In perhaps the most emotional and daring victory in the history of the world’s most fabled road race, Meb Keflezighi became the first American man in 31 years to win the Boston Marathon, running away from the field and hanging on to claim the 118th edition in 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 37 seconds.
That time was 11 seconds ahead of Kenya’s Wilson Chebet and 31 seconds faster than Keflezighi’s personal best.
Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2009 New York champion who was making his third bid here but his first since 2010 when he placed fifth, was the first domestic titlist since Greg Meyer in 1983. Meyer embraced Keflezighi at the finish line not far from where two deadly bombs terminated last year’s race.
“It was not about me,” said Keflezighi. “It was about Boston Strong.”
The 38-year-old Keflezighi, an emigre from Eritrea who resettled in San Diego with his 10 siblings, was the oldest male victor since Medford’s Smiling Jimmy Henigan in 1931. By the 8-mile mark, Keflezighi and Josphat Boit had an eight-second gap on the pack.
Coming out of Wellesley Hills, Keflezighi was all alone. By the firehouse turn heading into the Newton hills, his lead had grown to 14 seconds. With three miles to go Keflezighi was up by 40 seconds but was grimacing visibly as Chebet was closing. But he found a final burst coming into Kenmore Square and clinched the laurel wreath with a dash down Boylston Street, alternately pumping his first and looking over his shoulder as Chebet and countryman Frankline Chepkwony gave chase.
Keflezighi, who was forced to withdraw before last year’s race, still came to Boston to watch and was inside the Fairmont Copley Plaza when the bombs went off. “A tragedy happened in our life,” he said on Friday. “Somehow, some way, we have to overcome.”