Meb Keflezighi arrived in New York Tuesday with little fanfare, save the emoji-laced internal chats of my New York Road Runners coworkers. “Meb is right next to my desk!” one read. “Meb just walked by, NBD,” said another.
The 2009 New York City Marathon champion and NYRR Team for Kids ambassador was in New York to promote NYRR's goal of raising $50 million for charity for the 50th anniversary of the marathon. We had a chance to sit down with Meb and ask a few questions.
What has the TCS New York City Marathon meant to you over the years?
Some are born in NYC and some are made here. The NYC Marathon made my career. It means the world to me. The marathon is so diverse, with people from all walks of life. It’s pretty awesome to have that connection with people from all over.
What does it mean to you to be tied to the New York City Marathon and, through it, to NYRR?
I can’t help but think of the NYRR motto, “Help and inspire people through running.” Running has changed my life. For me, for an immigrant who came here with no English, learning English at 10. This is a race I believe in and an organization I believe in. They have integrity. I have given my heart and soul to NYC and NYRR have done the same for me. They treat everyone with dignity.
I always wanted to be one of the best marathoners in world, and NYC provided that for me. To come and compete at the biggest marathon in the world, and to win it. It’s even sweeter because of the energy here.
What is your favorite part of the marathon course?
First Avenue is the experience of a lifetime. To be in contention to win or run a PR, you’ve gotta be with the leaders there, and most of the time I’ve been in the mix. It’s the thrill of a lifetime to hear people chanting “U-S-A!” or “Meb, Meb, we love you!”
How has the marathon evolved since 1970, when NYRR put on its first New York City Marathon?
To go from 127 starters to the biggest marathon in the world is incredible. Don’t put a limit on yourself. To this day, I tell people they should run one marathon in their lives. If they ask me which one, I always say, “Do NYC.”
If you could run the marathon in a different decade, which would you choose?
I think I was in the right era, but it would have been interesting to run in the in late 70s or early 80s, because there was a resurgence in running then.
How has NYRR changed the way people think of the marathon?
They made it fun! They set the example. Everyone wants to be like them.
You were born during the final year of the marathon’s original course in Central Park. Do you think you would have had as much success on that four-loop course?
I think so. I was a cross-country runner, I could handle that up and down, the hills. But I like the five boroughs, it gives a little more challenge.