Meb Keflezighi is a living legend, and rightfully so. A three-time Olympian (and winner of a Silver Medal at the 2004 Games in Athens), the 40-year-old Keflezighi counts marathon wins at Boston and New York City among his many accomplishments. Last weekend he finished second at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles, earning a spot on his fourth U.S. Olympic team.
He's famous for other reasons, too. The father of three has a reputation not just as a fierce competitor but as, well, a nice guy. Soft-spoken and quick to smile, Keflezighi is unfailingly polite, gracious, and humble in interviews and public appearances.
What most people don't know is that there's another side to Meb. Through interviews with ordinary people who have crossed his path over the years, Dumb Runner has heard several stories that paint a very different picture. And it's not a pretty one.
Here are just a few of their anecdotes.
Not a Kind Man
"Tom" (names have been changed throughout) was working as a clerk at a Los Angeles Blockbuster video store in 1987 when, as he recalls, a young Meb Keflezighi walked in and returned some videos.
"He seemed nice and normal," Tom says. "But it was all a facade. After he left, I opened the boxes to check the tapes. I couldn't believe my eyes. Despite the prominent 'Be Kind, Rewind' sticker affixed to each of our VHS tapes, he had not rewound one of his videos."
Even today, Tom says, the memory gives him chills.
"He's more monster than man," he says. "I mean, what kind of person doesn't rewind?"
No Respect for the Rule of Law
We are a society of laws. Unless, that is, you're Meb Keflezighi.
"Back in the day, I delivered at least 500 sleep slabs," says Jake, who, as a young man, put himself through college delivering mattresses. "That's what we called 'em in the biz—'sleep slabs.'"
It was good money, Jake says, and pretty uneventful work. Until one day he and his partner rang the doorbell of one Meb Keflezighi.
"Everything was fine at first," recalls Jake. "But once we got his mattress upstairs, things got weird. He noticed the tag on the mattress—you know, the one that says DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW?—and he started touching it, with this diabolical look in his eyes."
What happened next shook Jake to his core.
"He removed that tag."
Jake quit his job that afternoon.
"You see something like that, you just can't unsee it," he says. "I went back to the warehouse, turned in my back brace, and walked away from mattress delivery forever."
Keeps the Change
The idea behind those ubiquitous Take a Penny/Leave a Penny trays is simple—if you could use a penny or two when paying for your lotto ticket and beef jerky, you take them; if you have a penny or two left over, you leave them for the next guy.
Apparently Meb Keflezighi never got that memo.
"I was behind Meb in line at the 7-Eleven," says Gus, a resident of Mammoth Lakes, California, where Keflezighi used to train. "I can't remember what he was buying, but I do remember how he paid for it—with cash, including not one, not two, but three pennies from the Take a Penny/Leave a Penny tray. One, two, three. Boom, boom, boom."
The entire store fell silent, Gus says.
"I was stunned. Later, I asked my Facebook friends if anyone had ever seen Meb leave a penny, much less three. The silence was deafening."
"I never pegged Meb as a selfish, entitled dude. You never can tell, I guess."
Too 'Busy' for a Photo
"I'd always been a big fan of Meb's," says Judy, a recreational runner and mother of two. "So I was beyond excited when I spotted him in Boston, the weekend of the 2014 Boston Marathon. It was right around mile 25."
"I held up my phone and leaned over the barrier to ask if I could get a selfie with him," she says. "It was like he didn't even hear me. He just kept right on running. Not so much as a glance in my direction."
"It was unbelievable," she continues. "I mean, he had at least 10 seconds on the guy behind him. At least. More than enough time for a quick photo with a fan. What do you tell your kids after something like that?"
"I thought Meb was different from all these other snooty pro athletes. Guess not."
"I just don't know what to believe any more."