Throughout his long running career, Meb Keflezighi has gained popularity with his gregarious smile and his down-to-earth, friendly attitude. But his personality isn’t the only reason Keflezighi has gained notoriety in the track and field world. Sure, Keflezighi is widely recognized as a class-act, but he’s also had the results to back up his popularity. Now, headed to his fourth Olympic Games, Meb has a shot at wowing the crowd once again.
Below, you can learn more about this ultra-popular marathon runner with these five fast facts.
1. Keflezighi has done something that no other marathon runner has ever done.
Keflezighi created a category unto himself when he became the only runner in history to have won the New York City Marathon, the Boston Marathon, and an Olympic medal. Keflezighi’s NYC marathon win came in 2009, his Olympic medal (silver) came in 2004, and his Boston Marathon win came in 2014.
— Team @ KT Tape (@KTTape) July 21, 2016
The Boston Marathon win was particularly meaningful for Keflezighi because he was running for the Boston Marathon victims of the year before, he said. He ran the race with their names written on the corner of his bib, and he used those victims as inspiration when he needed it most.
“They helped carry me through,” Keflezighi said after the race in 2014. “As an athlete, you have dreams and today is where the dream and reality meet. I was just crying at the end. This is probably the most meaningful victory for an American, just because of what happened. It’s Patriots Day.”
When Keflezighi crossed the finish line first in Boston, he became the first American man to do so since 1983. In winning the New York City Marathon in 2009, Keflezighi also ended a long drought — previous to Meb, the last American to win the NYC marathon did so 27 years earlier.
2. Keflezighi was born in Eritrea.
Meb was born in Eritrea in 1975 and moved to the United States with his family when he was 12-years-old. Keflezighi’s family includes 11 children, many of whom fled the African nation with their parents in order to escape war with Ethiopia. In their native village, Keflezighi’s family lived without electricity, according to his USA Track and Field bio. When he arrived in the United States, Keflezighi settled in San Diego, and at the time, Meb spoke no English.
Keflezighi applied for U.S. citizenship in 1997 and became an American on July 2, 1998. In 2014, Keflezighi talked to USA Today about his move to the U.S.
“I’ve been a very fortunate person, from humble beginnings, from war-torn Eritrea, came as a refugee and the United States gave me hope.”
3. Before moving to the U.S., Keflezighi had never run before.
Meb began running in his physical education class when he was in middle school, and it didn’t take long for those around him to recognize his talent. He was first pegged as a talent when, after his gym teacher promised an A for the year to anyone who could run a 6:15 mile, Keflezighi busted out a 5:20 time. Earning the A grade was great, Keflezighi said, but an even better side affect came about from the run, he told Outside Online in 2014.
“When I was in seventh grade, my PE teacher told the class that if we ran a 6:15 mile, he would give us an A for the year. I didn’t know anyone and spoke hardly any English. On the day of the test, I surprised everyone by running a 5:20. Afterward the teacher told me, ‘You’re going to be an Olympian.’ Even better, running fast helped me make friends.”
In 1994, he went on to win the 1,600 meter and 3,200 meter events at the California State Championship meet. Eventually, Keflezighi attended UCLA, where he won four NCAA championship titles.
4. Keflezighi has loads of Olympic experience.
The 2016 Olympic Games will mark the fourth for Meb, who finished 12th in the 10K at the 2000 Olympics, second in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics, and fourth in the marathon at the 2012 Olympics.
Keflezighi missed out on the 2008 Olympics Games when he broke his hip during the 2008 U.S. Olympic marathon trials. Running on a broken hip, Meb finished eighth in the 2008 trials race.
— UCLA Alumni (@UCLA_Alumni) July 13, 2016
5. Keflezighi trains by chasing a bike.
In order to keep up a consistent pace, Meb runs behind a biker riding at about 12-miles-per-hour. He doesn’t do that all the time, he said, but on his most important workouts, he always brings a pacer along, he told Outside Online in 2014.
“Usually, I train alone. But on key workouts, someone paces me on a bike. It helps keep me focused.”
I took my daughter to work today. She watched and took pictures of my speed workout. Thanks to Sara & Bob for pacing pic.twitter.com/15CmubyeV6
— meb keflezighi (@runmeb) July 26, 2016
Keflezighi trains at altitude in Mammoth Lakes, California, and typically tries to train in the morning when his body is “fresh and unaffected by meals,” he said.
Will you tune in to watch Meb Keflezighi in the 2016 Olympic marathon?
[Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images Sport]