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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Meb! Meb! Meb!

As no doubt you already know, Meb Keflezighi won the NYC Marathon this morning. I did not see it live--I was directing a small open cross-country race at the time--but I did see the NBC tape-delay coverage this afternoon (which was, by the way, really good).

There are a lot of good things to take away from this. First of all, it was a great decision by USATF to make a major marathon its national championship, rather than some B-level race. It created incentive to bring all the best Americans into one race. Four different Americans had legitimate chances to win, and so only one of them had to run a really good one.

I hope Meb's win is a game-changer. It's likely to generate a decent amount of badly needed sports press. I think it's likely to make some other changes.

When I was young, I saw Rod Dixon chase down Geoff Smith in the 1983 NYC marathon. Quite often while running in my local city park in chilly weather, I imagine I'm Rod Dixon--much like children doing any sport imagine themselves in the roles of their heroes. I did it when I was 13, 23, and 33, and I still do it. Today I went out for a good 8 miles after watching the race, and this time I imagined I was Meb Keflezighi.

I can hear it now..."but you're not black." I'm not a Kiwi, either. Nor have I run 27:13, won four NCAA titles and an Olympic silver medal, or emigrated from a foreign country. While I am 5' 7", I am most certainly not 127 lbs. In other words, about the only thing Meb and I have in common is being runners and American citizens. And that's all I need, or any young runner who watched the race should.

The last time an American won the NYC marathon was two years into the Reagan administration. That was a turning point for America, both in politics and in distance running. Now we're one year into a new president's term, one that I hope will be just a much a transition from old to where no one wonders why a WASPy type would say "Here's Meb Keflezighi winning the New York City Marathon!" as he's running down the road.

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