Seeing as I have just gotten back into running and was desperately in need of some refreshing and inspirational reading material, I started reading Meb Keflezighi’s book, “26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life From My Marathon Career.” It is authored alongside journalist and running writer Scott Douglas. The book turned out to be both of those things, refreshing and inspirational, in addition to easy-to-read and well-written to boot.
Meb Keflezighi is an Eritrean-born, American distance runner. He’s a four-time Olympian for Team USA, he participated in two World finals, and he has won prestigious races such as the Boston and the New York City marathons. He is practically as “elite” as a runner can get.
I hadn’t heard about Meb before picking up the audiobook, but that wasn’t a problem as he’s introduced thoroughly in the book. Not knowing him also didn’t stop me from enjoying the book because it really is about the life lessons that Meb learned, and they are so beautifully illustrated and reflected by his experiences. I can’t stress this enough: You don’t need to be a runner or particularly interested in running marathons to value the comparisons between life and the journey of a professional runner, though I suppose not hating the sport would help.
Discipline is a Crucial Part of Getting Results
When it comes to Meb, it’s not going too far to say that discipline is one of his secret sauces. There really weren’t too many platitudes about this in the book specifically, but Meb’s example is one of someone disciplined about goals and prepared to do what it takes to achieve them. This was nowhere as obvious as when he mentions having had to write multiple drafts of papers at UCLA in order to get them right—because that’s what it took—even when he knew some of his classmates would write theirs the day before and score better grades. The value of making peace with our own individual journey is the most helpful lesson I got from this book—and it’s reverberated in some of the others from Meb’s book.
You Shouldn’t Put in 100% Every Day
Or in other words, life is a marathon, not a sprint. This point is so easy to truly grasp and internalize with the extended metaphor for life that is the marathon and the way it’s been so beautifully weaved into Meb’s account. Basically, Meb’s point seems to be, your day-to-day 100% is probably only 80% of what you can do on race day, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to produce race-day results every single day, lest you get injured (also known as burnout to those of us who aren’t elite marathon runners). You shouldn’t set your daily goals based on your absolute potential or capabilities, but based on what you can sustainably achieve.
There’s Only One Way and It’s Full of Setbacks
Incredibly, Meb was injured for what seemed like half of the book. But he kept working around the injuries! In fact, he achieved some of his best results even as the threat of injury loomed over him, and he had to adjust races and training routines in order to accommodate the fact that he had these injuries. While this was unfortunate, one thing was clear: There was no other way for Meb to have been as successful as he was if he hadn’t simply worked through and beyond his setbacks. There was no other option… So his injuries were literally part of the path to his success. This was illuminating for me.
Run to Win Mentality
Part of Meb’s “run to win” mentality is about setting big goals you have a chance at achieving. It doesn’t have to be a clear shot, and it wasn’t always in his case, but his goals were always based on his circumstances and always challenging based on those. While he did usually run to actually win, there were times he had time goals that had nothing to do with how anyone else did in the race. To me, this means that doggedly pushing ourselves beyond our limits can create worse outcomes than setting our sights just a little lower.
Running Twice a Day, Most Days, for About Fifteen Years (Or More?) Is Possible
I mean… Can we give it up for the human will and body? I feel like a sprouted couch potato (because I’ve been here for a long time…get it?).
There are so many more gems in the book! I actually headed to my local bookstore to hound a paper copy today, but they were out. I read this as an audiobook, but I would opt for the paper version because there are so many highlight-worthy parts. It’s the kind of book you might want to pick up again and read through for a morale boost—at least that’s how I felt!