In his new book, Meb for Mortals: How to Run, Think, and Eat like a Champion Marathoner, Meb Keflezighi, three-time Olympic medalist and winner of both the 2009 NYC and 2014 Boston Marathons, tells us in his introduction that he is ‘not the most talented guy.’ I scoffed aloud when I read it.
It was an ugly sound, and I was embarrassed I’d done it. But I kept reading. I ran Atlanta’s AJC Peachtree Road Race with him last year. Ok, so maybe not with him, but we were both running the race at the same time. Actually, not even that, if you want to be technical about it. Due to the number of start waves needed to accommodate the more than 60,000 runners, he had not yet crossed the starting line as I was finishing. He began at the back as part of a fundraising challenge. However, as deflating as is to be effortlessly passed when I am sucking wind, I looked for him, listened for his entourage to be coming behind me shouting ‘Make way!’ or whatever it is they yelled.
I really hoped he’d pass me. One runner said, “It was like you’re on (Ga.) 400 going 55 and he’s doing 95.” [sic]. That would have been a sight to see; a once-in-a-lifetime running memory.
Meb is infinitely more talented than I am, and after reading this book, what is basically his training diary, I can see how he got that way. The book is divided into nine chapters, and in every one you see just how hard this guy works to be a champion.
Meb states that his game is mostly mental: good goals, commitment, and hard work. The book opens by detailing how to set good goals. This chapter, Think Like Meb, was one of my favorites. Even if you are running purely for enjoyment, or as a much-loathed, but necessary, daily dose of cardiovascular exercise, you set goals for your run – probably time or distance. Wouldn’t you like to know how to set better goals for yourself though? Especially if it increases your enjoyment of your run by making them easier or at least less painful? Maybe learning to set better, more attainable running goals will carry over into other areas of life as well.
The next 8 chapters describe exactly how Meb treats his body to get it to run the way it does: fueling and hydrating, stretching, sleeping, form drills, even recovery. It’s all here. For the form drills, stretches, and strengthening sections there are photographs of Meb doing the movements to help make sure we’re doing it correctly. They are not fancy glossy photos, just simple, monochromatic illustrations of what we should be doing.
My second favorite chapter was Race Like Meb. I don’t run a lot of races, mostly because they cost a lot of money, but I loved reading about how he prepares for a race. This is one of the more tip-heavy chapters with lots of little boxes that contain bits of information. Broken into sections like that, it is easy to read and has loads of interesting ideas for clever racing, even – no joke – how to Lube Like Meb, though it isn’t actually called that. Mixing a GU into a bottle of water or Gatorade to make the GU easier to consume while running is a smart tip. I will be trying that one, because GUs are helpful, but revolting. I might have gone my whole life without thinking of or hearing about otherwise. He also explains how to drink while running fast. I am not fast, but learning to drink while breathing like a ferocious, sweat-flinging beast is pretty much the same thing, I think.
Meb’s tone throughout the book is conversational, as though he is standing next to you (I’m pretty sure he’s not much of a sitter.) He chats and carries on, which makes this book very easy and enjoyable to read. Though, in my mind’s eye, he is probably chatting while stretching, doing core exercises on one of those big exercise balls, like in the Strengthen Like Meb chapter. Meb says that he feels like he’s 80 years old the day after a marathon. It’s little human asides like that which made me believe Meb truly does work incredibly hard, and thereby makes his advice easier to hear.
If you wanted to, if you had the time and money, you could absolutely use this book as a manual to become one hell of a runner, at least way better than all your friends. But even if your running goals and means are simpler, this easy-to-read and apply book will help you learn to make your body move more efficiently and hurt less after a long or hard(er) run, and maybe, just maybe, inspire you to set bigger goals for yourself next time.