Few athletes tear me up like Meb. I was in the middle of the Stanford track when Meb gutted out the AR for 10,000m in 2001. I was in the thick of the heat and humidty of Athens in 2004, wondering how he would keep his medal position. And I was floored in his NYC win, but terrified he might loose the battle for Boston in 2014. It was, after the senseless horror of 2013 Boston, a message from the gods of running. Meb made us smile and feel good again.
In Houston, Meb has been busy. He met fans at the Fleet Feet in Houston on Friday night, and he is starting one of the races on Sunday. He keeps his sponsor, Skechers (and his many others) smiling. The hardest working man in the sport (besides his brother, Hawi) appreciates sponsor support and the life he has built through his running for his lovely family.
This is the journal of my near month of trials and tribulations along the road. I journeyed to Copenhagen, Denmark, Paris, France, London, England, and Boston, MA. Each city has its charms and each event had a unique footprint in the sport. This is my entry for Monday, April 21, 2014.
Shalane Flanagan put on the hurt, photo by PhotoRun.net
Meb Keflezighi takes Boston, photo by PhotoRun.net
So, here is how I saw the 118th Boston Marathon.
Shalane Flanagan and Meb Keflezighi ran nearly the same races yesterday. On Shalane's side, the women were ready to race. On the men's side, the men were not ready, not able and or underestimated Meb Keflezighi.
Shalane went out hard, hitting the 5k in 16:10, the 10k in 32:47 and the half marathon in 1:09:25. Shalane Flanagan gave it all she had, leading through 19 miles in 1:41:11, almost a minute under the course record pace!
" I was surprised so many women were still with me. I don't want the race to be easier. I want to be better." noted an emotional Shalane Flanagan.
Coach Jerry Schumacher noted that Shalane Flanagan was in shape to run 2:22 for the marathon. Shalane Flanagan ran 2:22:02. " I will be back until I win." noted a defiant Flanagan. The other day I noted that Shalane was full of piss and vinegar. She is. She is a fighter, and because of that, and her coach, she will come back and win Boston. One day.
Yesterday was Rita Jeptoo's day. " I did not feel good until after 10k." Well, after nineteen miles, Rita Jeptoo just broke the field. She turned a close race into a route. But, she would never had run so damn fast without our freckled faced butt kicker, Shalane Flanagan. Shalane is a distance animal. She reminds me of my former boss, Derek Clayton, who held the world record in the marathon. He told me that he felt best when he was grinding competitors into the ground. Shalane is the same way. She is going to run so hard that you have to consider a different sport.
Meb Keflezighi is a 13:11 5,000 meter guy, ran a 27:13 10,000m for the AR and, with the 39th best time in the field in Athens, won the Olympic silver medal. You figure it out. The guy knows how to race. And he has, for twenty years, had one of the best coaches at his side, to advise, cajole and humor him. That man is Bob Larsen.
Meb Keflezighi is an Olympic silver medalist. Check. He has won New York City Marathon against guys who were, on paper, three minutes faster than him.
Meb and Josephat Boit went to the lead, and just started building the race. They hit ten miles in 49:08, two minutes, five seconds down from CR pace. Meb hit 1:04:20 with Josephat and then, ran a 4:48 mile for mile 14, a 4:53 mile for mile 15 and a 4:37 mile for mile 16. " I kind of life to run by myself." Well, instead of wiping the guy out, Meb, just ran away from him.
Meb build up a lead of 40 seconds by twenty-three miles. At twenty four miles, with a 40 second lead, Wilson Chebet woke up and he and Frankline Chepkwony came after Meb.
"My big worry was two guys working together to get me. So, I looked back, saw some women, then a guy in a orange vest." noted Meb afterwards.
Wilson Chebet cut the lead to 6. 2seconds by mile 25. But, Meb Keflezighi would not give up. "Coach Larsen always told me to keep something in storage. I was not feeling well. With a kilo to go, I knew I had to run. I sprinted just before we hit Boylston, and I knew I would win. But, I could not grab a flag, because he was way too close.'
Meb Keflezighi felt the cheers of nearly a million people on the course, " ten deep" per Race Director David McGillivray, as he went around the course. "I was worrying about a couple of guys working together to get me. I sprinted onto Boylston. I loved hearing the USA chant. I represent the USA every day of my life."
Meb Keflezighi became the first American male to win the Boston marathon in 31 years. Greg Meyer, the 1983 winner, greeted Meb at the finish line, whispering him congratulations.
When I spoke to Coach Larsen later on Monday he told me that while he thought Meb could run 2:08, he did not think that 2:08 would win. Wilson Chebet has a PB that is nearly four minutes ahead of Meb.
My thoughts are muddled, but here we go: The women were here to race. The men did not know what they wanted. Let's Run did a piece where it appears that Ryan Hall sacrificed himself for Meb. That, in my mind is just plain wrong. Ryan Hall was never a factor in the race. He needs to remember that talent, a gift from God, is fleeting, and he needs to conserve that talent and use it at the right times.
Meb was underestimated by the field. Perhaps most of the guys were not ready to race. Perhaps drug testing is having its desired effect and keeping the fields clean. Whatever the reason, Meb Keflezighi won the 2014 Boston marathon with blood, toil and sweat. He did it the old fashioned way: he earned it.
Shalane Flanagan ran her race. Unfortunately, it was also helpful to a few others. 2:22:02 would have won in all but three Boston marathons, I believe.
Rita Jeptoo, a true talent, ran the last seven miles of Boston well, running 4:48 for the 25th mile, and finishing it off with a 5:02 mile! Jeptoo ran 2:18:57, on a course that is one of the toughest in the world.
Anyone who says that Boston is an aided course has not run the Newton Hills. I ran PBs at five miles, ten miles, fifteen miles and then, by 21 miles, I was a goner. My dreams of a 2:40 marathon evaporated into a 3:23.
Respect Boston or it will hurt you.
But, Monday night, as I walked back to the Charlesmark hotel, I was happily surprised to see runners out, fans out, people enjoying the warm weather, the unseasonably warm weather, and the glow that comes with a wonderful Boston marathon.
As they put the wreath on the heads of the Olympic champions of old, they reminded them, fame is fleeting.
When Meb Keflezighi wore the wreath of the the Boston winner, he was emotionally shot, but that same whisper could be heard, and Meb Keflezighi, the man who ended the drought smiled and looked around, through his sweat stained face and eyes drained of tears and breathed it all in.
The drought was over.