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What Keeps Meb Keflezighi Running

The Olympian and Boston Marathon winner talks about what got him into the sport and why he continues to lace up



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Photo by Alex Aristei

Vitals

Age: 43

Neighborhood: Mission Hills

Races: 100+

Miles Logged: 120,000

Favorite Trail: Mission Bay Park and Balboa Park

Running Anthem: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem

Meb Keflezighi’s introduction to timed running looked a lot like any other average joe’s: Running the mile in seventh grade.

“If we ran 6:15 or faster, we’d get an A,” says Keflezighi. “I ran 5:20 and my teacher said, ‘We have a future Olympian here.’”

Fast forward to 1998 and he would make his starting-line debut at the USA Track and Field Championships, the same year he became a naturalized US citizen.

Born in Eritrea, East Africa, Keflezighi and his family moved to San Diego in 1987 to flee the 30-year war for liberation from Ethiopia. During high school and college at UCLA, Keflezighi earned several All-American awards and four NCAA championships in track and field and cross-country.

Over his nearly 20-year professional career, Keflezighi has won the New York City Marathon, USA full and Half Marathon, Olympic Marathon Trials, and received the silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Marathon in Athens, Greece, among other races. Most memorable was the 2014 Boston Marathon.

“I’ll never forget how the crowds chanted, ‘USA! USA! USA!’ while I was on my way to winning. It was deafening. The race took place one year after the 2013 bombings. I’ll forever be humbled by what happened that day.”

Much of what has helped Keflezighi succeed has been his belief in visualization. “Imagining how I hope to perform on race day, even when conditions are difficult, helps me get the most out of myself,” he says.

Now the retired runner has put his skills to paper, writing three books, including 26 Marathons: What I’ve Learned about Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from Each Marathon I’ve Run and Meb for Mortals: How to Run, Think, and Eat like a Champion Marathoner.

“There’s nothing else like the running community, where people come together and help each other pursue their goals.”

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