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So what do Eritrean-born Meb Keflezighi and Winfield, IL residents Dick and Marge Foster have in common?

A love for running, and the will to overcome.

Meb is one of the most respected athletes of his generation and winner of the 2009 New York City Marathon. He will be defending his title in just two days, in fact, during the 40th running of the storied event. But what many don’t realize about the  35-year-old long-distance runner is that he came to America with his parents and 10 siblings with virtually nothing but the clothes on their backs and the will to survive. Meb spoke no English and had never raced a mile. Yet he became an A student and a champion.

In his new hardcover book Run to Overcome, Meb tells the story of his birth in a small African country ravaged by a brutal war where food was so scarce that he ate dirt to survive, earning the nickname “the kid with the bloated stomach.”

Now an American citizen, Meb stands at exactly my height- 5’5″ – but weighs 20 pounds less than I do despite consuming 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day. I was fascinated reading about his training regimen and his diet, which includes himbasha, a traditional Eritrean bread that provides the carbs Meb needs to excell as a runner.

Dick and Marge Foster

My friends Dick and Marge Foster started running later in life, at ages 69 and 71. They are now 72 and 74, and as Marge recently told me, “We are not ready to give up!” This Saturday they will be competing at Cantigny in their 17th 5 K.

  The Fosters didn’t come from a background of poverty but they share something else in common with Meb: a deep faith in God and a desire to give back to others. Meb has a foundation that addresses critical needs facing young people (www.marathonmeb.com).

The Fosters are leaders in their church and active in small group ministry, women’s Bible study, OASIS (Older Adults Still in Service), and hospitality to countless college students and dinner guests.

As a non-runner, I marvel at those of you who are. There seems to be a connection between having the discipline to complete a 5 K or a marathon and the drive to help others.  I loved reading Meb’s book, and it’s an equal privilege to cheer the Fosters on as they write this new chapter in their lives.

Meb Keflezighi

If you’d like to win a copy of Run to Overcome, you have several options:

1) Leave a comment after this post

2) Visit the website www.runtoovercome.com for details of the amazing contest sponsored by Meb’s publishing house, Tyndale. One signed book will be given away EACH DAY from Nov. 1, 2010 to Mar. 31, 2011. Monthly grand prize winners  will receive not only a signed copy of the book but also other free Tyndale titles as well as Sony and PowerBar products.