Extended Interview with Olympic Long Distance Runner and Family Man
Meet Meb Keflezighi: dedicated family man, Olympic long distance runner, outdoors enthusiast… and, lucky for us, a dedicated Maui Jim brand ambassador. Meb’s many accolades could fill volumes but some stand-outs include being a silver medalist in the marathon in the 2004 summer olympics, winning the 2009 New York City Marathon, and winning the 2014 Boston Marathon.
More than just a medal winner, Meb is devoted to community outreach, constant vigilance, and a passion for life that is both inspiring and humbling. We were lucky to be able to sit down and chat with him about his life and career recently, gaining a lot of wisdom along the way.
Did you always know you had an inherent talent for running?
I ran my first mile at Roosevelt Junior High in 1988. I was 13. At the time I I had no idea it was a talent. I was just trying to get a t-shirt from the Roosevelt Junior High Mile Club and an A in the class. I just ran as hard as I could through the tennis court, through the softball field, through the middle of the campus, around the baseball field, and back around. You had to get 6:15 to get the t-shirt and I ended up running 5:20, and my P.E. teacher just went, “Wow, you’re going to end up in the Olympics.”
Bear in mind that I didn’t speak english and had only just came to the states, had never watched television before. I grew up without running water, without electricity, and at the time I had no idea what the Olympics even were. I had to go home and have my dad explain it to me. That natural talent I had ended up fueling the passion I developed for running. That year I would run the mile over and over and my time would improve by a small amount every time. 5:17, 5:16, 5:15, 5:13. By the end of the year I was at 5:10 and other people were noticing. It helped with my self confidence and by the time I got to high school I started competing and it was fun. It was challenging. I felt passion and I enjoyed it. So I just kept running.
Looking back now throughout your long career, was there ever a specific race or event that is especially memorable for you?
The most meaningful moment was definitely winning the Boston Marathon in 2014. When you find out you can run 5:20 in the seventh grade, and you realize you’re good at something like that, you want to take it as far as you can, not just for yourself, but for everyone else with similar goals. When the bombing happened in 2013, I wanted to come back the next year and win it and have the victim’s names on my bib as inspiration, so when I did, it was indescribable. Nothing has compared to that feeling.
Do you think your career has had a singular defining moment or that it’s been the culmination of a bunch of small ones?
Once again, I think winning the Boston Marathon was that moment. When you have a hundred meters left you close your eyes and you have a vision of finally achieving a dream, so when you cross that line you know you’ve accomplished something positive. To do it the year after the bombing, you can just feel the resilience of the 36,000 other people joining you in not giving up. You get to be a part of bringing that happiness and celebration back and being a part of that was huge. It’ll never happen again and it never happened before so it was a very, very special moment.
Is it true that your final race will be the TCS New york City Marathon on November 5th? How do you feel about impending retirement?
That’s the plan. I’m looking forward to it, but at the same time I’ve been competing for twenty-seven years. Marathons are brutal. They beat you up really bad. After my first one I said, “never again,” but here we are twenty-four marathons later. The New York City Marathon will be my very last competitive race, and even with all the pain marathons put your body through, the memories really make it worth it. Since it’s my last one, I’m praying for perfect fifty degree weather so me and the 50,000 other people I’m running with can make it to that finish line without trouble.
What do you plan on doing with your newfound spare time?
I want to spend more time with my daughters and my wife, of course. Priority one is family bonding time. I’ve always done speaking engagements for graduations and other events on the side but I’d be willing to do more of those. Mostly, though, I want to stay involved in running and give back however I can to the people out there that are pursuing those goals and running those races through the Meb Foundation and other avenues.
Speaking of the Meb Foundation, could you tell us more about the humanitarian work you do?
Yeah! The Meb Foundation is an organization with the goal of helping people, especially youth, maintain the perfect balance of health, education, and fitness. We do motivational speaking, donate gear and shoes, and help with educational programs with young kids teaching them the importance of getting outdoors. With my retirement from competitive running I want to devote more time to the efforts of teaching people the big difference exercise can make even if it’s just taking a walk or jog every day. Getting out into the world in that way can really open your life up.
Now for our last, but not least, question: how did your relationship with Maui Jim come to be?
I’ve been very fortunate with Maui Jim. I met a representative from the company, Alicia, at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Las Vegas. They had a booth and I went to it and tried on a pair of their glasses and I immediately fell in love and essentially asked if we could work together… and the rest was history. I’ve been to the headquarters to see how they’re made, met workers, learned their stories, and it’s been really fun and engaging the whole way.
Do you wear them when you run?
Absolutely as long as it’s not foggy!
At Maui Jim, we like to talk about living with aloha, which is living your life fully and charging forward against every challenge that comes your way. Meb is a perfect example of someone living with aloha and we are proud to be able to call him one of our brand ambassadors now and into the future.