The 118th Boston Marathon will long be remembered as a cultural event, a moment where the city of Boston demonstrated strength and resilience in the wake of last year's bombing. As a pure race, though, it was no less impressive, with winners turning in exceptional, defining performances.
Meb Keflezighi defied his age, nearly 39 years old, to craft an exceptional race and become the first American male since Greg Meyer in 1983 to win the Boston Marathon, and first American period since 1985.
Keflezighi appeared to have the men's race locked up halfway through, with a lead of nearly 90 seconds at one point, but Wilson Chebet chopped that lead down to six seconds in the final two miles. Keflezighi was able to hold off Chebet, however, and finished the race in 2:08:37.
In the women's division, Rita Jeptoo of Kenya defended her 2013 victory with a flawless race. Jeptoo slammed the door on the field with a 4:49 mile in the 24th mile, a kick that put nearly 30 seconds between her and the field. Her 2:18:57 beat the course record by almost two full minutes. Her performance was the eighth fastest women's marathon ever recorded on any course.
"For me, I came to run in Boston again and to help support Boston [for] what happened last year," Jeptoo said afterward. "I was happy for the win I got."
Over the last two decades, the men's and women's races have been dominated by Kenya, on the men's side especially. Kenyans have won 19 of the last 23 events. Only once in that span has the winner come from outside of Africa
Keflezighi was born in Eritrea, located in the Horn of Africa, and immigrated to the United States when he was 12. He won the silver medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and finished fourth at the 2012 London Olympics.
Tatyana McFadden, fresh off a stint in Sochi for the Paralympic Games, won the women's wheelchair division for the second year in a row. Over in the men's wheelchair division, Ernst van Dyk won for a record 10th time, finishing in 1:20:36. Van Dyk holds the record for most wins across all categories in the marathon.
Last year, two terrorist bombs at the finish line halted the marathon before its scheduled finish, sending the entire Boston region into lock-down. This year's race featured heavily increased security, and signs reading "Boston Strong" and similar messages of support lined the entire race route. But by the time the runners turned onto Boston's Boylston Street for the final stretch, fans were lined up ten deep to celebrate the champions, and the city itself. Here's a first-person look:
Shalane Flanagan, who hails from nearby Marblehead, had made headlines earlier in the week, saying she wanted to win this race for the city of Boston. For well over half the race, Flanagan set the pace and dominated the women's field, running at a pace 20 seconds per mile ahead of world-record marks. By mile 17, however, the pack had caught Flanagan, and she found herself fighting for the lead. Soon afterward, she dropped from the lead pack and was unable to keep up. She would go on to finish in sixth place.