26 Marathons by Meb Keflezighi

Subtitle: Life is a Marathon, Mini-blog #1

Posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2022

By Olivia Baker

Like the marathon, life can sometimes be difficult, challenging, and present obstacles, however, if you believe in your dreams and never give up, things will turn out for the best. -Meb Keflezighi

It's no wonder that marathons are often used as metaphors for life. Like life, there are ups and downs, challenges and triumphs, both of which can take our breath away. At times we can feel like things are going smoothly and we are in a good routine at a good pace. Other times we feel like we have hit a wall and it takes a great deal of tenacity and relentless hope just to take the next step and keep going. In our work, relationships, friendships, etc., we find ourselves running alongside people who push our pace, inspire us, and encourage us as we do the same.

I chose 26 Marathons by Meb Keflezighi for the 5th installment of Runners Who Read because I love this metaphor for life and as someone who has never run a marathon (but aspires to do so one day), I think there's a lot we can all learn from someone who has run so many of them at the highest level. Throughout this book, we will examine each of the 26 marathons that Keflezighi ran in his professional career and discuss the lessons about running and about life from each one. Whether you are training for the Boston marathon later this month or just getting back into training now that the weather is getting warmer, I hope that this book inspires us all to get after those goals!

Discussion Questions:

1. In what ways has running, walking, or jogging mirrored life for you?

2. Do you have any upcoming races on your schedule? Which ones? How is the preparation going?


Subtitle: Patience, Mini Blog #2

Marathons (Chapters) 1-9

Posted on Thursday, April 14th, 2022

By Olivia Baker

The marathon is a metaphor for life in how it rewards patience. - Meb Keflezighi (pg# 90)

How many times in life have we jumped the gun, jumped to conclusions, or were just generally impatient and had it come back to bite us? I can speak from experience in saying that jumping the gun will get you disqualified in a track race and any ground you think you've gained going out too fast in a distance race will be paid back with interest over the latter miles. Throughout the early marathons of Keflezighi's career, there is no lesson he reflects upon more than developing patience in racing and training and how such a skill is transferable to life.

At his second marathon, the Chicago marathon in 2003, Keflezighi focuses on patiently hitting his splits rather than getting caught up in the ebbs and surges in the race and is rewarded with a 7th place finish and huge personal best. When dealing with injury in the ensuing years, he discusses the pitfall of coming back too fast too soon and emphasizes the necessity of building up slowly to reduce reinjury risk. In training, he walks us through the daily grind mentally and physically of putting together months of solid, consistent workouts without going over the edge (those of you who read Grit with us will recognize this as the embodiment of a gritty approach to attaining one's goals). In his 7th marathon, Boston 2006, he laments shunning the advice to remain patient and pays the price for pushing the pace when he hits the famous Newton Hills around mile 18 and hits the Wall, ultimately finishing 3rd in a race he might have won had it not been for the mistake. Nonetheless, learning from the marathon to have the patience to take the long view, put in the daily work, and save something for the inevitable challenges in life are lessons that he has credited with making him a better person. So DON'T be like Meb and go too fast too soon at the Boston Marathon this Monday, but DO be like Meb and carry with you the wisdom that come from having patience in running and in life.

Discussion Questions:

1. When have you seen patience pay off in your life? What are you patiently waiting/working for right now?

2. What other lessons from Meb's first nine marathons stood out to you?

Subtitle: The Pebble in Your Shoe, Mini-blog #3

Marathons 10-18

Posted on Thursday, April 21st, 2022

By Olivia Baker

"The runner's version of "Dance with the one who brought you" is "Stick to the routine that has brought you success." - Meb Keflezighi

In training and in racing, one of the keys to success for Meb Keflezighi through the middle years of his career was a strong routine. Through these nine major marathons, which span the course of six years, only once did he place outside of the top 10 (New York, 2013). That type of consistency over so many years is rarely achieved in this sport. Nonetheless, Keflezighi does it and it is in large part due to the development of a solid routine.

The early lesson of using cruise control rather than swinging for the fences every time that he learned in his second marathon manifested itself in his daily habits and reaped dividends all the way to the end of his career. In practice, this meant sticking to the staples that worked for him in his entire career (long runs, tempo runs, and interval workouts) and stacking solid training days rather than aiming for perfection in every workout of his marathon builds to avoid overtraining—better to be 90% ready than overtrained, he notes as a key lesson from Boston in 2010. This also meant prioritizing sleep and regularly drilling to reinforce good running posture. On race days, homing in on a go-to routine saves him mental energy that can be used on other details, a critical skill in which even the slightest imbalance can be the difference between running a personal best and not finishing a race at all. By removing the proverbial pebbles in his shoe in his daily life and racing routines, he prepared himself not only to finish, but contend for the win in nearly every race he started for the entirety of a 15-year marathoning career.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are some potential pebbles we can be on the lookout for in our exercise routines?

2. What are some things that are always a part of your race day routine? What parts are always included in your regular running, walking, or jogging routine?

Subtitle: Running to Win

Marathons 19-26, Appendix

Posted on Thursday, April 28th, 2022

By Olivia Baker

"Run to win" isn't about finishing first, but about getting the best out of yourself. - Meb Keflezighi

A subtle, but powerful detail of this story is that Meb almost never feels perfect when stepping up to the line to race a marathon. Sometimes a training block goes really well, and everything clicks on the day of the race as Meb describes in his Boston marathon win in 2014. However, the reality for most of us, elite athletes included, is that winning a race is the exception not the rule and on those days when we realize that first place or our dream goal is no longer within reach, we can still win by getting the best out of ourselves.

This can take many different forms, but in general Meb is able to get the best out of himself by always having goals to reach towards beyond his primary goal to win the race. At the 2015 New York marathon, when the pace quickly picks up with 10k to go and Meb falls off of the lead pack, he shifts his goal to holding his position (7th place) and breaking the U.S. master's marathon record. In the 2016 Olympic marathon, after contracting a case of heat hives caused him to fall off the pace of the leaders, he stayed motivated by aiming to be top 10 and when that was out of reach, he willed himself just to finish with his head held high. After being dropped shortly after mile 20 of his final marathon, New York in 2017, he shifted his goal to finishing strong and enjoying the last few miles. More than just giving our best effort, we can be sure that we've positioned ourselves to produce our best performances on a given day by being prepared to refocus when things don't go our way in sport and in life.

Discussion Questions:

1. What does "run to win" look like for you as you prepare for your next challenge in running or in life?

2. What have been some of your favorite lessons from 26 Marathons?

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