Running back in the pack with 40,000 marathoners, I was probably one of the last people to learn that American Meb Keflezighi won the New York City marathon this morning, and I couldn't be more excited for him, and the sport of running in the U.S.
This is a historic win -- and by no means an easy one. Mary Wittenberg and the New York Road Runners assembled one of the toughest fields in the marathon's history. Most of the eyes were on Ryan Hall, since he has the fastest PR of the American field, but Meb is an Olympic medalist and always a contender in any race. We've already known that the Americans can run with the best in the world. But Meb's incredible effort today shows that we can beat them. I mean, he out-kicked Kenya's Robert Cheruiyot, the "king of Boston," over the final three miles. Wearing a USA singlet. Pointing to the USA on his chest as he came to the line. Amazing.
Born in Eritrea in 1974, Meb has been living in the U.S. since his family immigrated in 1987, when Meb was 13. He came up through the public school system (San Diego High School), ran cross country and track, and went on run at UCLA. He became a citizen in 1998, and finished second at the 2004 Olympic Games, and his silver there, and Deena Kastor's bronze for the women, showed the American marathoners were a force to be reckoned with. Meb finished second in the 2004 New York City Marathon, third in 2005, and third at Boston in 2006. But a win at a major race has been elusive for the Americans. No American had won NYC since 1982. Now Meb's got it, and so do we.
Hall finished fourth, an amazing showing as well. Among the men, there were six—six!—Americans in the top ten. And on the women's side, American Magdalena Lewy Boulet finished 6th.
On Friday, when I asked the international elites what they thought about their American competitors, South African star Hendrick Ramaala put it this way: "They just have to believe."
And now, who among us doesn't?
Photo courtesy New York Road Runners