Resilience and records power Boston Marathon

Posted by Katie Peverada

By now, even people on the periphery of the sports world know that on Monday, Meb Keflezighi became the first American man to win the Boston marathon since Greg Meyer did it in in 1983. Undoubtedly, the most important aspect of Keflezighi 's victory was the exclamation point it put on the recovery and response of the city of Boston in the wake of last year's bombings.

But Keflezighi 's win also put an exclamation on four incredible, jaw-dropping and record-breaking performances that all four Elite races wielded.

For Keflezighi, who came to the U.S. from Eritrea in 1987 when he was 12, he set a personal record for 26.2 miles with a time of 2:08:37. He also came into this race as an underdog and an afterthought, with people citing his injuries and age (38) as hindrances to hanging with the likes of Lelisa Desisa or Moses Mosup. There were five men in the elite field that have run faster than 2:05. But Keflezighi has always had it in him, as he won a silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics, finished fourth at the London games and won New York in 2009. Keflezighi didn't set a record time or win by a large margin, but he did something different than the pack expected. He and fellow American Josphat Boit made a move around mile eight, catching a cautious pack by surprise. By the time he got to the 25k mark, his lead was up to a minute. The thing about the Boston Marathon, though, is that there's something called the Newton Hills. Keflezighi should have lost time there but he attacked them and maintained his lead. Wilson Chebet made a move of his own, running 5k in 14:29 and, for the first time, Keflezighi looked over his shoulder. Chebet got within six seconds of him, but Keflezighi held on for the win after finding a final push as he turned down Boylston Street. It marked the 45th time an American man has won the race (and, quite possibly, the first time the winning male won wearing Skechers!)

The elite women's race featured the most impressive performances of the day. Rita Jeptoo defended her 2013 title, and won her third Boston overall, with a finish time of 2:18:57, breaking the course record of 2:20:43. It marked the first time in Boston history that a woman broke the 2:20 mark. Second place finisher Buzunesh Deba also broke the 2:20 mark and the old course record, coming in at 2:19:59. These fast paced times were not at all surprising, given the way the race started.

American Shalane Flanagan, aiming to become the first American woman to win the race since Lisa Larsen Weidenbach in 1985, set a blistering pace when the gun went off in Hopkinton. Flanagan seemingly tried to outrun the group, but it stayed together through 5:10 splits in the second mile and ran a 5:20 split over the first half of the race, breezing through the 13.1 mark with a 1:09:20 half. None of the women were able to shake each other. None of them probably dared to even try, as at the pace Flanagan went through the first 15, it was next to impossible to break away without emptying the tank. Eventually, a group of about five decided to make a move on Flanagan, together pushing the pace as they neared the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, the final climb of the Newton Hills. Eventually, Jeptoo and Deba broke from the back too, with the lead flip-flopping. But in the 24th mile, Jeptoo did something absolutely mind-boggling and ran a 4:48 mile. Cameras showed her running faster than the Green Line T in the background. At one point, according to commentator Larry Rawson, Jeptoo was even running faster than Keflezighi.

Flanagan ultimately finished seventh with a PR of 2:22:02, clearly not the result she set out to get with her ambitious pacing. However, without her pacing, Jeptoo wouldn't have set the record and this wouldn't have been one of the highest quality women's marathons in history.

But Jeptoo wasn't the only repeat marathon winner at Boston this year, as Tayana McFadden won her second consecutive title in convincing fashion, finishing over two minutes ahead of Wakako Tsuchida in 1:35:06.

McFadden's victory was her second major marathon victory in eight days, as on April 13 she won the London Marathon, setting a new course record in the process. With these two wins, McFadden is halfway to a second-straight, same-year Grand Slam (winning all four major marathons). McFadden, who didn't compete in her first marathon until 2009, has now won every major marathon that she's run, including New York (2010, 2013), Chicago (2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013), Boston (2013, 2014) and London (2013, 2014). And, for what it's worth, McFadden just brought home a silver medal from Sochi in the 1km Sprint sitting cross-country skiing event. Though, it was just her second career Boston victory, it's not outrageous to imagine McFadden winning a couple more and maybe, eventually, catching American Jean Driscoll, who holds the career record at Boston with eight.

But, no matter how many more victories McFadden gets at Boston, it'll be hard to catch the winningest competitor at Boston, Ernst Van Dyk. Van Dyk, from South Africa, won his 10th career title in 1:20:36. Van Dyk hadn't won in Boston since 2010 finishing third, sixth and second in the years between victories. But this year, Van Dyk took the lead and never looked back. There was no doubt that Van Dyk would recover from the previous years and win the race.

How very Bostonian of him.

Emotionally, the city showed its resilience, coming out in full force and lining the streets. Physically, the athletes pushed their bodily limits. It all seems fitting. This year's marathon was one of the greatest collective running efforts of all time. In typical Boston attitude, they had to be the best.

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