down and beating yourself up: Stop and remind yourself how many people would love to be in your shoes.

That last one especially resonated with me, and it applies far beyond running. I beat myself up often. I complain about things and wish they were different. And if I could stop and reframe, I would be happier and waste far less mental energy. Since Meb's talk, I have stopped and reminded myself of how lucky I am, how many people would be so grateful for what I have. Thank you, Meb.

Meb's Skechers
photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

The meet and greet after the talk was supposed to last an hour. But there were so many people that only half had met Meb by 8. And it was set up in a "last in, first out" manner, so those of us in the front row were at the back of the line. I was really bummed when we realized that we might not get to meet him. But Meb is so gracious and so generous with his fans, that he stayed an extra hour so we could all have our moment with him. Classy.

Some of the Potomac River Running Reston Training Runners with Meb
photo courtesy of Potomac River Running

Meb signed my book - he is so tired at this point but still so nice!

Giddy with excitement!

Me & Real Meb with Me & Cardboard Meb

Friday: The Expo

On Friday I went to the expo to spend the afternoon tweeting about the expo activities as part of my race ambassador duties. (And I was especially excited because I ended up tweeting from the actual CUCB account instead of my account. I had the power!)

Meb spoke at the expo and did a meet & greet afterwards. I listened from the sidelines and watched a new group of excited fans have their own moments with Meb.

Meb's Friday afternoon expo clinic
photo courtesy of Jen

Saturday: Elite Athlete / VIP Dinner

One of the perks of being a race ambassador is getting to go to the elite athlete / VIP dinner the evening before the race. Most of the athletes there are in track suits and firmly in a "race ready" mindset. Meb, however, was styling! He had a grey sweater with fancy elbow patches and grey dress pants. He was a sharp dressed man! 

Talking with Hawi, Meb's brother
photo courtesy of Kevin

Susan & I begged Kevin to take a picture of us with Meb & Hawi behind us...
Thank you Kevin! We know you think we are crazy. We are a little crazy.
photo courtesy of Kevin

As much as I wanted to talk to him, I didn't want to bother him. I know he would have been welcoming and gracious, but I also knew he had been surrounded by people wanting to talk to him all weekend. I did talk to his brother Hawi for a couple of minutes while we were in the buffet line. I made sure to tell him how much we appreciated the extra time on Thursday night.

Joan Benoit Samuelson & Meb getting a little dessert.
Mostly fruit, in case you are wondering.

A selfie with Joan & Meb! (yes, we are crazy.)
photo courtesy of Susan

Sunday: The Race

Meb was using the race as a tempo run for his Rio training and planned to pace the 6-minute mile group. I was a spectator for the race, ultimately opting to be there as a coach for the people who had trained with me rather than a runner (a story for another day). I watched everyone start, and I watched everyone finish. It was fun being a spectator for this race that I love so much.

I took a lot of pictures from the starting wave but I didn't see Meb. Later I heard that he was finishing up an interview and started late. A re-examination of my pictures led to a Meb spotting on the sidelines just before the race:

See circle on the right - that is Meb between the men in the yellow vests

It was much easier to spot Meb at the finish line, where he brought in the 6-minute pace group with ease. He crossed the finish line holding celebratory hands in the air with two runners and it just brought a smile to my face. It was such a typical thing for Meb to do. He celebrates others. It isn't just about him. It's one of the many inspirational things about Meb.

Meb congratulating Katie (whom I met via facebook when I posted this picture!)

More congratulations from Meb

And that's the weekend. Four days of Meb. Just being in his presence was awesome. Thank you, Meb, for being so classy, so generous, so genuine, so inspirational. Thank you for being you. 


  1. Great recap! Meb is such an inspiration! :-)

  2. Love this post! Such a great rundown of all his activities that long weekend.

    1. "rundown"...I see what you did there :)

    2. Haha - I didn't even notice that! Although I appreciate you giving me more credit than I deserve. ;)

  3. So many awesome memories from last weekend! :D Go Meb! And go Kim for being able to see #MebinDC 4 days in a row!

    1. Definitely an awesome weekend. And you took some phenomenal photographs from the festivities :)

  4. What a wonderful race ambassador you are! Thanks for the great recap! Sorry you did not get to run, but I understand! Enjoyed all your pictures!