Lee set to welcome Olympic medalist for Great Strides

Lee set to welcome Olympic medalist for Great Strides

Meb Keflezighi, who won the Boston Marathon in 2014, is visiting Lee to run in the 65 Roses 5K for cystic fibrosis research.

Courtesy of Lee University

One of the world's greatest runners, Meb Keflezighi, is coming to Lee University to run and speak at the 65 Roses 5K Great Strides event in March.

Keflezighi's legacy is historic as the first and only athlete to win the New York Marathon, the Boston Marathon and an Olympic Medal. In his long career, he has run 100,000 miles—the equivalent of four laps around the globe.

The 18th annual Great Strides Weekend raises money and awareness for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This year, the Great Strides event will reach a milestone of one million dollars raised in the past 18 years. According to the organization, in the last 30 years, the life expectancy of a child with CF has doubled, and doctors are researching daily to find a cure for those living with CF.

Cystic fibrosis and health care are causes close to Keflezighi's heart. In 2010, he created the MEB Foundation, focusing on empowering both youth and families through "Maintaining Excellent Balance" in life.

“Lee University has been a remarkable supporter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation the last 18 years,” Keflezighi said in a press release. “I am proud of the work they have done and am honored to be part of the 2018 Great Strides weekend. I've heard great things about the community in Cleveland, and I'll be there to encourage everyone in Cleveland and the surrounding areas to keep up the great work and raise the next million dollars.”

The Great Strides weekend is an annual event held by Lee University. According to a press release, last year's weekend brought in over 1,000 participants and raised $79,122—bringing the grand total over the past 17 years to $934,935. In addition to the 5K, the weekend also features the Great Strides walk and 1K Fun Run.

Anyone attending the Friday evening dinner to hear Keflezighi speak will receive a VIP race entry included in the dinner costs. VIP entries receive additional swag, including a photo with Keflezighi and a signed bib.

In addition to running in the race, Keflezighi is scheduled on Friday to visit Arnold Elementary, put on a clinic for local high school and college track and cross country teams and speak about his personal story.

Dr. Bill Estes, dean of the College of Education and race coordinator, said he first met Keflezighi over ten years ago and was blown away by his humility.

"The first time I met Meb was in ’04 in Chicago, right after he won the silver medal in Athens. We spent about ten to fifteen minutes just the two of us, talking,” Estes said. “When you see somebody who is the best in the world at something, they are just different.”

Keflezighi graduated from the University of California Los Angeles, where he received four NCAA championships, 23 National Championships and a place on four United States Olympic teams.

In 2015, he was named The Most Influential Person in Running by Runner's World Magazine and made appearances on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” USA Today, NBC, CNN, Fox and ESPN. Additionally, he has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and The Washington Post.

During an interview in a YouTube documentary series, race director of the Boston Marathon Dave McGillivray said Keflezighi was an inspiration and an icon of the marathon sport.

“To me, Meb is a true hero,” McGillivray said. “Not for his victories. Not for all the medals that he's won. Just because of who he is.”

Keflezighi is not just a runner, but also an author, mentor and motivational speaker, and he lives a legacy nothing short of inspiring.

Fleeing from war-torn Eritrea, East Africa, Keflezighi came to America as a refugee with his 9 siblings and parents. While here, he cultivated endurance, fortitude and a persistent work ethic that followed him into his running career.

With such an inspiring and accomplished runner coming to speak and participate in the marathon, Estes said he encourages all students and faculty to run in Great Strides 65 Roses 5K on the morning of March 24.

“Every student at Lee ought to be running this race,” Estes said. “Every kid ought to run with him and cheer him on. It ought to be huge.”

For more information about Keflezighi or his foundation, visit https://marathonmeb.com/.

For more information about the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, visit https://www.cff.org/.

For more information about 65 Roses 5K, visitwww.leeuniversity.edu/cf.

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