Keflezighi first US victor in three decades in Boston Marathon

In an emotional race after last year's fatal bombing, Kenya's Rita Jeptoo notches her second consecutive win in the women's section

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 April, 2014, 1:06am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 April, 2014, 1:06am

Meb Keflezighi on Monday became the first US male athlete to win the Boston Marathon in three decades, an emotional performance in a city still recovering from last year’s fatal bombing attack on the world-renowned race.

Keflezighi, who was born in Eritrea but is now a US citizen, pulled ahead of a pack of elite African runners a little more than halfway into the race and held off a late challenge by Kenya’s Wilson Chebet as the Boston crowd chanted “USA! USA!” His time was two hours, eight minutes and 37 seconds. Frankline Chepkwony, also of Kenya, was third.

In the women, Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo notched her second consecutive win of the race, smashing a 12-year course record with a blistering time of 2:18:57, reeling in American Shalane Flanagan, who had led the women for two-thirds of the 42.2-kilometre race, setting a punishing pace.

I love Boston so much and I really wanted to do it for this city. I’m so sad I couldn’t do it for Boston
American Shalane Flanagan who finished seventh in the women's race

Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia was second and compatriot Mare Dibaba third. They too turned in faster performances than the previous course record of 2:20:43 set in 2002 by Margaret Okayno of Kenya.

Flanagan, who finished seventh, gave a tearful interview after the race.

“I love Boston so much and I really wanted to do it for this city,” said Flanagan, who was raised in Marblehead, Massachusetts. “I’m so sad I couldn’t do it for Boston.”

Three people, including an eight-year-old boy, were killed and 264 were hurt when, prosecutors say, a pair of ethnic Chechen brothers left homemade bombs at the crowded finish line, tearing through the crowd.

Some 35,755 runners from 96 countries competed in the second-largest field in history for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.

No American athlete has stood atop the podium on Boston’s Boylston Street, not far from the site of last year’s bombing, since 1985 when Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach of Michigan won the women’s race. The drought has been longer for US men: Greg Meyer of Massachusetts won in 1983.

Race organisers expanded the field by some 9,000 runners this year, to allow the roughly 5,000 athletes who had been left on the course last year when the twin pressure-cooker bombs went off near the finish line another chance to compete.