Keflezighi's victory filled with meaning
Meb Keflezighi pumps his fist while wearing an American flag at the finish line after winning the men's division of the 2014 Boston Marathon. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Especially when the man you were watching began crying too.
And he was doing it with the kind of courage athletes can exemplify. It is not the bravery of men and women in battle or that of the first responders in Boston a year ago or that of families trying to reassemble lives ripped apart by an act of terrorist insanity, but it is a competitive courage admirable on its own terms.
"We are resilient. We never give up."
Keflezighi's seemingly insurmountable lead, 81 seconds after 18 miles, had dwindled to eight seconds over Kenya's Wilson Chebet with less than 2 miles left in the 26.2-mile race. Rarely does the leader hold on in such situations, even when the pursuer has expended enormous amounts of energy to close the gap.
He finished 11 seconds ahead of Chebet with a personal best time of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds. Two weeks shy of his 39th birthday, Keflezighi became the oldest Boston Marathon men's winner since 41-year-old Clarence DeMar in 1930.
And, as more than just an underdog in a deep field of talented East African runners, he was a thoroughly unexpected winner despite his impressive career record.
Last year, Keflezighi watched the race from the grandstands at the finish line. He said he had left the area five minutes before the bomb explosions that killed three people (a policeman died later in the pursuit of the bombers) and left about 260 injured, some maimed. Keflezighi said he immediately texted another top U.S. marathoner, Ryan Hall, who would finish 20th, saying they both had to run this year.
Tatyana McFadden, the Paralympic superstar from the University of Illinois, wore the name of one of those killed, 8-year-old Martin Richard, on her jersey while winning a second straight Boston Marathon wheelchair title.
Keflezighi had the names of the four dead written on his runner's identification bib. Such a gesture was characteristic of an athlete who long has been one of the most respected and most gracious people in sports.
Mebrahtom Keflezighi, third oldest of 11 children, arrived in the United States at age 12. He won state titles for San Diego High School, NCAA titles for UCLA. He became a U.S. citizen in 1998 and has competed for the United States in three Olympics, finishing fourth in the marathon in 2012 and 12th in the 10,000 meters in 2000.