History was made at the Boston Marathon yesterday when Meb Keflezighi became the first American man to win the race since 1983, a women’s course record was set by Kenyan Rita Jeptoo, and more than 32,000 runners returned to an event marred by terrorism a year ago.
Thousands more lined the course of the 118th Boston Marathon in a show of Boston’s strength as it continued its recovery from the twin bombings that claimed three lives and injured more than 260 at the 2013 event. Keflezighi became the first American man to win the event since Greg Meyer in 1983, finishing in a time of 2:08:37, his personal best for a marathon. He said the crowd, and last year’s tragedy, motivated him.
“The crowd was phenomenal. I used them and they used me. The energy was just phenomenal,” he said. “Toward the end I was remembering the victims who passed away. I said ‘I’m going to use the energy to win, just like the Red Sox did.’” A three-time Olympian, Keflezighi won the 2009 New York City Marathon and finished third in Boston in 2006. He also won the silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
“I would say my career was 99 percent fulfilled (before the race),” Keflezighi said. “Now it’s 105 percent fulfilled.” “It was not about me,” added Keflezighi. “It was about Boston Strong.”
Separating herself from the lead pack with a long and punishing stride, Rita Jeptoo of Kenya became a three-time winner of the Boston Marathon, flying to the finish in a course-record time of 2:18:57. Her time was 1 minute 46 seconds faster than the previous course record of 2:20:43 set in 2002 by Margaret Okayo of Kenya. It was Jeptoo’s second consecutive Boston victory. She won last year’s race in 2:26:25. Officials said 35,755 runners started the race in Hopkinton on an ideal spring morning, a year and a week after the 2013 race. Ernst Van Dyk returned to the winner’s circle for a record 10th time.
The 41-year-old South African won the men’s wheelchair division with an unofficial time of 1:20:36. Van Dyk led from start to finish, capturing his first Boston victory since 2010. Tatyana McFadden made her 25th birthday a winning one, successfully defending her women’s wheelchair title. McFadden, who won last year’s race in her Boston debut, scored her second win in impressive fashion. She pushed past Tsuchida Wakako of Japan near the halfway point, and kept on building her lead. McFadden – the only person ever to sweep four big races in a single year (London, Boston, Chicago, and New York in 2013 – won a silver medal in Sochi at the Paralympic Games earlier this year, then defended her London Marathon title last week.
Born in Russia and adopted by Deborah McFadden as a 6-year-old, McFadden now lives in Maryland, and attends the University of Illinois. As she did a year ago in Boston, McFadden was content to stay back in the first half of the race, then grabbed the lead and took charge.
Keflezighi waved to the crowd on Boylston Street as he neared the finish, and celebrated his win with a few pushups on the pavement just past the finish line. Kenyans Wilson Chebet and Frankline Chepwony pushed him at the finish, but a strong kick after the turn from Hereford put Keflezighi 11 seconds ahead at the tape.
Marblehead native Shalane Flanagan stormed to the front at the start of the race and led for the first 18 miles, setting a blistering pace. Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba caught her at mile 20, and she faded through the Newton hills to finish seventh, 3 minutes and 5 seconds behind Jeptoo. Deba finished second, followed by fellow Ethiopian Mare Dibaba.
Flanagan finished with a time of 2:22:02, the fastest time ever by an American woman in Boston. She said Joan Benoit Samuelson, a two-time Boston winner, told her to “run my own race and see if it was good enough to win. So I went for it.” She said the spectators lining the route “were out of this world phenomenal, deafening. It was a most amazing, memorable day.”
article by Matt Pepin, John Powers, Michael Whitmer and Michael Vega via bostonglobe.com