Following his retirement from competitive running, after finishing marathon number 26 at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon, running legend and NYRR Team for Kids Ambassador Meb Keflezighi refuses to stop. Rather than go for a specific time or place, Meb is traveling the world, crossing off races on his bucket list. His next stop is the country’s largest half-marathon, the 2019 Popular® Brooklyn Half.
On Saturday, May 18, Meb will be running the race for the first time alongside NYRR President and CEO Michael Capiraso, pacing him to his goal time. Before they take off on the 13.1-mile race together, Michael had the chance to ask Meb about everything from his plans for the race, his entry through the Virtual 6 program, and what it means to run with NYRR Team for Kids.
On Saturday, May 18, you’ll be one of hundreds runners who gained entry to the 2019 Popular® Brooklyn Half via the Virtual 6 entry method. What made you decide to complete the series?
The running community is a second family to me. Since retiring from competitive racing, I try to run with as many people as I can at as many events as I can make it to. The NYRR Virtual Racing series is an easy way for me to interact with runners from around the world from wherever I am. I decided to run the Virtual 6 program to further build the sense of community at the race, which is why I will be doing a shakeout run with some of the other Virtual 6 finishers on Friday, May 17.
When we first talked about running together, I asked you, “How slow could you run a half-marathon?’ and your response was, “Well, how fast can you run a half-marathon?” Finally, we agreed to meet in the middle at goal time of 1:45. So how are you going to help get me to Coney Island on time?
When I’m pacing someone to a specific goal time, I find it important to start conservatively. When thoughts of a specific goal time enter your head, it can be hard to remember to pace yourself correctly. Starting out at a familiar pace can help set the tone for the rest of your run. Over the course of the run, we will run at a consistent effort, rather than a consistent pace, which will allow for a variation in pace as we approach those Brooklyn hills at miles 1 and 5.
Since retirement, you’ve been pacing a lot of other runners to reach new goals. For example, you paced chef Daniel Humm at last year’s TCS New York City Marathon. What tips do you have for other runners who may be pacing their friends to specific goal times?
It’s interesting being on the other end of the coaching. For me, it's important that the person I'm pacing has a realistic goal and realizes that part of my job is to encourage them through the rough patches and remind them why they're aiming for that specific goal. One tip is to try and get them to take their mind off everything else, relax into a rhythm, and focus on their effort. Most importantly, pacers are not miracle workers. If someone has not trained to reach a goal time, running with a pacer is not going to give them magical powers and get them a 1:30 if they haven’t trained for one.
You’re no stranger to the 13.1-mile distance, with a PR of 1:01:00, but this will be your first time running the Popular® Brooklyn Half. How do you prepare for a course that’s totally new to you?
I’m excited to experience a course I’ve heard so much about. No matter how many times you run a particular distance, it’s important to really understand the course, whether you’re running to win or running for fun. While course maps are helpful, I always tend to rely on advice from those who have run before, so I’m planning to get some tips from my friend Deena Kastor, who ran the race last year.
Not only will we be running the Popular® Brooklyn Half together, we’ll also be doing it in matching shirts, as we’ll both be representing NYRR Team for Kids in support of New York Road Runners’ free youth running programs. What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to run for a cause?
As I mentioned, the running community is like a family to me. I love that I’m able to give back to a community that has supported me so much throughout my career. Just like I encourage my own daughters to join the sport, I’m proud to have the opportunity to inspire all kids to join the running community through my role as a Team for Kids Ambassador and Special Advisor. It’s amazing to see kids enjoying the sport as opposed to seeing it as a punishment. I will definitely be sticking around after we run to watch the kids finish the Rising New York Road Runners race on the boardwalk.