As the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials neared its conclusion, we looked to cross the course and head toward our hotel, hoping to catch a bite to eat along the way. The Olympic marathon team had been set, and the final finishers were nearing the conclusion of a hard, hot championship race.
A number of spectators grew restless and pleaded with security to allow them to cross the street between the runners finishing the race.
Perhaps I would have been among the frustrated. Instead I thought about how the athletes dedicated years of training to earn a right to run and finish an Olympic Trials race, and certainly that trumped a minor inconvenience.
After we crossed the street next to the Staples Center, we spotted Meb Keflezighi — who had just captured second place in the men’s race — making his way toward his hotel. My cadence quickened, passing Meb and his contingent, until I could get out in front.
After passing him, I stopped and congratulated Meb on his race. How did he react?
Meb reached out his hand to shake mine.
Here was the biggest name in American distance running and winner of the Boston and New York City marathons, a man who had just qualified for the Olympics for a fourth time, the author of a bestselling book, and icon of the sport. And he offered his hand as a sign of appreciation for a few congratulatory words.
Classy. Humble. Gracious.
A few minutes later, friends and I were at Rock ‘N Fish, ordering meals and sharing observations about the Trials. My thoughts turned to the next day and the Los Angeles Marathon while swapping texts with another friend. Soon we soon found ourselves at Lucky Strike, a bowling alley in the same complex.
We made our way through the bowling alley to a back room, lined with a full bar, to meet up with a buddy. Once in the packed room, we ordered drinks and made introductions among friends, waiting for the guest of honor to arrive.
Thirty minutes later, the room erupted with applause as Meb walked in.
He offered a few words and began making his way through the room to hug family, friends and fans. Eventually, with a microphone in hand, he stood and addressed those gathered to celebrate his accomplishment. After thanking family, coaches and fans, he said God put him here to run and inspire others. Then he led the crowd in chanting “USA!”
Certainly, Meb inspires runners, both on the road and off. And after 2 chance meetings, and one very memorable day with friends in Los Angeles, I left feeling it, too.