Runner Reads: “26 Marathons” by Meb Keflezighi with Scott Douglas

“26 Marathons” by Meb Keflezighi with Scott Douglas.

I know I just wrote a Runner Reads post, but here’s another one for you! There are only so many hours left in 2019, and I have some end-of-year/new year-related posts to write.

Next up after “North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail” by Scott Jurek with Jenny Jurek, was “26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running and Life from My Marathon Career,” by Meb Keflezighi with Scott Douglas.

Both of these books were BibRave Book Club books, and we didn’t really discuss this one because our planned discussion date happened to be on the same day as the launch of the new BibRave branding and logo (check it out if you haven’t yet).

This book breaks down the 26 marathons of Keflezighi’s career into chapters — each chapter focuses on one of the marathons, in chronological order. Many of his marathons are repeat ones — New York City and Boston, for example, and the Olympic Trials and the Olympics (which are, of course, in different cities every four years).

I enjoyed this look into Keflezighi’s career. Each starts out with an overarching lesson that can be applied to running and life. Although Keflezighi is an elite runner who has earned a silver Olympic medal and won the Boston and New York City marathons, I still found him relatable.

One thing that isn’t as relatable but still fun to read about is racing strategies. I always find it interesting to read or hear about elite racing, because the strategy is very different from what I’m used to as a mid-pack runner. I usually go out hoping to hit a certain time that I feel is a challenge but within reach. In a smaller race, I may try to go for an age group award, but a place is not my main goal, because you never know who will show up.

I interviewed Ron Tabb recently for a RunWashington Trials Fever article on Caitlyn Tateishi. He mentioned that he’d coached Keflezighi, and he was mentioned in the book, which I thought was cool.

Although I had to return the book at the library earlier this month, I did take photos of a couple quotes that I thought were especially relatable.

Here’s one of them — this is how Keflezighi starts Chapter 21/Marathon #21:

“When you run a 5K, you can usually predict your finishing time within a narrow range. Unless you suffer a bad injury or start too fast, you’re probably not going to slow significantly in the last mile. You’re just not out there long enough to succumb to something like dehydration or muscle cramps.

In a marathon, because you’re on the road for so long, all those performance wreckers and more are possible. The need to overcome those challenges adds to the allure of the marathon.”

For me as well, the marathon is just different when it comes to expectations, and I’ve mentioned that to people numerous times. When I go out to race a 5K, 10K or even a half marathon, I’m pretty confident about what I can do, and my finishing times are generally close together.

But with a marathon, my times are not as consistent. My marathon times this year were 4:50 and 5:34. Now that’s pretty extreme, because I had a particularly bad day at Marine Corps and the weather was also pretty abnormal. But still, a marathon is a different story. That’s why I enjoy pacing half marathons but will not pace a marathon — there is too much that’s unexpected.

I did think about it and look up some times, and I do have somewhat of a range. Six of my 11 marathons have been between 4:47 and 5:07, but it is not as easy for me to keep a consistent pace or know exactly what to expect for this distance.

And here is the other quote, which I took a photo of because it reminded me of this year’s Marine Corps Marathon.

“The marathon is always a long way. But if you have a bigger problem, especially before halfway, it becomes an ultramarathon,” Keflezighi writes on page 271.

Thumbs up for meeting Meb Keflezighi!

Of course, he doesn’t mean literally. The first and second half of a marathon are each 13.1 miles. But they are far from the same thing. I really struggled at Marine Corps, and knowing that I was already struggling when I hit the halfway point really did me in.

The book is a nice look at Keflezighi’s successes, struggles and everything in between. He mentions crowds cheering for him at races and even the terrible experience of having a fellow runner die on a race course, which really seemed to have an effect on him.

I got to meet Keflezighi when I ran the Vermont City Marathon, and I also wrote about another of his books, “Run to Overcome,” in an earlier post.

Like Keflezighi did in our photo together, I’ll give his book a thumbs-up.

Find “26 Marathons” on Amazon here (not an affiliate link), or like I did, at your local library.

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