THE SIGHT of Meb Keflezighi, the San Diego-raised marathoner, speeding down Boylston Street as the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years was an indelible memory of a joyful day. All the Boston landmarks were there to meet him and the other runners, from the Hynes Convention Center to the Lenox Hotel to the Boston Public Library. Assessing the scene, it was hard not to believe that there is comfort in tradition and strength in continuity. Those are commonplace sentiments, to be sure, but most Bostonians can be excused for not appreciating them fully until this year’s Marathon. The vicious act of terrorism that struck last year’s Marathon failed to disrupt this year’s event. This spring really did bring renewal.
The good feeling was confirmed about four hours later, after it became clear that all the finishers would make it to Copley Square without any interference. The 3,500-person security net held, even as spectators lined some parts of the course, 8 to 10 deep, in a truly extraordinary show of civic pride and solidarity. They cheered on 36,000 runners, representing almost all the states of the union and nations of the world. Like the citizens of Massachusetts, the runners of the world did not let a traumatic event keep them away.
Then, of course, there was Keflezighi himself — a figure of inspiration in his own right. Known mostly by his first name, Meb came to the United States at the age of 12 as an Eritrean refugee, and began running at Roosevelt Middle School in San Diego. Having fled a civil war and abject poverty to build a life as a well-known athlete, the 38-year-old Meb is an immigrant success story. A graduate of UCLA, he runs a foundation promoting fitness among youth, advising that running is a source of balance in life. He was deeply aware of the significance of the race, wearing the names of the three spectators who lost their lives in last year’s bombings on his runner’s bib.
Meb’s personal journey is, in a sense, a standing refutation of that taken by the alleged perpetrators of last year’s attack. Like the women’s champion, Rita Jeptoo of Kenya, who won her third Boston Marathon in record time, and the top wheelchair finishers, Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa and Tatyana McFadden of the United States, Meb represents the true spirit of athletic competition — a spirit that lives on.