BOSTON – Something unusual happened when American Meb Keflezighi, far ahead of his competitors, began passing some of the elite women who had started before the men in Monday’s Boston Marathon. As he charged by, many of the women — exhausted and in pain — cheered him on.
Keflezighi will turn 39 in two weeks, an age when most elite marathoners have lowered their expectations to respectable rather than victorious. So many years of competition over 26.2 miles tends to pull the swiftest back toward the pack with tendinitis here and a fractured bone there. But Keflezighi seems to be getting younger, defying all that is understood about the sport in a most spectacular way and winning the enthusiastic support of many runners in the field.
In a race that had taken on greater meaning because of the act of terrorism it was witness to a year ago, Keflezighi became the first U.S. man to win the Boston Marathon in more than 30 years, and he did it in a personal-best time of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds.
He is the oldest Boston Marathon winner since 1930, when 41-year-old Clarence DeMar won for the seventh and last time.
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The race, the world’s oldest annually run marathon, felt like a catharsis for this city.
A crowd of 1 million people, twice the usual number, showed up to cheer the field of 32,530 athletes that started the race.
Twice as many law-enforcement officials patrolled the racecourse as well.
Keflezighi gave fist bumps to the enormous crowds on Boylston Street, near where two bombs went off at the 2013 marathon, killing three and wounding more than 260. Once across the finish line, he was hugged by 1983 champion Greg Meyer, the last American man to win the race. Keflezighi bowed to the crowd and waved to the spectators in the grandstand at the finish line.
“This is probably the most meaningful victory for an American because of what happened last year,’’ he said. “I’m almost 39. I just ran a personal best.
“ I just won the Boston Marathon. I feel blessed.”
One of 10 children, Keflezighi fled to Italy from Eritrea with his mother and siblings while his father worked cleaning jobs to support the family while arranging for them to move to San Diego.
At 34, Keflezighi won the 2009 New York City Marathon — the first American male winner in that race since 1982. His shoe sponsor, Nike, dropped him less than two years later, perhaps convinced his career had peaked.
Keflezighi won the U.S. Olympic trials for a berth in the 2012 London Games, under a sponsorship with Skechers, a brand better known for its skateboard shoes. He introduced much of the running world to Skechers as he stepped across the finish line in a silver-and-red pair; at Monday’s close, the company’s stock price was up.
“My career is fulfilled,” Keflezighi said. “Since 2008, it’s been frosting on the cake. It’s just getting better and better.”
Keflezighi said he fought off a stomach ailment around the 20th mile and then “prayed a lot” to make it to the finish line. Wilson Chebet of Kenya was second in 2:08:48.
Rita Jeptoo of Kenya successfully defended her women’s title, pulling away in the final 3 miles for her third Boston victory.
Jeptoo, 33, set a women’s course record of 2:18:57.
Each winner earned $150,000.
Uli Steidl, 42, of Seattle was the fastest runner in the 40-and-older men’s category for the second time. He was 22nd among all men in 2:19:48.
Steidl, who won the Seattle Marathon for the 10th time in December, is an assistant track and cross-country coach at Seattle University.
John Ricardi, 27, an Idaho State graduate from Seattle, was 55th among men in 2:27:20. His 32-year-old brother, Josh Ricardi of Seattle, was 301st among men in 2:39:41.
Katie Conlon, 24, of Seattle was 51st in the women’s division. The former University of Oregon runner’s time was 2:50:10.
Courtney Olsen, 26, an ex-Western Washington runner from Ferndale, was 66th in the women’s race in 2:52:37.
|Meb Keflezighi is the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983. In the six years from 1978 to 1983, there were five U.S. winners.|