Today San Diego welcomed home Meb Keflezighi, the first American to win the New York City in 27 years. Meb’s family emigrated from Etirea when he was young and he went to elementary, junior high and high school here in San Diego. His family, classmates, coaches and teachers and track friends attended the special event at the San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park. A former sports broadcaster, who ran NYC in 1977, gave Meb an original LeRoy Neiman poster from that year. (As he accepted the gift, Meb mentioned that despite running NYC five times, he'd never gotten a poster.)
Most people, particularly those who read running blogs, are familiar with his story, which includes winning the silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Then a few years later he fractured his right hip (from, he says, being “too lean for too long”) and many wrote him off because of his injury and his age. “A year and a half ago, I couldn’t even walk,” he recalled.
He said during that time he came to realize who his true friends were, and how much he appreciated them. “Close friends are those who care for you as a human being,” he said.
He repeatedly credited praying hard and working hard for his amazing comeback. And, to no one's surprise, he showed no bravado despite being one of the greatest marathoners in the world.
During the question-and-answer portion, someone from our track club asked if he kissed the ground or did a pushup after crossing the finish line in Central Park. “Both,” he joked. “I planned to kiss the ground and then I saw the dirt and though, maybe not.”
Later he told the crowd of about 150 people that he wanted people to remember him for his perserverance in the face of so much adversity.
“I just want to be the hope for people who are struggling,” he said.
He also gave props several time to San Diegans. "It's really a small community where everyone knows your name, and when you go into Vons and people ask: Where's your next race?"
Yeah, like that happens to me all the time :-).