San Diego’s Meb Keflezighi – the runner who won the 2014 Boston Marathon last month – got quite the homecoming Saturday when locals gathered to celebrate his big victory with an outdoor party at his former high school.
The “Walk with Meb” and welcome home shindig ran from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at San Diego High School’s Balboa Stadium and Track located at 1405 Park Blvd. .
Holding hands with family members, Keflezighi took a victory lap around the very track that he called home for so many years.
“It’s great to be here, back at my high school, San Diego High School, where it all started – freshman year, 1990,” Keflezighi told NBC 7 as he took a lap around the track with fellow San Diegans.
“This is amazing. People who’ve been here through the bad and the good, the ups and downs of life. My parents are here, my siblings are here and family and teachers – this is just an amazing moment for me. Thank you so much,” he added.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer presented Keflezighi with a key to America’s Finest City. Keflezighi was honored by the gesture.
The crowd looked on proudly, chanting "USA! USA! USA!" as Keflezighi took the podium.
He said those who are inspired by him should also be inspired by themselves, and always strive to achieve their dreams.
“When you set goals, you can achieve them. Always reach for the stars. Make small goals at a time, have fun and enjoy it. Do your best every time and never give up on your dreams,” he told NBC 7.
Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon on April 21 with the second fastest time for an American man in the history of the event. He was also the first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1983.
At the same time, the athlete also set a personal record, crossing the finish line with one fist pumping in the air with a time of 2:08:37. That's 30 seconds faster than his previous personal best of 2:09:08 in Houston two years ago at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“It was a very necessary moment for us, for the United States,” Keflezighi said of his big win.
“Coming as an American, to be able turn that left turn and to get that crowd going. I made sure to look up,” he said referring to the section of the course involved in last year's deadly bombing.
“This is beyond running. This is for the people. This is for Boston Strong,” he said at the finish line on April 21.
Born in Eritrea, 39-year-old Keflezighi and his family fled war to establish a new home in San Diego in 1987. He became a U.S. citizen in 1998.
The San Diego High School and UCLA alum has won four NCAA titles, the New York City marathon, and an Olympic silver medal in 2004.
After his NYC Marathon win in 2009, he talked with NBC 7 about growing up in San Diego and recalled the day his seventh grade teacher at Roosevelt Junior High gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“He just said ‘You run hard, you do the best that you can, you’re going to get an A or B. You goof around, you mess around, and you’re going to get D or F. I just took off like a bolt,” Meb said.
When he won the 2009 New York City Marathon, Keflezighi became the first American to cross that finish line first in 27 years.
Though the champion said he feels like his career "has been fulfilled," he plans to run the NYC Marathon next and compete in the Boston Marathon again next year.