Meb Keflezighi wins Boston Marathon
— -- BOSTON -- "The Star-Spangled Banner" played over Boylston Street in honor of an American winner of the Boston Marathon.
One year after a bombing there killed three people and left more than 260 injured, Meb Keflezighi added Boston to a résumé that includes the New York City Marathon title in 2009 and a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics.
Running just two weeks before his 39th birthday, he had the names of the four killed in the 2013 bombing and manhunt on his bib.
"At the end, I just kept thinking, 'Boston Strong. Boston Strong,'" he said. "I was thinking 'Give everything you have. If you get beat, that's it.'"
Keflezighi completed the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to the finish on Boylston Street in Boston's Back Bay on Monday in a personal-best 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds. He held off Kenya's Wilson Chebet, who finished 11 seconds behind.
In the women's division, Rita Jeptoo of Kenya successfully defended the title she said she could not enjoy a year ago after the fatal bombings.
Jeptoo finished the race in a course-record 2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds to become the seventh three-time Boston Marathon champion. She broke away from a group of five runners at the 23-mile mark. Buzunesh Deba finished second with an unofficial time of 2:19:59.
Keflezighi went out early and built a big lead. But he was looking over his shoulder several times as Chebet closed the gap over the final two miles. After realizing he wouldn't be caught, Keflezighi raised his sunglasses, began pumping his right fist and made the sign of the cross. He broke into tears after crossing the finish line, then draped himself in the American flag.
President Barack Obama sent his congratulations on Twitter, and a call was arranged so the two could talk Tuesday.
Keflezighi's eyes widened with excitement as he thought about talking with the president. "I'm going to say thank you for the opportunity that the land of the U.S. has given me," he said Tuesday morning, later posting on Twitter a picture of himself on the phone with the message: "I have received many congratulatory calls, but I just received THE call from President."
No U.S. runner had won the race since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach took the women's title in 1985; the last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983. Meyer and Keflezighi embraced after the race. At age 38, Keflizighi is the oldest winner of the Boston Marathon since 38-year-old James P. Henigan won the race in 1931.
"I'm blessed to be an American, and God bless America and God bless Boston for this special day," Keflezighi said.
After breaking a 27-year American drought at the New York marathon, Keflezighi contemplated retiring after the 2012 NYC Marathon. But that race was canceled because of Superstorm Sandy, and he pulled out of the Boston Marathon in April 2013 because of injury.
He was the first American to win a medal in an Olympic marathon since Frank Shorter won gold in 1972 and silver in 1976. Keflezighi also is the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since prize money was first awarded in 1986.
Marathon officials said 35,755 runners registered for the race, with 32,408 unofficial starters. The field included just under 5,000 runners who did not finish last year and accepted invitations to return this year.
Another American, Tatyana McFadden, celebrated her 25th birthday Monday by winning the women's wheelchair race for the second straight year. She was timed in in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 6 seconds.
McFadden was born in Russia and lived in an orphanage as a child before starring at the University of Illinois. She also won the 2013 NYC Marathon women's wheelchair race after taking the titles in Boston, London and Chicago last year.
Ernst van Dyk of South Africa won the men's wheelchair division for a record 10th time. The 41-year-old crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 20 minutes, 36 seconds.
Van Dyk holds the record for most all-categories Boston Marathon wins. This was his first win at this race since 2010.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN Stats & Information was included in this report.