“A marathon is metaphor for life,” said Meb Keflezighi, while visiting Akron Children’s patients Thursday afternoon. “It’s not a sprint. It’s about resilience and being in it for the long haul.”
In Akron to receive the 2016 Akron Marathon Ambassador Award presented by Westfield Bank, Meb is the only person to win an Olympic medal, the New York Marathon and the Boston Marathon.
Meb talked to patients about some of his own challenges – ranging from the hardships his family faced in war-torn Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa, before immigrating to San Diego, his struggles there to learn a new language and fit in as a young boy, and – later in life – the injuries and setbacks that come with being one of the world’s top distance runners.
“I won the Boston Marathon in 2014, the year after the bombings, and everyone said I had a 1 percent chance of winning, that I was 2 weeks shy of turning 39 and it was the race’s strongest field ever. But I gave it all my heart,” Meb told Natalie Strongoli, 15, who came to the ER in July with a brain bleed and was given a 1 percent chance of survival.
Natalie continues to improve every day with intense rehab.
Corey Ruble, 14, a freshman at Springfield High School, was equally thrilled to meet Meb. Corey told Meb he inspired him to take up cross country, but recently has had to scale back on running and other sports because of health issues.
“I am hoping you can translate this for me,” Meb told Corey, as he handed him his silver medal from the 2004 Athens Olympics, “because it’s all Greek to me. You can put it on if you want.”
“Ah, okay,” said Corey, beaming. “This is awesome!”
Meb told local news reporters he loves to visit young people like Natalie and Corey who are hospitalized whenever he can and hopefully inspire them to be strong.
But there is a difference, he knows.
“A marathon is by choice,” he said. “This is not.”