11 Things to Know About Meb Keflezighi, the 38-Year-Old American Who Just Won the Boston Marathon
Meb Keflezighi is the toast of Boston (and America) as a result of becoming the first U.S. citizen to win the Boston Marathon since 1983. Despite his high standing in the marathon community, there's probably quite a few people who would like to known more about Meb. With this in mind, I've put together a list of 11 things you might want to know about Boston's newest champion.
It should be noted that a few of these facts come from Meb's autobiography Run to Overcome, which is available wherever books are sold.
Meb Keflezighi has won a lot of races. A lot.
While his winning the Boston Marathon might have come as a surprise to many given his age, it should be known that Meb Keflezighi is a very accomplished marathoner. Keflezighi won four NCAA championships at UCLA before turning pro upon graduating. He has also competed in three Olympics for the United States (2000, 2004, 2012), winning a silver medal at the Athens games in 2004 (more on that below). But his biggest career victory prior to Monday occurred at the New York City Marathon in 2009.
Meb was born in Eritrea and immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 12
Meb was born during a time of war in the tiny African country of Eritrea. His family daringly escaped the country and stayed in Italy before moving to the United States in 1987. Meb's upbringing made the bombings at last year's marathon especially traumatic.
“He was born in Eritrea when it was at war with Ethiopia, and one of his earliest memories as a young child was having to help clean up the debris of human flesh of a young boy who was playing with a bomb when it exploded,” Dick Patrick told the Boston Herald. “That’s why he was so emotional last year at the race, because he saw this whole thing coming back. It was like you almost can’t escape violence and these senseless killings.”
He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1998, the same year he graduated from UCLA.
He has also participated in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, which is pretty much the most American thing a person can do.
Meb wore the names of the victims of last year's bombings on his bib during the race
In addition to being the first American to win the Boston Marathon in 30 years, Keflezighi is also the oldest man to win the race since 1931
Keflezighi won the race just two weeks before turning 39, meaning he delivered the most age-defying performance the Marathon had seen since 38-year-old James P. Henigan won the race in 1931. But even Henigan's feat paled in comparison to Clarence DeMar, who won the race in 1930 at the age of 41. But by then winning was kind of old hat to DeMar -- he was victorious in the Boston Marathon seven times between 1911 and 1930.
Last year Skechers released this short documentary about him
He read the Top Ten List on Letterman in 2009
After winning the New York City marathon in 2009, Meb appeared on David Letterman to deliver the Top Ten list. While no video of the event is online, here's the list he recited:
Top Ten Thoughts That Go Through Your Mind When Running The New York City Marathon:
10. “Wow, Staten Island is even more beautiful than I imagined”
9. “Cool! MapQuest found a route that’s only five miles”
8. “Am I experiencing a runner’s high, or is it the bus fumes?”
7. “Is that the finish line or crime scene tape?”
6. “Why can I run 26 miles in less time than it takes to play a World Series game?”
3. “Who’s that little boy waving at me? Oh, it’s Mayor Bloomberg”
2. “I forgot to bring exact change for the Verrazano Bridge!”
1. “I really hope that was Gatorade”
His last name is pronounced "Keff-Lez-Gee"
As he adorably demonstrates in this video. His full first name is Mebrahtom.
Ten days before winning a silver medal in Athens, he was attacked by a German Shepherd while on a practice run
As Keflezighi wrote of the incident:
It was a scary moment. The dog -- a German shepherd with a big head and big body -- was going for my throat and knocked me over. For a moment, I thought I was going to die. It was surreal. I couldn't believe this was happening to me: I was out for a low-key training run, and some mutt was going for my jugular? And I had thought the real dogfight was going to be the race itself ... I was wearing a heart rate monitor, which showed I was at 110 beats a minute about 10 minutes into the run. This it spiked to 180 or so during the attack.
But that incident still wasn't as bizarre as the race itself...
Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima was winning the race in Athens before being pushed off-course by Neil Horan, an Irish priest who also disrupted the 2003 British Grand Prix. De Lima would finish third in the race and dominate headlines that day.
On unrelated note, Horan also appeared on Britain's Got Talent in 2009. He advanced to the second round.
Keflezighi broke his hip during the 2008 Olympic Trials. He failed to make the Team USA and many thought the injury signaled the end of his career
After Keflezighi suffered a stress fracture in his pelvis during the Olympic trails in 2007 in New York City he still completed the race, finishing eighth. The result wasn't good enough to send him to Beijing to represent the U.S.
Upon learning of the injury, his longtime coach Bob Larsen said "It has been an honor coaching you," assuming, like many experts did, that Meb's career was over. Keflezighi spent the entirety of 2008 rehabbing -- not running in a single marathon -- before returning in 2009, when he became the first American to win the New York City marathon in 27 years.