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April 24, 2014

How Walkers and First-Time Goal Setters Can Learn From Meb’s Boston Victory

Written by Dena Evans

Meb_Boston_croppedIf Meb Keflezighi’s victory at Boston taught us one thing, it is that we shouldn’t limit our belief in ourselves. After winning the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics, Meb was injured in the lead up to the 2008 Olympic trials and was unable to even make the team.  Responding from that enormous disappointment, he bounced back in spectacular fashion, becoming the first American to win the New York Marathon in 2009.  Despite this superlative triumph, challenges again loomed as he parted with his primary sponsor, Nike, in 2010.  Sponsor-less and with a young family, Meb began to build a stable of small partners, some of which were very new to the elite running market.  Skechers, for one, known previously for building shoes that they professed would tone the backside, banked on Meb to help their brand translate to the running masses, and became his footwear and uniform sponsor.  Meb responded by winning the 2012 marathon trials and finishing just out of the London medals in fourth.   Again riding high but facing training challenges leading in, Meb entered New York in 2013 as the favorite son, only to have the type of difficult day that would cause most in his position to drop out rather than post a result much lower than expectations.  Instead, he persisted at a much slower pace for the last several miles, even befriending and finishing hand in hand with a local athlete, inspired by the tragedy of Boston. And then, of course, there was Monday.

 

Entering a half or full marathon can be intimidating when the pictures we see and the stories we follow are often at the front of the pack.  However, one of the most positive changes over the past generation has been the way so many millions of people have been able to personalize the challenge of the race to their own level.

 

At runcoach we train many walkers and first time runners with a simple goal, to finish the race.  For many, that accomplishment is the culmination of a lifetime of doubt and the gateway to a new era of self-confidence and belief.  Although it may seem like Meb’s performances are as far away as the sea is wide, there are several ways in which his race and career translate directly to our hopes for these athletes.

 

He is not the fastest, but he gets the most out of himself every time.

One of the many ways in which Meb’s story hits a nerve with many of us is that his times aren’t the fastest of his cohort.  Despite his Olympic medal, his New York and Boston victories, his personal best, set Monday, is a full five minutes behind the world record and several minutes slower than many of the competitors he faced on each of those days.  In fact, his time on Monday is equivalent to only the 77th best time run in 2013.  If he is concerned with this, it hasn’t shown.  Meb trains and races to the best of his ability each time out.  As his career has shown, that approach is often more than good enough.

 

He is persistent despite setbacks.

Meb has had bad days (2008 Olympic Trials, 2013 New York Marathon), but he has memorably chosen to finish rather than give up.  He has had times when he could have fallen back on his UCLA degree and quit, rather than persist in a running career when he didn’t have a primary sponsor and many felt he was over the hill.  Somehow, he found the belief to persist and his persistence has paid off.

 

He has modified his training to do what is right for him, not the masses.

In recent years, Meb has cross trained by using the ElliptiGO (elliptical bike), moved from altitude Mammoth Lakes to San Diego, and made other adjustments that have allowed him to stretch his world class athletic career to this pinnacle at age 38,.  These are not the changes that would have been dictated by conventional wisdom on world class distance running.  Many of our athletes are tempted to chase arbitrary standards about how much a person should run per week, what pace is “really running,” and more.  Our plans are personalized to you for a reason – we want you to be healthy and successful on race day.  We don’t believe in templates, because we know each athlete has different strengths and challenges in their schedule, injury history, and athletic experience (or maybe they have none at all).  Our plans intend to help you progress toward your goals, and then help set new ones.  These are personal to you, just like Meb has been able to find a successful formula specific to him.

 

His goals are to get to the starting line healthy, THEN run his best time.  In that order.  Sound familiar?

Reflecting on the events of the last week, it is amazing to take a look at his blog from last year at this time.  One little known aspect of this story is that Meb was actually forced to withdraw from last year’s race due to a freak injury sustained when encountering a dog on a run.  We can all relate to that type of inadvertent event in our own lives, and like us, he knows it is not always subject to his control whether or not he is successful in that first goal.  His second goal is to set a personal best.  Setting a personal best means doing something you have not done in the past.  For many of us, that is no different than making it farther than we have before.  “Personal best” does not necessarily mean running fast – it means doing your best. It also requires the confidence to do it at the right time, not pushing so hard every day leading up to the big one that you have nothing left to give. Your plan is crafted to set you up the same way.

 

Of course, one significant difference from most of us is that Meb’s third goal was to WIN the race, a goal made probably so much more resonant in its accomplishment when he had to miss last year, not to mention for all the other reasons mentioned above.  Completing a race for a world class athlete can have reverberations felt far beyond themselves, and they know it.  Their families benefit, their communities may benefit, others like ourselves may be inspired to do something audacious.  Like these athletes, even as walkers and first-timers, our efforts make a difference.  While we may not have a platform affecting millions, our efforts to persist, do our best, and accomplish new challenges can reverberate to those we care about, and to those they care about.  Meb’s win at Boston sprung from a series of challenging times and goals set and stuck to.   His victory, while amazing, is also just a simple testament to the power of belief and commitment to continue getting out the door each day.  Like all of us, there have been days where that was more difficult than others, days when those around him thought he didn’t have the ability to be successful in his task, days when he may have even doubted it himself.  We may not be able to run as fast as Meb, but we should never discount the power of that belief in ourselves, and regardless of the finishing time, the elation of passing under the finishing banner.