Inspirational last racer crosses Boston Marathon finish line after 20 grueling hours
A Venezuelan man with muscular dystrophy was honored at City Hall on Tuesday after enduring about 20 hours of sometimes drenching rain, wind and cold to complete the Boston Marathon in the early morning hours.
Maickel Melamed finished at about 5 a.m., becoming the last athlete to complete the storied 26.2-mile race, which started Monday morning.
"His story is truly one of inspiration," Mayor Marty Walsh said as he bestowed a medal for completing the race to Melamed at a gathering with supporters and city officials.
The 39-year-old, who has a form of muscular dystrophy that severely impairs his mobility, praised Bostonians for embracing his efforts.
"After 20 hours of rain, wind and cold, Boston is still strong," Melamed said from a wheelchair, echoing the "Boston Strong" catchphrase that became the city's rally cry after two bombs exploded at the finish line in 2013, killing three people and injuring over 260. "The whole city has been so helpful and so loving."
Melamed, who was joined by a volunteer team from Vamos, a Caracas-based organization focused on youths, said he completed the marathon to give hope and inspiration to others.
"The message here is that love is so much stronger than death," he said. "It was an honor to the run the streets of this city."
Boston marks the fifth marathon Melamed has completed, including Chicago, New York, Berlin and Tokyo. He says Boston holds a special place for him because it's where his parents brought him as a child for medical treatment.
But Melamed acknowledged Boston's hilly course was one of the most challenging.
He and his team of volunteers endured torrential downpours, thunderstorms, biting wind and cold before being greeted at the Boylston Street finish line by dozens of cheering friends and supporters.
"It was real tough," Melamed said. "Especially around mile 24. But my physical trainers came up with an amazing way to keep going. I'd rest 10 seconds, then (take) four to six steps. It was a real exciting way to finish."
By way of comparison, the winner of the Boston Marathon, 25-year-old Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, completed the race Monday in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 17 seconds.