You probably know Meb Keflezighi as the guy that won the Boston marathon in 2014. But he’s also the only athlete to win the New York Marathon, the Boston Marathon and an Olympic Medal—pretty impressive stuff to say the least. Now, he’s hoping to secure another medal in the games at Rio this summer. But first, he’ll partake (going in as the #1 men’s qualifier, no less) in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, hosted by the Los Angeles Marathon, on February 13th. Before that, he spoke to us about training, his first long run ever, what he thinks about while he’s running 26.2, and more. Here are eight suprising things we learned from and about him.
Want more from Meb? Check out his book Meb for Mortals.
Take it One Mile at a Time
Believe it or not, there was a time when Meb thought 10 to 12 miles sounded like a heck of a long way. “Most people know me as a marathoner, but I was always miler and a 2-miler in high school and I was like, ‘10 miles, 12 miles—that’s a long, long way,’” says Meb. Here’s the story of his first long run ever: “Somebody was going to do a 10-mile loop in San Diego—we met on Sunday and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can make it,’ and we ended up doing 12 miles. It was just a training run but I’d never gone that far (before that, only 6- or 7-mile runs). I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be standing up after that.’ I felt ecstatic afterwards. Now I sometimes do 28-mile runs, but to look back at the first long run that I did it’s like ‘oh wow’. I didn’t think I could do it, but that’s the beauty of it: One mile at a time and eventually you do it.”
Think About EVERYTHING
Ever wonder what the heck people think about while slogging through 26.2 miles? It takes most humans well over 3.5 hours, but Meb’s 2:08 is still a lot of alone time to think. “A lot of things go through your head,” says Meb, “I’m constantly thinking about different things.” Here are just a few things Meb thinks about—in the order he told us.
*The other rivals you want to overcome
*The journey—how far you’ve come or what my parents have sacrificed.
*How long I’ve been doing the run.
*The career that I had starting in 7th grade PE class.
*If I had never run a mile, where would I be? What kind of career would I have had?
*How grateful that I am to have the body that I have because I know there are many other people who can’t do what I do. They don’t have hands, they don’t have legs and things like that. You have to maximize that potential with the body that I have.
*Sometimes you hurt and you’re thinking about the pain and are you going to tolerate it, or sometimes you think: Hey, I hurt not but if that means I hurt less in the race then it’s worth it.
*Sometimes I’m just enjoying the scenery and as I get tired I’m trying to work on mechanics, make sure my pelvis is underneath and trying to be efficient because, you know, at 25 miles into the race posture is going to be important.
Need more ideas? We asked over 1200 guys what they think about when they’re running. Check out they’re surprising answers here.
Do It For the Endorphin Rush
“To finish a marathon or your first long run or your first 5 or 10k—the endorphins that go in to that…” says Meb. “You are exhausted but the sense of accomplishment you feel—you walk with your head up high thinking ‘I can’t believe that I did that.’”
Break It Up
“As many people know I’m not a very treadmill guy,” says Meb. But sometimes the weather dictates what he, and all of us, does training-wise. ‘”The longest I’ve run is 12 miles on the treadmill. I broke it down to 6 miles and once I got 8 miles I took a restroom break, and then I got to 10,” he says. Just like with longer runs, thinking about your workout in segments—rather than one, long insurmountable beast—helps you to get through it. A common marathoners trick is to think of the race as 10-10-10: 10 miles, 10 miles, and 10 kilometers to finish it off.
Embrace the ‘Mill
Outside of weather forcing you to go indoors, the treadmill can help you prep metally for the sometimes monotonous race. “The course is also going to be—not boring—but also monotonous and by jumping on the treadmill I see the glass as half full and try to invision what I’ll be going through,” says Meb.
Just Get Out There
“In terms of training, the hardest part for me, as for many of the average runners, is getting out of the door,” says Meb. “You know, it’s snowing outside and you gotta get into the car and make sure you have the right gear and it’s the first step, which is the hardest part for all of us.” (Need the right gear? Here’s everything you need for a run in the rain or snow.)
Meb is a big fan of eating multiple times in a day, rather than just three large meals. “Eat the right food and graze throughout the day,” he says. Here are healthy snack alternatives for every craving type to help you make the right choices.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Know this: Someone else is training harder than you are. Think about that whenever you make a training decision or nutrition decision, says Meb. “When the gun goes off, you hope you’ve done the most prep yourself,” he says—and after that gun, it’s 90 percent mental and a mere 10 percent physical.