How about Keflezighi and Flanagan?

April 22, 2014 0

© Copyright – 2014 – Athletics Illustrated

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Now how about that Mebrahtom “Meb” Keflezighi, the American marathon runner who keeps on winning even at the age of 38 (nearly 39)? Monday – President’s Day in the U.S. – Meb took the lead at 15k, created a sizeable gap ahead of more favoured East Africans and just didn’t let go (he had the 15th fastest time of all the elites).

He almost did let go of the lead, but he didn’t and no matter how you measure the win, whether you cut his marathon into single or five or 10 kilometre splits, or mile or first half versus second half splits, the only one that mattered on the day was the final split. He won and finished in a fair time too: 2:08:37, earning himself a brand new and very shiny personal best time.  Poignantly, he received a phone call from President Barack Obama to congratulate him, probably for spiritually taking back the race from terrorists.

The last time an American man won the Boston marathon was in 1983, by Greg Meyer. Thirty-one years has passed since. This American win is even more meaningful because during the 2013 edition it was marred by terrorist bombings that killed three and injured 260 more. It was a long one-year wait, but the media around America has repeated the refrain that “Meb took the Boston Marathon back, from terrorists.”

In 2009, Keflezighi was the first American to win the New York City Marathon since 1982, when Alberto Salazar won in 2:09:29, it was the ninth fastest finish in New York or eighth, if we exclude Salazar’s short course win (by 150m) in 1981. Keflezighi earned an Olympic silver medal during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. He finished the race in the time of 2:11:29.

Keflezighi wrote the names: Sean Collier, Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu on his race bib — the latter three were killed by the bombs last year — Collier was a police officer who was gunned down during the subsequent man hunt.

“I wanted to win it for Boston and win it for the people,” Keflezighi said after the finish. “The last three to four miles, (the crowd) pushed me through it. I’m so lucky to be the champion.”

Meanwhile, American Shalane Flanagan, who grew up in Boston tried to win the women’s race the same way, in fact she led from the start. Although she did not prevail as Boston champion, she did run a new personal best time of 2:22:03. Flanagan owns the American record for the 10,000 metres with her 30:22:22 Beijing Olympic Games performance, earning her a bronze medal. Flanagan set the national record for the 15k, on March 15th 2014 by finishing in 47:03. She said while fighting back tears, “I really wanted to win for the people of Boston. I didn’t, but I am really happy for Jeptoo who did win, as she ran so well.”

The 2014 Boston Marathon was an emotional race for both Keflizighi and Flanagan for slightly different, but equally important reasons. They both ran heroic races and returned the B.A.A. Boston Marathon to the American running community, where it belongs.

Note: Defending and now two-time champion Kenyan, Rita Jeptoo ran a new personal best time of 2:18:57, which is also a B.A.A. Boston course record. Flanagan finished seventh.

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