By Miriam Raftery
April 21, 2014 (San Diego) – Meb Keflezighi is a champion in every sense of the word—an impoverished refugee who has become a symbol of the American success story—a story crowned by winning this year’s Boston Marathon.
As a child, he came to America as a refugee with his family, fleeing war-torn Eritria in Africa. The son of a janitor and one of 10 children, Keflezighi found that running became his ticket out of poverty. He began running while at Roosevelt Middle School and won the CIF state championships representing San Diego High School. He went on to win four NCAA championships and All-American awards at UCLA before winning a silver medal at the 2004 summer Olympics.
But in 2007, tragedy struck. While running in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon trials in New York’s Central Park, he broke his hip. He pushed himself to crawl across finish line, finishing eighth, but failed to qualify for the Olympic team. During the race, his friend and training partner died of a heart attack.
Despite pain and grief, Keflezighi triumphed over adversity, winning the New York Marathon the next year, in 2009.
His amazing story is chronicled in his autobiography published in 2010, titled Run to Overcome: The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long-Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream.
Keflezighi has previously run twice in the Boston Marathon, but by a stroke of fate, he missed last year’s race due to an injury. Two bombs placed near the finish line killed three people and wounded 260 more.
This year, Keflezighi completed a lifelong dream, winning the 26.2 mile Boston Marathon at age 39 with a time of two hours, 8 minutes and 37 seconds.
He wore the names of those killed in last year’s bombing on his runner’s bib during the race, along with the name of a slain policeman. After crossing the finish line, he bowed to the crowd and waved to spectators,.
“This is probably the most meaningful victory for an American because of what happened last year,” he said, the New York Times reported.
Now a U.S. citizen with three children of his own, Keflezighi reflected that all athletes have dreams. “Today was the day when dreams and reality met,” he concluded. “My career is fulfilled.”