Sweat. Tears. Triumph.
A San Diego High School alumnus, who has cleared several hurdles in his life, claimed an amazing victory on Sunday. Meb Keflezighi became the first American man to win the New York City Marathon since 1982.
Wearing "USA" on his chest, Keflezighi ran the incredible time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 15 seconds. He pulled away from Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya in the 23rd mile to beat the four-time Boston Marathon champ by 41 seconds. Alberto Salazar had been the last American men's champion, taking three straight titles from 1980-82.
Born in Eritrea, the 34-year-old became a U.S. citizen in 1998 after his family fled war to thrive in a new home in San Diego in 1987.
"It can't get any better," Keflezighi said. "The USA gave me all the opportunities there is in education, sports and lifestyle. To be able to represent the USA is a big thing for me."
Keflezighi began running in junior high in San Diego. He graduated from San Diego High School in 1994 as the first person ever to be awarded the Union Tribune All Academic/Athlete Team Captain two years in a row, according to his biography. He then went on to star at UCLA.
"Definitely today wearing that USA jersey got the crowd going," he said. "Definitely wore it with big honor and pride."
Keflezighi hobbled to eighth at the trials two years ago, then later found out he had a stress fracture in his hip. Long days of rehab followed, and he didn't feel 100 percent until early this year.
"A lot of people were kind of starting to write him off, saying he's older and he's had too many injuries and all this," said Hall, Keflezighi's neighbor and occasional training partner in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
That day in 2007 he also lost close friend Ryan Shay, who collapsed and died during the race. When he ran by the spot where Shay collapsed, Keflezighi crossed himself.
"To get the second chance -- you know, unfortunately Ryan is not here," he said. "But injuries are something that you recover from. A lot of things you can recover from in life."
Keflezighi will return to San Diego in December to start training after taking a vacation to see family living on the East Coast, “I can’t wait to celebrate in San Diego and cherish the moment there,” he said.
The win will energize the San Diego running community and as Keflezighi pointed out, the weather is great for year round training and working out.
“I would hope to be an inspiration to get people involved in fitness and exercise is a very therapeutic way to release stress,” he said. “I love San Diego, San Diego is home-- San Diego raised me and all the credit goes to them.”
Sports Analyst Derek Togerson Explains Why This Win is So Incredible
Congratulations to Meb Keflezighi, the first American to win the New York City Marathon since Alberto Salazar in 1982. Let me try to put into perspective just how amazing the win is.
First of all, consider the competition. Just about every world-class marathoner on earth runs this race, so it's not like the University of Florida football team beating up on Charleston Southern. Meb beat the best of the best.
Second, consider the time. He finished in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 15 seconds. That means he averaged a 4 minute, 55 second mile -- for the entire race! If you can run one mile under 6 minutes without your heart exploding you're probably a world-class athlete.
At 34, Meb is in his prime as a distance runner. If he can avoid injury, he'll be one of the favorites to win a gold medal in London at the 2012 Olympic games.