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Naval Serviceman Watches Meb's Moving Win From Baghdad

by: LetsRun.com reader Chad Faber, US Navy
Camp Liberty, Baghdad, Iraq
November 7, 2009

One of the highlights of LetsRun.com is hearing from our readers who come from all over the world and all walks of life. Often the most interesting and popular articles and insights on the website come to us thanks to you the readers. Below is an email we received from US Navy soldier Chad Faber stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. He attempted to watch the NYC Marathon over a super-slow connection from Iraq.

Hi Weldon and Robert,

I quickly read one article on letsrun today from an Army officer and just wanted to share with you what I experienced as I 'watched' NYCM live on Sunday from my CHU (containerized housing unit) sitting in Baghdad, Iraq where I am stationed until next April. I put the quotation marks around watched because the internet coverage here is spotty at best and non-existent at times.  To make matters worse, the US military does not provide internet to the over 115,000 troops stationed in Iraq, we must pay $65/month per person for the privilege of internet connection speeds that would make a 56K dial-up modem look like Usain Bolt in the 100m.  For lower enlisted soldiers and sailors, they will spend approximately $800 during their tours here just to stay in touch with family and friends which I believe is a travesty but back to the main issue.  

I consider myself a solid follower of professional running and had the privilege of being an assistant coach for John Gregorek w/the Brown Men's program a few years ago and Tim Connelly with the ND Women's program before being called up by the Navy Reserves to serve in Iraq.  I read some of the pre-race coverage and tuned in to see what I thought would be Ryan Hall's shot at a victory along with Meb Keflezighi's return to form.  I was not one of the 2-3% of readers who believed Meb would win or even beat Ryan Hall but his quote about PR'ing got my attention since that time would win NY in most years.

About an hour into the race, I clicked on the Universal Sports website to watch the race.  I wasn't able to get video because of the bandwidth issues but what I did get was a video screengrab that would update about every 3-6 seconds and was actually a good way to follow the race.  As the pack got whittled down and only two Americans were left, I found it hard to contain my excitement sitting alone in my CHU watching these slow to update screengrabs.  Then it was down to only Cheruiyot and Meb and I had goosebumps sitting there wondering what that feeling would be like to be running thru the streets of NYC neck and neck for the win.  And then the surge... all I could think about was how that was something Meb had probably waited for and trained for all his life, it reminded me of Lance looking back at Pantani and then attacking, laying everything he had on the line and coming out of the other side victorious.

I've never really been so excited 'watching' a race like that on the internet before.  It was truly inspiring and thinking back on it the next day helped me add a few more fast miles to my run. Had Meb been a Kenyan, Ethiopian, or German, the same feelings of pride that I experienced would not have been present.  Meb is an American, pure and simple.  Every one of our ancestors was an immigrant at some point in the past too.  I knew I'd see the occasional post on a thread about Meb not being a 'true' American but reading Darren Rovell's article really pissed me off.  Somehow if the winner had been a white immigrant with a more American sounding name like Nick Willis or Kevin Sullivan, no one would have a problem with it.  However, when it is a black immigrant with a name that is difficult to pronounce somehow that makes him less American.  If Meb isn't American that what is he? Me, I was lucky enough to be born in the U.S.  Meb, his family left a war torn country with nothing for the chance at giving their kids a shot at something better here in America.  If that isn't the American Dream then this country has lost its way.  Like I said before, the feelings and excitement that I felt watching Meb pull away would not have been the same had he been just another African runner trying to claim the NYCM title.  Being an American runner, the way he dropped Cheruiyot and accomplishing something he had waited his whole life for from HS in CA to UCLA to the pro ranks made it that much more special to see for me and I'm sure for many letsrun readers as well.

Keeping Life Simple here in the desert,
Chad D. Faber
U.S. Navy
Multi-National Division, Baghdad
Camp Liberty, Iraq



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