It was on Thursday just outside of Piedmont Park that Evan Owens, 9, spent time with the man about which he had read 256 pages. Half an hour before 2014 Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi mounted his ElliptiGO machine to race Atlanta community leaders down 10th Street, Owens approached him.
“Do you remember me?” Owens asked.
The two had met before — Keflezighi sent Owens a signed copy of his book, “Run to Overcome” just after Christmas. This Fourth of July holiday weekend, Keflezighi found a way to inspire Owens and kids like him not just through words on a page, but through actions that will immediately influence their young running careers.
Keflezighi will start The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race on Friday as the 10K race’s last contestant in an effort to raise $75,000 for Kilometer Kids, a youth running program operated by Atlanta Track Club.
“For a greater cause, for the Kilometer Kids, we want to be able to give back because that’s how my running started,” Keflezighi said.
After all, it was in seventh-grade P.E. that Keflezighi discovered his talent while trying to get an A in the class.
After winning a New York Marathon (2009), a Boston Marathon, an Olympic silver medal (2004) and finishing 12th in last year’s Peachtree, Keflezighi says his goals have been fulfilled and he can now give back to the sport he loves and have a little fun in the process. Thursday’s ElliptiGO event prefacing Keflezighi’s Kilometer Kids Charity Chase did just that.
With Owens watching off to the side, Keflezighi raced 11 Alive’s Crash Clark, UPS’ Betty Amend, Roy Neill from the Office of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, PNC’s Bryan Koepp, Coca-Cola’s Shannon Hennessy, the AJC’s Mark Medici and Northside Hospital’s Dr. Al Soltan on outdoor elliptical bikes to promote both a limited edition ElliptiGO in his namesake and Friday’s Kilometer Kids challenge.
The community leaders competed on ElliptiGOs that will become available for use at the Atlanta Track Club. Keflezighi raced on his “Meb 8S” ElliptiGO, which the club will auction off; the proceeds will be donated to Kilometer Kids.
Keflezighi’s agent and brother Hawi credits Meb’s participation in the 2013 New York Marathon (he finished 23rd) and his 2014 Boston Marathon win to the low-impact cross-training machine. Even so, Keflezighi somehow finished fifth, behind Neill, Clark, Medici and Amend.
That fifth-place finish in the ElliptiGO Executive Challenge meant little to Owens, a competitive Kilometer Kid himself. After the race Owens was still a big fan and even recalled his favorite part of “Run to Overcome,” which he spent a few minutes discussing with the author himself earlier Thursday morning.
“When (Keflezighi) does his workouts and runs he bathes in ponds and he calls it his ‘God time,’ which is very nice,” Owens said.
Owens described Keflezighi as “nice” and “a good person” and said the runner’s fundraising goal is “very generous.”
Keflezighi’s generosity reciprocates a generous move on behalf of Atlanta Track Club from over a decade ago.
“The Atlanta Track Club has been a big contributor to my success personally just because when we were in Mammoth Lakes (Calif.) training they donated a van,” Keflezighi said. “They feel (like) a part of me and I feel (like) a part of them.”
Now Keflezighi has the opportunity to become a part of Evan Owens’ success. Chip Owens, Evan’s father, said the young runner clocked a 5:40 mile just last month in an Atlanta Track Club All-Comers meet.
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