The Story Behind the Autograph

I spent the first weekend of February at the Tallahassee Marathon.  Even though I have been to Florida many times, for events such as the Gate River Run, where I won six USATF 15k titles, and have family in Tampa, it was my first visit to the capital city of Tallahassee.  I was invited by David Yon, a local attorney and member of the Gulf Winds Track Club. I met David during the 2016 Olympic Games on a run through the streets of Rio and we kept in touch since.  I was honored by his invitation to the 2019 Tallahassee Marathon.

I am fortunate to attend appearance functions almost every weekend of the year.  When fans wait in line to meet me, I’m honored that they take time out of their day to shake my hand and say hello.  It tells me I’ve made a difference through my running career, which was always my goal.

When runners meet me, they often know a lot about me and my story.   But I don’t know anything about them. That’s why I take time to ask questions.  

Hearing the personal journey my supporters have gone through is so powerful.  People tell me about running for a lost loved one, battling cancer or coming back after a difficult surgery. Or how much weight they lost. These kinds of stories are deeply touching.  

In Tallahassee, I met an amazing woman named Barbara.  I take pride in saying I ran 26 competitive marathons in my career.  Well, Barbara informed me she was running her 101st marathon in Tallahassee!  That impressed me.

I also met a gentleman named Don who ran the 2009 NYC Marathon.  Countless of runners have told me stories about where they were when I won the 2014 Boston Marathon.  Until Don, nobody has ever said they remembered the exact moment when I won New York. I enjoyed Don’s recollection of that special day.

When I sign so many autographs, people often joke “this must tire you out more than running a marathon.”  Well, I went through high school and college unable to afford my own computer.  Whenever I was assigned an essay, I would write it by hand and then take it to the computer lab or to a friend’s computer and type it up.  Even when my hand was tired, I was grateful to be writing those papers because it meant I was obtaining an education. When I sign autographs for fans, I’m also grateful because I know I was able to have an impact on that person’s life.  It’s something that I never take lightly. Most importantly, my mom taught me from early age that “When you do things with happiness, you don’t get tired.”

I appreciate all the people who take time to meet me.  Thank you to everyone who came out in Tallahassee as well as to all those who have made the effort to introduce themselves at the many running races and events I’ve attended in the past.  I look forward to meeting many more runners in the rest of 2019 and beyond.

Run to win,


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