About a month ago, Runologie announced during its Tuesday night run club, that they’d be hosting the Rock ‘n Roll Raleigh kick-off event with Meb Keflezighi as a special guest! Meb won the Boston Marathon in 2014, among many other accomplishments, and is a Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Series spokesperson. The special event was held this past Monday at Runologie, a small, locally-owned running store that recently opened in downtown Raleigh.
The event had been heavily promoted on Facebook and other social media, so Mike and I tried to get there as early as possible. Luckily, we got a parking spot just across the street (what a difference from DC parking!). Rock ‘n Roll set up some tents and heat lamps in the paved area beside Runologie, in front of State of Beer. Mike and I were planning to register for the race there to take advantage of the discount. Even with the $30 discount, the registration was still $95 – not a cheap race. We did get free Next Level brand t-shirts, similar to the free ones we received at the DC Rock ‘n Roll kick-off event at Potomac River Running (although didn’t need to register there to get a free tee) but with more subtle branding.
The crowd continued to build until Meb came out to speak prior to the 3-mile group run at 6 pm. We learned that Meb will be at only one Rock ‘n Roll kickoff this year – and that’s this one, Raleigh! In only its second year, the Raleigh Rock ‘n Roll Marathon and Half Marathon may still be trying to grow and gain more popularity (my guess). With Meb speaking from the stairs beside the building, everyone had a pretty good view and could hear well with the sound system. Introduced by a Rock ‘n Roll ambassador, Meb answered a few questions from the crowd, including how he felt running up to the finish at Boston, how he first got into running and if the elite runners talked smack to each other during the NYC marathon. Genuine, sincere and humble, Meb shared inspirational stories of pushing through pain and stomach cramps at NYC Marathon, discovering his speed as an 11-year-old running the mile in gym class, and the emotional finish of the 2014 Boston Marathon finish, after having been there the year before.
To implement a bit of organization to the group run with, I’d guess, 200 people, a Rock ‘n Roll Ambassador announced that the first “wave” would meet at the corner and run at a 7:15 and below pace. The second wave would be the Meb wave and run 8:00 and under. However, that quickly changed because of the number of runners running with Meb and the tight and uneven city sidewalks. Mike and I were running right next to Meb for a little while! But then broke away from the pack and all the people taking running selfies with Meb to get back to Runologie before the rush. Prior to the run, ambassadors handed out little sheets of paper with the route directions but we just followed the people in front of us. We (or Meb’s group) must have taken a wrong turn because we met up with them all about a quarter mile away from Runologie.
Back at Runologie, we grabbed a free Rock ‘n Roll plastic beer mug and waited in an already fairly long line at State of Beer. I was expecting the usual Rock ‘n Roll Michelob Ultra but we got pretty good Hefeweizen (not sure what kind) and headed back outside.
The first round of free pizza was already snatched up so we waited in the very long line already forming to meet Meb inside Runologie. We regretted our strategy; we should have had one of us get the beer and the other stand in line, but we weren’t expecting a line quite that long! Additionally, it was really cold out and spitting rain. Glad we brought some additional layers! When the second round of free pizza arrived from Trophy, I grabbed a couple of slices for us. Trophy has AMAZING pizza with delicious and unique toppings. I think (although hard to tell since it was dark!) our’s had red onion and butternut squash.
After about an hour, we got inside the store. At least the ambassador/bouncer was limiting the number of people in the store to keep some organization and order. Once in, the line to get our photo with Meb moved quickly. We met his brother who was selling copies of Meb’s book, Run to Overcome, and also handing out signed Competitor Magazine covers. Since the line was so long, Meb wasn’t going to be able to sign anything else. When it was our turn, Mike handed the ambassador/photographer our camera, and then got a quick iPhone selfie with Meb before getting a photo and then I jumped in and we got a photo with us both. It all happened so fast that we didn’t have time to say much besides hello and nice to meet you to Meb, unfortunately. But just so cool to actually meet Meb and get our photo with him. He seems just so nice and soft-spoken. He seemed amazed at the number of people waiting to get their photos with him.
Overall, such a cool event! It was well-run and organized, despite the number of large number of people. The free top-notch pizza and beer was a great perk as well, keeping us happy in line while we waited for a photo with Meb! Awesome job Runologie and Rock ‘n Roll!