The 118 th Boston Marathon will be remembered for so many reasons. High on that list will be Meb Keflezighi's stunning victory over the best field ever assembled in Boston history. Mary Kate Shea, John Hancock's elite athlete field developer wanted a woman under 2:20 and an American win. Well, she got three women under the course record, two under 2:20 and an American win!
Meb on a roll, photo by PhotoRun.net
Meb Keflezighi, in a performance reminiscent of Frank Shorter in Munich, took the lead at eight miles in the 2014 Boston Marathon, and just build up a lead, at times to 35 seconds. What Frank Shorter did not have to contend with, however, was that runners came back after him. Meb Keflezighi held off his competitors, over the last two miles. The chasing pack, which included Dennis Kimetto, Wilson Chebet, Markos Geneti, Ryan Hall, among others, just watched from afar. When it came time to attack, no one would follow Wilson Chebet and Frankline Chepkwony.
Early on, Meb Keflezighi ran with Josephat Boit, and they passed the 5k in 15:09 and 10k in 30:28. At 10k, Desisa Lelisa was up with Meb and Josephat. By 15k, reached in 45:46, it was down to Josephat Boit and Meb Keflezighi.
Meb Keflezighi, photo by PhotoRun.net
Meb looked good as he ran, reminding me of what his coach, Bob Larsen had told me earlier this week. " Meb had some good weeks of training and he is fit." Bob NEVER talks like that. Heck, Meb never has over six to eight weeks of healthy training. This time around, Coach Larsen, about as smart as they come, Meb had some good solid training, but also, some accommodations to his age. There was a decrease in the mileage, and a focus on recovery between the strong workouts.
"Muscle memory" is how David Murphy, 1984 second place NYC Marathon, and long time press room announcer at the BAA Boston Marathon. "The marathon takes a lot out you, all the way to the mitochondria level."
Meb Keflezighi, a man who has run 13:11 for 5,000 meters, 27:18.81 for 10,000 meters (long time AR), and finished fourth in the 2012 London Marathon, in 2:11:06. Since then, Meb ran a 2:22:47, virtually on one leg, at the 2013 ING NYCM. He should not have done what he did today.
But, as usual, I have digressed. Back to the race.
Meb Keflezighi, holding up a trophy for all of America,
photo by PhotoRun.net
Meb Keflezighi and Josephat Boit hit the halfway in 1:04:20, not a pedestrian pace, but not fast, by any standards. The chasing pack, lead by Ryan Hall, Nick Arcianaga, among others, was 35 seconds down at this point.
And then, at 25k, Meb Keflezighi took off. In mile 14, Meb ran 4:48, then, 4:53, then, BOOM!, 4:37 and Dynamo Hum, Meb Keflezighi had eight seconds on Josephat Boit.
Meb Keflezighi is a seasoned competitor. Give him five and half weeks (his average healthy training over the past six years, BEFORE a marathon), and the guy delivers. It did not click when Coach Larsen told me on Saturday that Meb had done some pretty good training. Not one to brag, nor one to underestimate, Larsen is prone to honesty. He is not a good bs artist.
Meb just kept running, hitting 30k in 1:31:09, after having run the fastest 10k of the race (30:36)
Hitting the 20 mile mark in 1:37:52, Meb ran strong through all of the hills, getting through Heartbreak Hill and 21 miles in 1:43:04, with a 5:12 mile up the last hill. Now, it was virtually all downhill for the final 8k.
But, where was the chasing pack. " We were following Meb, and I heard the 25k split, but no one would go with me. So, I ran after Meb." noted Wilson Chebet.
At 23 miles, Meb Keflezighi started to grimace, and was looking back a bit, but, as other observers would tell you, he was looking back the entire race, to see where the field was. The chasing pack was forty seconds back.
What had happened to the chasing pack? Did they go bowling or something?
Au contraire, mes amis. Wilson Chebet and Frankline Chepkwony both were chasing Meb Keflezighi. Chebet, cut the 40 second lead at 23 miles, to 12 seconds at 24 miles, to 6.2 seconds at 25 miles.
Funny thing was, Wilson Chebet , a 2:05:36 (three marathons between 2:05:51 and 2:05:36), was gaining fast. Meb was fighting furiously.
"Coach Larsen had told me always to keep something in reserve. I knew that Wilson was very fast and that he and Frankline were close."
This is, however, where a champion shows his or her stuff.
From 40 kilometers to the finish, as Meb Keflezighi was experienced the Miles of Trials and Trials of Miles, quoting author John Parker (cult classic Once a Runner), Meb found another gear and took that 6.2 second lead, built it to 8 seconds, and then to twelve seconds.
Wilson Chebet, with a kilometer to go, started looking back. Frankline Chepkwony was charging down the road, going for second place, hell bent on that position.
Meb Keflezighi, he of the Olympic silver from 2004 and a fourth place in the Olympics in 2012, a PB of 27:13.81, just poured it on, the best he could.
At 42 kilometers, sensing victory, as the Boston crowds, knowing that THEIR Meb Keflezighi was about to make history, Meb started to wave and finished, in tears, exhaustion and happiness, in 2:08:37.
Wilson Chebet was second and Frankline Chepkwony was third.
Meb Keflezighi had just ended the drought. American males had not won since 1983. Meb Keflezighi, the American dream, had found the open arms of this country as a child, and after seeing a FootLocker cross country race, built himself from a fine high school runner to a four time NCAA champion at UCLA, to an Olympic silver medalist.
Meb Keflezighi is the first American male to win the Olympic silver medal, then, win NYC (2009) Marathon, and now, Boston Marathon (2014). " Winning one medal in the Olympics or one Marathon Major can be put off to a fluke, but winning Boston, NYC and an Olympic medal, that is a true talent" commented TV announcer Toni Reavis.
For Meb, it was more than that. " I had achieved 99.9 percent of my goals with the Olympic medal and NYC wins. With Boston, I have achieved 110 percent of my goals."
In the post race press conference, Meb Keflezighi hugged Marc Davis, Press room manager for the BAA. Marc preceded Meb at their high school, and Meb noted how much Marc was a role model for him.
Marc Davis texted the comments from Meb to Marc's mother, Sharon, who remembers Meb as a junior high student. She texted back to her son, Marc, that, while Meb was winning Boston , she was so excited, jumping up in down in her kitchen, that she burnt her chorizo omelet. Such is the price of victory.
While I was editing this piece, I came upon Coach Bob Larsen, longtime coach-advisor of Meb Keflezeghi. This is how he puts Meb's performance:
"We knew Meb could run 2:07 or 2:08, as he had run 2:09 here twice with injuries. His hamstring was an issue in NYC Half, so we decided on an even pace. I knew that he could run a 2:08, I am surprised he could win with a 2:08".
How else could I end this story?
Meb Keflezighi, the American dream, just ended one the longest droughts in American sports.
2014 BAA Boston Marathon, Men's final, 1. Meb Keflezighi, USA, 2:08:37 PB, 2. Wilson Chebet, KEN, 2:08:48, 3. Frankline Chepkwony, KEN, 2:08:50, 4. Vitaliy Shafar, UKR, 2:09:38, 5. Markos Geneti, ETH, 2:09:50, 6. Joel Kimurer, KEN, 2:11:03, 7. Nick Arciniaga, USA, 2:11:47 PB, 8. Jeffrey Eggleston, USA, 2:11:57, PB, 9. Paul Lonyangata, KEN, 2:12:34, 10. Adil Annani, MAR, 2:12:43, #bostonmarathon