Highlights from the 118th Boston Marathon
By James O'Brien
"Boston Strong. Meb Strong." With those words resounding in his head through the closing miles, Mebrahtom Keflezighi won the 118th Boston Marathon, becoming the first American man to do so since Greg Meyer in 1983. There was an ironic beauty in the fact that, on race morning, Meyer was among those who wished Meb well. He told me, "You can do it," the newly crowned winner explained. "Make it happen."
Meb made it happen in a way that was surprising, bewildering, and inspiring. From the gun, he surged to the front of the pack; early on, he forged a demonstrative lead; and, in the closing miles he weathered a super-charged surge from Wilson Chebet that almost spoiled the American’s dreams. But, at the line, the dream remained intact. Keflezighi, just two weeks shy of his 39th birthday, had turned back an armada of sub-2:06 thoroughbreds to take one of the sporting world’s most prestigious titles. "I don't have a 2:04, 2:05," Keflezighi proffered with a smile, "but I've got the Boston Marathon title."
There can be no disputing that the Eritrean-born Meb is a man who runs on inspiration. When he won New York in 2009, he was buoyed by crowds who responded to the "USA" emblazoned across his chest. In London, at the 2012 Olympic Games, he ran spurred by the thought that, despite his 2004 silver medal, he was not even introduced on the starting line. In Boston, there was the tragedy of 2013, a horror that spread way beyond the running community and the confines of the city. It resonated as few things could have, but also served as motivation for runners such as Meb, who swore that they would come back 12 months later and make a statement.
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By Barbara Huebner
When hometown favorite Shalane Flanagan took the first mile of the 118th Boston Marathon out in 5:11, defending champion Rita Jeptoo thought she was in a world of trouble.
“My body was not responding well,” said the 33-year-old Kenyan, who was chasing her third victory here after wins in 2006 and 2013. “Today was like fire when we were starting. I was like somebody not ready to run this pace.”
Instead, it turned out that she was just in another world. Around the 25-kilometer mark (15.5 miles), the woman ranked #2 in the world last year began to feel better. A lot better. By Mile 23, Jeptoo was in the lead, then promptly blistered a 4:48 mile—faster than all but three in the men’s race—to win in 2:18:57, shattering the course record of 2:20:43 set by Kenya’s Margaret Okayo in 2002.
She wasn’t the only comet in what was billed as the deepest field in race history, a group that was met with early temperatures in the 40s and only barely a whisper of a wind. The second- and third-place women, Ethiopians Buzunesh Deba and Mare Dibaba, also broke the previous record by finishing in 2:19:59 and 2:20:35, respectively, and even the woman who came in fourth, Jeptoo’s training partner Jemima Jelagat Sumgong, broke the mark with her time of 2:20:41.
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PUSH-RIM WHEELCHAIR RACE
By Jean Cann
In the second largest, and perhaps fastest push-rim wheelchair field ever assembled for the Boston Marathon, Ernst Van Dyk (RSA) and Tatyana McFadden (USA) won the men’s and women’s titles at the 118th B.A.A. Boston Marathon. Capturing an unprecedented 10th Boston Marathon title, Van Dyk led from wire-to-wire. McFadden celebrated her 25th birthday by defending her title in the women’s race, just eight days after winning and breaking her own course record at the London Marathon.
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