For today’s blog, I wanted to share with you an interesting interaction my good friend and training partner Mario Arce had with now-President Barack Obama. Mario Arce helped train me (by riding a bike alongside me) for the 2004 Olympic Games, the 2005 and 2006 ING NYC Marathon, and the 2006 Boston Marathon. Mario is just one member of Team Meb who supports me behind the scenes. I hope to introduce you to others in future blogs. For now, back to the Obama story, from Mario Arce:
In the summer of 2007, I was helping train Meb for the Olympic Trials Marathon, which occurred in November 2007 in New York City. The majority of this training occurred in Mammoth Lakes. One day my younger brother got injured in a bike accident and was hospitalized in Reno, Nevada, which is two hours away from Mammoth. I went to visit him in Reno and stayed at the hotel. I can tell something was going on at the hotel because there just seemed a lot of commotion and it seemed to be some type of political conference. But this was almost a year and a half before the 2008 Presidential Elections, so I didn’t think too much of it. My mind was on the real race coming up, the Olympic Trials.
Now, although I train Meb, I may not look like a runner. I am 5’11″ and 250 pounds. I am a former cross country runner and national class mountain biker. I am able to train Meb because I can pace him on a bike while he runs the miles he needs to prepare for world class competition. There aren’t too many people who train in the USA that can provide Meb the pacing he needs to push himself, so I play that role. This is similar to Mike McKeeman pacing Deena Kastor in training because it is hard to find another woman that can push Deena.
Back to my story in Reno… One morning during my short stay there, I went on a run. As I was finishing up my run at about 8:30-9 minute per mile pace, three big men and one tall slender man caught up to me and passed me. As they passed me, the tall slender man turned back and said, “Moving pretty fast for a big guy.” Looking to plug my affiliation with Team Running USA, I responded, “that’s because I train with Olympians.” The tall, slender, light skinned African-American man asked “which ones?” Not expecting this gentleman to know the names of the Olympians I train with, since they are not Michael Phelps or Lebron James, I resorted to explain “Actually, one of them is on the cover of RunnersWorld magazine.” Before I said anything further, that gentleman, who is now the President of the United States, said “who, Meb?” I was so pleasantly surprised that a random person in the streets of Reno knew of Meb. But when we realize that this random man I “ran” into is President Barack Obama, I think it says a lot about Meb’s story. Meb is an illustration of the American Dream. Not only did Meb utilize the opportunities available to him to do well for himself and his family, he led the way in bringing American distance running to a respectable level. Meb, Coach Larsen, Deena Kastor and Coach Vigil led the resurgence of American distance running.
Anyhow, back to my Obama story… The moral of the story is: Meb is one of my best friends, and it is my pleasure to be friends with someone who the President knows on a first name basis.