Jesse Roberts '20 served as Meb Keflezighi's escort for the 2019 Houston Marathon

Jesse Roberts '20 served as Meb Keflezighi's escort for the 2019 Houston Marathon

In only his third year working for the Houston Marathon, Jesse Roberts ’20 was given the incredible responsibility of escorting Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi throughout race day.

Jesse Roberts '20 & Meb Keflezighi

Keflezighi is a retired long-distance runner that, throughout his career, finished second in the 2004 Olympic marathon, fourth in the 2012 Summer Olympics, and first in the New York City and Boston Marathons. To this day, Keflezighi remains an icon and attended the 2019 Houston Marathon as a product spokesman for Sketchers, a major sponsor of the event.

Roberts, on the other hand, is a junior on the Rice track & field team who began working for the Houston Marathon because of his love for the sport and his interest in business. Over the past three years he has worked in a variety of different departments for the marathon including Elite Athlete Registration, Participant Service, Social Media, and Customer Service. However, due to the great work Roberts has done in the past, this year he was given the opportunity to spend the big day with one of America’s most successful marathon runners in history.

“Out of nowhere, I happened to receive a text about two weeks prior to the marathon from my former boss, Erin McGowan, asking if I would like to be the escort for Meb.” Roberts said, “Obviously I answered yes, because I would be foolish to pass up an opportunity such as this.”

The morning of the 2019 Chevron Houston Marathon, Roberts was directly in charge of making sure Keflezighi made it to all his events and interviews on time without any harassment from fans. For this process to run smoothly, Roberts had to be constantly communicating with Keflezighi’s agent, Sketchers personnel, and marathon workers about their schedule and any changes Keflezighi wanted to make. Although it was a great deal of responsibility, Roberts had an amazing time and is extremely grateful to have been selected for this task.

“Meb is one of the most genuine and down-to-earth people that I have ever meet.” Roberts insisted, “There was never a dull moment as he was always cheerful and offered light-hearted humor. It was honestly an inspiring and rewarding weekend working with him.”

Being Keflezighi’s escort opened many new doors for Roberts’ future as he was able to make numerous invaluable connections within the agency and management industry. Roberts was especially moved by Keflezighi’s agent and brother, Merhawi, because he shared so many personal life-lessons and tips with Roberts.

“After this weekend, I made many more connections in the industry, but perhaps the most important was Merhawi.” Roberts said, “He truly listened to my thoughts and also requested my information so that he could contact me the next week to discuss my future plans.”

Roberts is still narrowing down a list of opportunities for a full-time summer internship and career options, but he is thrilled to see what the future holds. In light of his recent experiences, Roberts offered some personal advice to anyone interested in pursuing a business career.

“I would recommend taking every opportunity you are able to,” Roberts said. “Start developing a reputation for yourself in the industry and make connections. Once you make those connections, make sure that you follow-up with them and periodically check how they are doing. Simple conversations with old connections can go a long way.”

Catalina Santamaria is a sophomore from Bogotá, Colombia, and is double-majoring in Sport Management and Managerial Studies.