There's a larger story here, that Meb Keflezighi, born in Africa, is as American as apple pie. Some people I respect grumble about his Americanism (he was born in Eritiea, and consider that tongue-twisting name) and maybe I'll get into that later.
Meb: He won the silver medal in the marathon in the Athens Olympics (2004). He sorta played it safe in the race and didn't go after Stefano Baldini for the gold. But he medaled for the USA, the first long-distance running medal for the USA in three decades.
A few weeks later, I was attending a baseball game in the Tropicana Dome in Tampa. They announced during the 7th inning stretch that there was a special American athlete in attendance that night, Meb Keflezighi. I started clapping.
The rest of the audience was silent. Who?
The announcer continued, "The silver medalist at the Olympic Marathon."
The Tropicana Dome erupted into cheers.
A few weeks later Meb ran the NYCM and finished 2d, to a Kenyan. A cash purse, don't you know. Can Americans ever seize the prize from persons whose existence is defined and controlled by the money derived from a contest?
Meb was fading. He didn't even qualify for the 2008 Olympics, His friend Ryan Shay died during that qualifying race in Central Park.
No American medaled in 2008.
I thought Meb was through. Too old, and hurt too. (He had suffered a dog attack while on a training run and had hurt his hamstring,)
Meb ran London this year and did a nice time. He was ninth in 2:09:21, first American, but nice guys finish last. Ryan Hall is the new American darling. He finished 3d at Boston at 2:09 :40. You can't equate marathon courses, both Boston and New York are considered very difficult.
I have run against Meb. A few days after London, at a 3-Miler in the District, I ran and beat him. Hooray for me.
Meb was pacing a politician. How American can you get?
I was dying to get this picture taken with an American hero. Meb WAS American long distance running.
Uh, Meb IS American long distance running. He won the NYCM today, wearing (and pointing to) an American singlet as he entered Central Park, at the spot where fellow American Ryan Shay collapsed and died in 2007.
Meb outdueled 4-time Kenyan winner of the Boston Marathon, Robert Cheruiot, in the final miles, Ryan Hall didn't make it to this closing party, finishing fourth in 2:10:36. Meb cried afterwards, knowing that he did it for a fellow American Ryan Shay.
I cried too when a friend called me and told me what Meb had done. She thought that Meb wasn't quite American but I knew. Meb has brought American long-distance running back to where Frank Shorter left it in the seventies. (I have a Frank Shorter story too, that's how old I am.)
American hero, Meb Keflezighi. Woot Meb.