It’s been nearly ten years since Jim Henley and I trotted along in the 2004 Marine Corps Marathon, with Jim inventing a “pick me up” cheer whenever either of our energy levels flagged… we would just scream “Meb Keflezighi” at the top of our lungs. And dozens of marathons later (or even on other occasions), I sometimes still do.
Maybe it’s not “fair” that the premier American marathoner of our time is technically imported– none other than Eritrean-born Meb Keflezighi, Olympic silver medalist in Athens, winner of the New York City Marathon and now, the first American winner of the Boston Marathon in over thirty years. And an American wins Boston, in this, the year after the finish line of the storied Boston Marathon itself became the site of a deadly bombing, with much poignant recollection.
Meb, who will turn 39 in less than a fortnight’s time, represents the best of America. Not just that he is, at the moment, its finest distance runner… but that this nation, of which I am not infrequently quite critical, still takes in those yearning for freedom, be they my own forbears from Eastern Europe, or a refugee from the war-torn region of Ethiopia that became Eritrea, America opened her arms, and by and large, has been pretty cool about it. (We might mention another immigrant from Africa, whose son is now President of the United States). And, of course, we’re religiously tolerant (or at least had been until recently). And we have talented painters, too.
Meb Keflezighi. You are my hero.