Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hail Meb

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.

9 comments:

DawnB said...

I was there and didn't even know all everyone kept saying was an American won. Outstanding can't wait to watch the tape

Anne said...

Meb's a hometown hero here in San Diego. And all-American, if you ask me. I cried too when I saw the finish on TV today. The commentators seemed to be rooting for Ryan Hall until he faded. That just made Meb's victory all the sweeter.

Rainmaker said...

Inded, good write-up. It was a pretty cool race to watch Live on TV.

David said...

Race coverage on the Web (WNBC TV) was very good. When I tuned in Ryan was off the grid when the leaders were at Mile 20, just into the Bronx. It was an incredible scene watching Meb take over as soon as he entered Central Park. (While you are correct that Shay collapsed in the park, the "spot" was not on the course of the race.)
Nevertheless, it was a gret day for U-S-A and Meb the American.
Hall finished strong, moving from 7th to 4th over the last five miles.

Petraruns said...

Meb did a great job - for America, for Eritrea, for refugees (talk about making a contribution to your host country) and for long distance running. He's a fantastic inspiration to all of us!

ShirleyPerly said...

I was so happy to hear the news about Meb winning NYCM. I missed seeing the race but hope to see a replay of his finish.

Sunshine said...

Hurrah for Meb.
Was it ever fun to see coverage of NYC marathon.. in between football games.
Hurrah to you for a great picture of the 2 of you.

yumke said...

Well said, it was a great race and a surprising nice ending.

Just_because_today said...

Good to have an american on the top of the list