Olympic silver medalist, first American finisher at the 2011 New York City Marathon and winner of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, Meb Keflezighi is truly a member of distance running royalty.
Last night, I had the opportunity to chat with Meb as he gears up for the New York City Half Marathon and London 2012. You might think that such an accomplished athlete would be cocky, but Meb could not be humbler or more gracious—and in my opinion, this helps his star shine all the brighter.
Check out his thoughtful answers to training, nutrition and racing questions submitted by readers on Facebook and Twitter. . .
Callie Cowan: How do you juggle family and running? I’m always impressed by athletes’ ability to do that!
Meb Keflezighi: Thank you for the question, and I have to thank my wife for allowing me to have this balance. She understands that I do a lot with my body and as long as she can exercise too she’s happy. Happy wife, happy man. I’m delighted to have her as a partner.
You need to understand what each demand is from the husband and the wife and the kids, and try to balance it out the best you can. As long as everybody has the best intentions, you should be fine.
Mary Baum: How does Meb deal with the haters out there, saying that he was not going to do well in the Trials?
Meb Keflezighi: You’re going to have people doubting you about anything in life. As long as you believe in yourself down deep in your heart, and are doing 100 percent toward your goal, only you know [what you can do]. Some people say my races are a “surprise win.” But it’s never a surprise to me!
Michelle Leigh: What’s the best way to mentally handle a running injury?
Meb Keflezighi: Whenever you are active, injuries are part of the game. I believe in pre-hab instead of rehab, but once the injury happens, keep your mind occupied. The mental aspect is: It will get better.
Grace Raven: What is your favorite non-running workout and post-workout recovery snack?
Meb Keflezighi: I’ll go right away to my post-run favorite. I look forward to having my Power Bar chocolate flavor. I have that within 20 or 30 minutes after finishing my exercise. I’m literally salivating for it during my cool down.
As far as cross training, I like biking a lot. It’s one of my hobbies. I have a friend named Rich Levy. I’m 36, he’s probably 67 or 69, but we get along really well and we go on a bike ride around San Diego or to Mission Beach. That’s better than sitting on the couch when you’re injured or you want to get a little more exercise. Aqua jogging gets me in shape quickly, but the chlorine is not always friendly with my allergies.
Jamie-Leah Reilly: Do you use compression gear for recovery?
Meb Keflezighi: Most definitely. You have to try to do everything you can to maximize recovery and prevent injuries and be ready for the next day. I use CEP compression socks after a workout and when I travel.
Andry Acosta: After a big race, do you take time off to recover?
Meb Keflezighi: After the Trials, I didn’t run a step until almost a week after the race. You can only ask so much of your body. Six days after, I ran for 35 minutes.
Kara Fitzgerald Deschenes: What do you think about when you’re running, and how do you power through a mentally tough run?
Meb Keflezighi: During a marathon or half marathon race, a lot of things go through my mind—my family, God, people who helped me get to the starting line.
When it gets tough, you have to dig deep and remember why you are doing it. For me, it’s a God-given talent and I want to maximize it. Removing yourself from that 30 or 40 seconds of pain can be the difference between winning and getting first place or running a personal best. You put in so much time toward training, you just have to keep pushing and dig down deep and have fun.
Lisa Gonzales: Are you ever nervous before a race and how do you deal with it if you are?
Meb Keflezighi: I used to be nervous in high school and college. Now I’m not really nervous, but more anxious to get the race going. I train anywhere from 100 to 120 miles or more a week, but in the last week [leading up to the race] I’ve probably run only 30 or 40 miles, so I have all this energy. I feel anxious to get going so it’s hard to sleep at night. I try to read as much as I can and spend time with friends and family, so I’m not thinking about the race all the time.
Visualize the race ahead of time in training, so when it comes to race day, you are more relaxed and ready to perform. If you’ve done all the preparations, there should be nothing to be nervous about.
Carol Giampietro: How many hours in a day do you train?
Meb Keflezighi: I run, I stretch, I do drills, I do my ice baths, ART therapy and I have the gym. It comes out to six, seven hours at least. The running part is the easy part. The other stuff is small details, but it makes a difference. It really is a full time job, but I enjoy it, and it’s what my sponsors are paying me to do and I’m going to give it 110 percent—no short cuts.
Tiffany Henness: I’d love to know how many times he’s been attacked by animals while training?
Meb Keflezighi: Some of my teammates call me a dog magnet. They might be friendly, but maybe they’ve never seen a person run that fast so they want to chase. I’ve had a lot of incidents with dogs. If I go a week without a dog chasing me, that’s a good week.
I’ve seen bears. There were four coyotes in my run a month ago. It was raining, I was by myself on the trail. I tried to pretend somebody was next to me, so I started talking loud.
It’s probably my biggest fear to be honest, but that’s part of being a distance runner in nature.
Laura: What is your fave after-run meal?
Meb Keflezighi: After a run I like to have an omelet with turkey or avocado with a lot of veggies. Protein is what I like to have after a long run or intense workout.
Alita Patel: How old is too old to run?
Meb Keflezighi: That’s a tough one to say, everyone is an individual. Some thought my career was over after 30, and I’ve run my best time [at 36].
As long as you’re having fun with it, and you don’t overdo it [you can run at any age]. If you’re enjoying it, your brain’s going to think better and you’re going to feel better. Maybe if you’re too old to drive, maybe you’re too old to do a marathon, but age is a number and you’re as good as what you do. Whether you go out just for a mile or run 20 miles, exercise is refreshing.
What would you have asked an Olympic athlete? The next time I’m lucky enough to interview one, I’ll relay the query!