Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi, who in April famously became the first American male to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years, has yet to decide if his training will let him race the 2014 Shelter Island 10K competitively, or if he’ll simply enjoy the scenery, albeit at a fast gait.
As Meb gears up for the race amidst a cross-country media tour celebrating his historic achievement in Boston, he notes that Shelter Island has long been on his radar. Many in the New York Athletic Club, which sponsors Meb, run Shelter Island. “I decided to do it this year, because after a marathon is a good time, and I’m excited to have the opportunity,” Meb says.
The elite marathoner first made a national name for himself in 2001 when he set the American record in the 10,000m with a time of 27:13.98. Though Boston now sits at the top of Meb’s list of career achievements, his résumé includes other great feats—a silver medal in the 2004 Olympic Marathon and a win at the 2009 New York City Marathon.
“I pay attention to details,” Meb, who turned 39 on May 5, says about the longevity and success his career. “I am very cynical about how I run,” he continues, citing that at every moment—whether in travel, leisure or training—he is thinking about how to maximize his time and efforts for training.
On pre-race superstitions, “I wish I could say I wear the same socks [for every race], but I have to grow out of them.”
Meb will be on Shelter Island for events associated with the June 21 race. He will speak at the High School on June 20 and do a book signing of his appropriately titled autobiography, Run to Overcome, on race day. “I love interacting with people. Hopefully I can share my wisdom with them,” Meb says. Running enthuiasts note that his humble attitude has made him a fan favorite throughout his esteemed career.
While training and racing, Meb thought about what he did in 2001 and what he could do to replicate that effort to be successful in Boston.
In the end, it came down to leaving nothing behind, as the 2013 bombings motivated him while training. “Run as hard as I can,” says Meb. “I want to be Boston Strong, Meb Strong.”
Meb watched the 2013 race at the finish line, leaving just before the explosions. As he toed the line in 2014, he knew that all eyes were on Boston. And an American win was a shared, sacred hope. “I feel so blessed that I was the one that came across,” say Meb.
“[The country] needed an [American] win as a part of the healing process, for closure,” he says. He reflected on the Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series win, realizing how the championship brought a city together in celebration months after it came together through tragedy. Like the Red Sox win, Meb’s win was powerful.
Growing up, running wasn’t always Meb’s goal, as he thought he’d play soccer—“My nickname was Pelé,” Meb reveals. As a high school runner in San Diego, Meb learned to always set his sights on the next attainable goal. “Every stage of my career, I’ve been blessed,” he says. His detail-oriented nature and calculating training have enabled him to make moves professionally, despite perceived setbacks. Among them, he suffered a pelvic stress fracture at the 2008 Olympic Marathon trials and didn’t make the team. “[Afterward,] I was crawling around like a baby,” says Meb. And, three years later, Meb and longtime sponsor Nike parted ways.
But, he overcame. After recovering from his injury, Meb became the first American since 1982 to win the New York City Marathon. And he found a partner in Sketchers after going without a show sponsor for eight months.
Meb exudes warmth and competitiveness, a rare combination in athletics. He’s excited to meet fans this June—and hopes that his wife and three kids will be able to join him—but he also, naturally, hopes to race the 10K. “If training goes well, it would be nice to compete.”
Visit shelterislandrun.com to register to run.