ON SUNDAY, MEB KEFLEZIGHI ran the last competitive marathon of his life. And though he crossed the finish line in Central Park in 11th place, with a time of 2:15:29, the 42-year-old distance running star capped a remarkable career, 15 years after his first New York City Marathon.
Keflezighi (right), the only runner—male or female—to have won the New York City and Boston marathons as well as an Olympic marathon medal, has been at the center of many watershed moments in American running history. His silver medal in Athens in 2004 was the first Olympic medal won by a U.S. man in the marathon since Frank Shorter's silver in 1976, and he won New York in 2009, just a year after he broke his hip during trials for the Beijing Olympics. And of course, his unexpected win in Boston in '14, a year after the bombings, lifted up an entire city—and one fellow runner, in particular.
"He was a part of healing Boston, and that's my hometown," Shalane Flanagan said on Sunday. "His performance meant the world to me. Today I thought, Just be like Meb."
And so, just days after a terrorist attack struck downtown Manhattan, it was Flanagan (left) who outpaced a tough women's field, including three-time defending champion Mary Keitany of Kenya. Flanagan, a 36-year-old former track star who had battled a back injury for much of the pastyear, ran away with the victory, finishing with a time of 2:26:53 to become the first U.S. woman to win the New York City Marathon since Miki Gorman in 1977. After Flanagan crossed the finish line, among the first people she hugged were members of Keflezighi's family.
"I was thinking of Meb," Flanagan said afterward. "I was thinking of how I wanted to make him proud today, and I think I did."