|Meeting Running Great Meb Keflezighi today, photo credit, Jeno Berta|
Tomorrow morning in Davenport, Iowa, I will join about 20,000 of my closest friends as I run (more like lumber) through the seven mile course that is the world-famous "Bix 7" road race. The "Bix," as us locals call it, is celebrating its 40th running. The name comes from a local jazz musician, Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke. Bix died young, a causality of the Jazz Age. Yet his music survived and a jazz festival was held in his honor in July in downtown Davenport.
Against that backdrop the first race was held in 1974. From a humble beginning of 84 runners, it has morphed into one of the premiere road races in the Midwest.
I run. I run s-l-o-w and have no intentions of doing any different tomorrow. For some people, seven miles is no big deal. For me, it's likely the most I'll run at one time for a long time. Also, there are hills. Yet another valid reason to take it easy and enjoy the sights.
One of those sights, the highlight actually for me, is seeing the elite runners heading back to the finish line. The Bix route is an "out and back" course, meaning you turn around at 3.5 miles and head back the way you started. Part of the route, Kirkwood BLVD, features a divided road separated by a grassy center. It gives the (ahem) slower runners a perfect view of the front runners. For a few moments, you're on the same part of the route with some of the best runners in the world...even if you're going different ways.
One of those runners will be Meb Keflezighi. Meb won the Boston Marathon this year and has won a bunch of other races, including Bix twice. He's back in town this year and, unsurprisingly, is being treated like royalty. I just happened to have the good fortune to get to meet him today and could not resist getting the attached photo with him.
I said he's being treated like royalty but he's not acting anything like a royal. He was gracious, approachable, and smiled the way sincere people do. I'll admit it without shame, I was thrilled to meet such a great athlete and person.
I do not know a great deal about elite runners. I would guess that if you win something as big as the Boston or New York marathon (Meb's won both) you can pretty much pick your schedule. While our race is something we are truly proud of, it's not like a pro golf tournament. Meb's likely not sending his kids to college off of whatever he'll make being here this weekend. True, Bix is this year's USA 7 Mile Championship. Still, Meb could have easily taken a pass on this year's Bix if he wanted to. If he wanted to...
But he didn't. He wants to be here. He wants to be here to compete, of course. Yet there is also another reason why he's here. He values running and I like to think he respects the way this town respects running. I mentioned above there will be about 20,000 running this race. There will be another 5,000 volunteers doing all the other things that make the race the event that it is. From the people handing out water to the motor cyclists who block the side streets and everything else that goes into such an event, the community comes out to watch and work at Bix.
I picked up Meb's book, Run to Overcome and was honored to have him autograph it. In the few hours I have been flipping through it, I am impressed with how Meb overcame an impoverished youth, made the most of his shot at the American dream and stood toe to toe with adversity to have adversity back down. In the book's forward, Joan Benoit Samuelson shares these thoughts about Meb:
"Meb is a man who has a strong sense of self and high moral standards. he knows how one person or family can make a difference in the lives of many."
Without question, Meb Keflezighi is someone to admire. He's someone to emulate. Yet at the end of the day, we cannot be the people we admire, we can only be ourselves. We can only run our race. I'll try to keep that in mind tomorrow when I'm slogging through the course on the back end. For the beginning of the race, though, it will be fun.
And I'll be keeping an eye out for my favorite runner. Good luck Meb. You'll be running to win and I'll be running to overcome a challenging course. Meb offers this tip in his book: "Once you've committed yourself to something, pace yourself to the finish line."
I think that is great advice for tomorrow and all the tasks we face in life.
Be well my friends,
To learn more about Meb Keflezighi and his foundation, visit www.marathonmeb.com
Meb's book is available from Amazon, here's the link:
This post was originally published on my Linkedin profile page under posts. I thought this message was worth sharing on my blog.