In 2008 I had qualified for the Olympic Trials 10k for the first time. The emotions of qualifying at a young age and the unbelievable pulse of Eugene that night was almost too much to take in. I had no ambition of making the team as Abdi, Galen, and Jorge were the obvious favorites and I was still only a 28:22 10k'er. The race had me battling Jorge's brother, Ed, for almost the entire way. It wasn't until about 300m to go that we caught then American 10k record holder, Meb Keflezighi. It was surreal for me to be passing someone who was already an icon in the sport and someone who was probably the current face of Runner's World magazine at my local running shop. But it wasn't until we finished that I came to realize how humble and respectful Meb was as a competitor. In what became my 'Mean Joe Green" moment, Meb slapped me on the back as I stood, out of breath, and said great job kid. This may not seem like a lot to most of you, but it had a profound effect on the rest of my running life. Here I was a young 28 min 10k kid that I'm sure Meb had never heard of in his life, and who he had just lost to and he still felt the need to congratulate me on beating him. This may have shocked me a bit more then you'd think, but in my early career I was shunned more from my running idols when I beat them as some upstart kid in a WV singlet that no one had heard of.
Meb's career is an interesting one. We will always remember his Olympic Medals, USA championships, USA records, when we all cried watching him win Boston, don't lie, you did. But what is interesting in a sport and world where we usually villainize the ones at the top, i.e. Galen Rupp , for not only maybe living too much in the grey area of training, but the fact that they are usually very inaccessible to the rest of us and appear cold and nonchalant about their successes; we had Meb. Meb made you care because he never hid from the rest of us how much he cared. He was honest, compassionate, and emotional every step of the way. You knew Meb was going to give everything he had to a sport he loves, but also....for some reason....he wanted you to succeed just as much. Meb has been our shining light for so very damn long in this, tiny, distance running world we live in, and it's going to be hard to say goodbye. So instead of saying that I will reciprocate the words Meb said to me 9 years ago.... Good Job Kid.