Mike Meehan stood at the water stop of the 2007 Go! St. Louis Marathon eating donuts, drinking sodas and watching runner after runner stop for quick hydration. He and a friend joked that they should start running.
A year later, Meehan changed the joke to reality and he hasn’t stopped running since while racking up miles and more than 60 races from 5Ks to a 50K ultramarathon. This year he received the Phidippides Award from USA Track and Field, which is given to members older than 40 who compete in road races throughout the year.
While Meehan ran cross country for West Vigo High School, he admits he only did so to prepare for basketball season.
“I was one of the worst,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t really like running when I was in high school. It was really hard for me.”
When Meehan enrolled at Indiana State, running didn’t figure into his studying of marketing and working part-time.
“I felt like I fit well,” he said about choosing to enroll at Indiana State. “A lot of students there were similar to my background as a first generation student.”
While Indiana State was Meehan’s hometown university, he felt connected in another way as well. He grew up across the street from legendary baseball coach Bob Warn, who would take Meehan and his brothers to Indiana State baseball games.
“It was during the golden age of Sycamore athletics,” he said. “I’ve always had a positive view of Indiana State.”
After graduating in 1994, Meehan worked in Kentucky before returning to Indiana State in 2000 to work in the Alumni Affairs office. He began pursuing a second degree in art by taking classes in design and photography. He also taught himself HTML so he could maintain the alumni relations website.
“That’s what’s great about Indiana State,” he said. “I always found as both a student and as an employee that you are encouraged to improve yourself, collaborate and find better ways of doing things.”
In 2004, he moved west to work for Saint Louis University as an assistant director in the Alumni Relations office. Since 2009, he has worked for Saint Louis University as communications manager.
It was through volunteering with that university at the marathon that led to the jokes about running and ignited his interest. After a friend competed in the 2008 half marathon, Meehan slipped on his sneakers and began pounding the hilly streets of his Soulard neighborhood past the brick row houses, bars, churches and farmer’s market.
“When I started it was, ‘Can I do one mile or two miles without walking?’” he said. “It’s about challenging yourself without overdoing it – little steps. After you can do a 5K, it does get easier.”
In the fall of 2008, Meehan signed up for his first half marathon in Las Vegas.
“When I got to the nine or 10-mile marker, I thought, ‘When is this thing over?’” he recalled of the 13.1-mile race. “When I got through, I felt a sense of accomplishment.”
After completing the half, Meehan decided that his next goal would be to complete a full marathon and he decided it would be the Go! St. Louis race. He also created an incentive. He raised money for the American Heart Association in memory of his father, Tom Meehan, who died in 1992 from heart disease. His brothers and mother traveled to St. Louis to cheer him on during the race.
“The race was pretty tough,” he said. “When you get to the finish line, there’s a sense of accomplishment.”
Since then he has tracked thousands of miles and numerous races in pursuit of his new passion.
“One of my friends said, ‘Yeah, it’s addicting, but it’s a good thing to be addicted to,’” he said.
That obsessive hobby has blossomed into new possibilities for his future.
“From being at Indiana State, being in marketing and gen ed classes, gave me skills to change,” he said.
In 2010, he started the website runningstl.com as a way to improve his writing skills after he had moved to the communications position at Saint Louis University.
“I knew I needed to adapt and improve my writing skills to be successful in my new job,” he said. “I read somewhere that if you want to learn to write, you write about something you know.”
He knew running and so he wrote about his experiences running in the city and about the people he met while competing in races. When a friend at Missouri Runner and Triathlete magazine learned he had written about running in the Soulard area of St. Louis, he soon had that piece accepted for publication. Now, he writes as a regular contributor for that regional publication. In the past year, he also has had work published in the national publications USA Triathlon and Trail Runner magazines.
“I started out interviewing friends doing amazing things,” Meehan said. “Then they started sending me ideas.”
He wrote about the sisters who qualified to run the Boston Marathon in the same year and who dedicated the race to the memory of their father, who died from heart disease. He wrote about a friend competing in a triathlon in Switzerland. He wrote about a St. Louis triathlete who is living with Stage 4 colorectal cancer and competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in the midst of treatments. His writing led him to meeting and writing about Chrissie Wellington, a four-time Ironman World Champion, when she visited St. Louis to encourage children to develop healthy lifestyles.
“I plan on continuing to promote running and endurance sports in St. Louis through my writing and hopefully help the city gain more national exposure for its great events and inspiring athletes,” he said.
He credits Indiana State for his ability to adapt and for his success in a burgeoning new career.
“The variety of classes I took and the resources I had available to me at ISU have given me a well rounded skill set that is transferable to a lot of industries,” he said.
Even as his skills change and grow, he continues to challenge himself physically. He has set the goal this year of competing in his first half Ironman distance triathlon – biking, swimming and running 70.3 miles in the Howlin’ Half Triathlon in Jackson, Mo.
“I’ll be starting over and relearning how to swim and brushing up on biking to prepare,” he said.
He also plans to run the 26.2-mile Berryman Trail Marathon in Steeleville, Mo., this spring. Trail running moves the runners off the streets and into the woods.
“It’s a lot more fun rather than running on the streets and dodging traffic,” he said. “It’s a primal thing, getting back to nature.”
As Meehan continues to run 25 to 40 miles per week, he knows that the sport has changed him more than physically.
“Running has made me mentally and physically stronger. It has taught me patience, dedication and perseverance,” he said. “The sense of accomplishment you get when you reach your goal or cross the finish line at a big race, makes you feel like anything is possible as long as you prepare and dedicate yourself.”
Jennifer Sicking, GR ’11, is the editor of Indiana State University Magazine. Traveling and spending time with family and friends makes Jennifer happy.