As my personal running journey has progressed over the last year, I have been reading more books about running. Some have been inspiring and challenging, such as Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, which I mostly enjoyed because the author was an average guy like me who somehow trained to run an ultramarathon with some of the greatest distance runners in the world in Mexico’s Copper Canyon. He had quite an amazing journey, and it made for a great story. I was also inspired and challenged by Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, written by Scott Jurek, one of the athletes in that race. Jurek is the kind of runner that gets faster and stronger the longer the race, the kind of runner I hope to be as I have been venturing into the world of marathons. Scott Jurek also offered some good advice for healthy eating, but this was not as useful as I had hoped since he is vegan, which I am not. While both of these books were great in many ways, they left something to be desired for a person who is both a runner and a Christian. For example, Born to Run goes into great depth about evolutionary theories that I do not support, theories that are pretty far out there even for evolutionists. I agree with him that humans were better designed to run long distances than other animals, but I believe in an intelligent designer, not the kind of evolutionary adaptations that he proposes brought humanity to its current physical state.
After Meb won the Boston Marathon last year, his inspiring story has really made its way to a national and international stage. Like Ryan Hall, another of America’s top distance runners and one of Meb’s close friends, Meb Keflezighi is an outspoken Christian who also happens to be a great runner. After reading some running books that do not involve faith as an aspect of the sport, I felt like it was time to read Meb’s book Run to Overcome: The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long-Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream, and I am glad I read his story. Unlike Christopher McDougall, Meb is a pure, natural runner. He has been a champion at every level and just about every distance. As Meb puts it, God has gifted him with the ability to be a runner. Meb’s background as an Eritrean refugee whose large family escaped a war-torn region of Africa when he was a young child brings to light the way that God is with those who are faithful to Him.
While his family’s journey is pretty fantastic, Meb’s own journey as a runner is one with a recurring theme: Meb was born to be a championship runner. His natural speed and endurance is incredible, especially for someone who did not discover that he was fast till he had to run a mile in gym class in 7th grade, which he ran in 5:20. When I see runners like Meb, I always wonder “What if he was raised in Kenya to be a runner from a very young age, instead of falling into the sport later? He might just hold the world record for the marathon!” In reality, I think Meb fully believes that his life has gone according to God’s plan, so what else can one want?
While I can only dream of having the natural abilities that Meb has, there is one way I feel really drawn to his career as a runner. While he has won many championships and set many records at shorter distance races, his marathon times are a few minutes behind the fastest marathoners in the world. Yet somehow in the New York Marathon in 2009 and the Boston Marathon in 2014, and even going back to his silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Meb finds ways to occasionally beat these guys on race day. That means that while Meb is a great marathon runner, he is an even better marathon racer. He talks in his book about how he competes to win, even if it means running a risky race and finishing 9th compared to running a safe race and finishing 4th. He has lost countless prize and sponsorship money running with this mentality instead of just playing it safe. That is what I love about Meb, and that is the way I hope to run as I compete in more races in the future. In my own 1st marathon, I ran (not to win because I am nowhere near the front of the pack in a marathon) all out, leaving it all on the course, and I probably cost myself 10 minutes on my marathon time by running too fast too early. I have no regrets for pushing myself to the limit trying to achieve something great (for me), and Meb has the same attitude.
The other thing that is great about Meb is that he gives God all the glory, even in defeat. Meb has the attitude that if God decides to take away his ability to run one day, he is ok with that because he knows that God is in control of his life. At the same time, he prays during his races that God allows him to run fast and win. Whatever the circumstances, Meb puts it all in God’s hands. This is especially true when it looked like Meb’s professional running career was over after a rough stretch a few years ago, but then God brought him back to run even faster in his upper-30s and become the 1st American to win the Boston Marathon since 1985. He was also the oldest person to win Boston in over 80 years. Meb showed great resilience, and even more importantly he shows that his life and his running career are completely dependent on God.
Most of the book is a good read even for non-runners, but some sections may be foreign to those who do not run. For example, he likes to list all the top finishers in his marathons, along with everyone’s times. He also shares some times and distances that he does in his own workouts. I love reading this stuff because I spend so much time looking at my own workout times and distances, but I can see how this would be boring to non-runners and people who hate numbers.
Overall, I highly recommend this book for an encouraging read and an inspiring story of a person and a family who always puts God first.