After San Diego’s Meb Keflezighi won the 118th Boston Marathon on Monday, Councilman David Alvarez tweeted, “Thrilled and proud that my friend @runmeb has won the Boston Marathon!”
Keflezighi [Kuh-FLEZ-kee] and his family immigrated to the United States as refugees from Eritrea when he was 12. He attended Roosevelt Middle School and San Diego High School, where he ran track and won both the 1600 meters and 3200 meters at the CIF California State Championships in 1994.
He also won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympic marathon.
Also taking to Twitter to congratulate the veteran runner were Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Longtime San Diego track coach Paul Greer told 10News that Keflezighi is a great role model to children and adults.
“He’s well-spoken, he’s very humble,” Greer said. “He’s a hard worker — he personifies hard work.”
Greer told the station he plans to arrange a celebration for Keflezighi, who maintains his residence in San Diego and trains in Mammoth.
Here’s how major news outlets covered the historic victory:
BOSTON – In one of the most memorable victories in Boston Marathon history, Meb Keflezighi became the first American man since 1983 to wear the laurel wreath. With the backdrop of so much tragedy, in front of many of those gravely wounded in last year’s attacks, Keflezighi raised his arms in victory as he crossed the finish line at 2:08:37.
He looked up to the sky, then kissed the ground three times. He took a bow, then emotion won out as he put his hands over his face and broke into tears. … Keflezighi’s win was entirely unexpected. Turning 39 next month, his best days seemed to be in his past, especially given the Kenyan stronghold on the race. Since 1991, a runner from Kenya has won the men’s race 19 times.
Keflezighi held off Wilson Chebet of Kenya who finished 11 seconds behind. The 38-year-old from San Diego looked over his shoulder several times over the final mile. After realizing he wouldn’t be caught, he raised his sunglasses, began pumping his right fist and made the sign of the cross.
A past New York City Marathon winner and Olympic silver medalist, Mr. Keflezighi bowed to the crowd after crossing the finish line before hunching over and weeping.
“When the Red Sox won (the World Series), I said, ‘I want to win it as a runner for Boston,'” Mr. Keflezighi said. “Win it for the people.”
Keflezighi fist-pumped through the final meters before reaching the finish and bursting into tears. No U.S. runner had won the race since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach took the women’s title in 1985; the last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983.
The skies were sunny and slightly on the cooler side, good for the almost 36,000 runners who intended to brave the grueling 26.2 miles from Hopkinton, Mass., to downtown Boston. For almost a week, the city has been the scene of memorials and tributes designed to commemorate the horror of last year’s bombings, remember the dead, praise first responders and seek emotional renewal.
Race organizers expanded the field by some 9,000 runners this year, to allow the roughly 5,000 athletes who had been left on the course last year when the twin pressure-cooker bombs went off near the finish line another chance to compete. Amateur runners often work for years to post the strict age-graded times needed to qualify for the elite race.
The 38-year old Olympic silver medalist is also the oldest man to win the event since 1930, when 40-year old Clarence deMar took first place. Keflezighi finished 11 seconds ahead of second place finisher, Wilson Chebet of Kenya. The women’s race was won for a second consecutive year by Rita Jeptoo with a course record time of 2:18:57
The crowd roared as Keflezighi crossed the finish line, celebrating a much-needed victory in the historic race.
“We are resilient, we never gave up,” he said after the race. “My whole run is to run strong – Boston strong, Meb strong.”
“The last five miles was a tunnel of people,” he told the race’s official announcer. “Last year was just terrible, and coming back and seeing how strong Boston has become, and seeing all the people, it’s a big moment.”
He said when the Red Sox won the World Series and the trophy was brought to the finish line by outfielder Jonny Gomes, Keflezighi vowed to do the same. “God bless America,” he added after the race.
Keflezighi withdrew before last year’s Boston Marathon with a calf injury, 10 days before the race, but was in the stands, leaving about five minutes before the bombs went off.
“The bomb happened, and every day since, I said I want to come back and win it,” Keflezighi said. “Beyond words.”
American Meb Kefelzighi, 38, a member of the New York Athletic Club, won the men’s race with a time of 2:08:37, a personal best and the second fastest for an American male at Boston.
“I have accomplished everything I’ve wanted to accomplish in my running career except for a Boston title,” said Keflezighi, of San Diego, Calif., Friday.
— City News Service contributed to this report.