Meb Keflezighi becomes first American man to win Boston Marathon since 1983

Meb Keflezighi, of San Diego, Calif., celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21 in Boston. 

Charles Krupa / AP

BOSTON -- "The Star-Spangled Banner" played over Boylston Street in honor of an American winner of the Boston Marathon.

One year after a bombing there killed three people and left more than 260 injured, Meb Keflezighi added Boston to a resume that includes the New York City Marathon title in 2009 and a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics.

Running just two weeks before his 39th birthday, he had the names of the 2013 bombing victims on his bib.

The names included the three people killed in last year's marathon and the name of a police officer from MIT who was allegedly killed by the bombing suspect days later.

Keflezighi said he hoped to have his picture taken with the victims' families after his win Monday, but they weren't immediately available.

The victims were 8-year-old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell and 23-year-old Lu Lingzi. MIT Officer Sean Collier was shot three days after the marathon.

Meb Keflezighi competes during the 2014 Boston Marathon with names of last year's victims written on the corners of his race bib.

David Butler II / USA TODAY Sports

"At the end, I just kept thinking, 'Boston Strong. Boston Strong,'" he said. "I was thinking give everything you have. If you get beat, that's it."

Keflezighi completed the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to the finish on Boylston Street in Boston's Back Bay on Monday in a personal-best 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds. He held off Kenya's Wilson Chebet, who finished 11 seconds behind.

Keflezighi went out early and built a big lead. But he was looking over his shoulder several times as Chebet closed the gap over the final two miles. After realizing he wouldn't be caught, Keflezighi raised his sunglasses, began pumping his right fist and made the sign of the cross. He broke into tears after crossing the finish line, then draped himself in the American flag.

No U.S. runner had won the race since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach took the women's title in 1985. The last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983. Meyer and Keflezighi embraced after the race.

"I'm blessed to be an American and God bless America and God Bless Boston for this special day," Keflezighi said.

Rita Jeptoo of Kenya successfully defended the women's title she said she could not enjoy a year ago. Jeptoo finished in a course-record 2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds. She is a three-time Boston Marathon champion, having also won in 2006.

Rita Jeptoo of Kenya crosses the finish line to win the Women's Elite division of the Boston Marathon.

TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

"I came here to support the people in Boston and show them that we are here together," she said. "I decided to support them and show them we are here together."

Jeptoo broke away from a group of five runners at the 23-mile mark. Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia finished second in 2:19:59. Countrywoman Mare Dibaba was third at 2:19:52. All three women came in under the previous course record.

American Shalane Flanagan, who went to high school in nearby Marblehead, Mass., finished seventh after leading for more than half the race. She gambled by setting the early pace, but fell back on the Newton Hills about 21 miles into the race.

"It does mean a lot to be that my city was proud of me," she said. "I'm proud of how I ran. I don't wish I was it was easier. I wish I was better."

After breaking a 27-year American drought at the New York marathon, Keflezighi contemplated retiring after the 2012 NYC Marathon. But that race was canceled because of Superstorm Sandy, and he pulled out of the Boston Marathon in April because of injury.

He was the first American to win a medal in an Olympic marathon since Frank Shorter won gold in 1972 and silver in 1976. His 2009 New York victory broke a 27-year American drought there.

Another American, Tatyana McFadden, celebrated her 25th birthday Monday by winning the women's wheelchair race for the second straight year. She was timed in in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 6 seconds.

McFadden was born in Russia and lived in an orphanage as a child before starring at the University of Illinois. She also won the 2013 NYC Marathon women's wheelchair race after taking the titles in Boston, London and Chicago last year.

Ernst van Dyk of South Africa won the men's wheelchair division for a record 10th time. The 41-year-old crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 20 minutes, 36 seconds.

Van Dyk holds the record for most all-categories Boston Marathon wins. This was his first win at this race since 2010.

Marathon officials said 35,755 runners registered for the race, with 32,408 unofficial starters. The field included just less than 5,000 runners who did not finish last year and accepted invitations to return this year.