To those of us around the country watching the live feed, we needed a sign.
Meb Keflezighi was running down Boylston Street, leading the 2014 Boston Marathon with less than a mile to go. But Wilson Chebet was lurking, and had spent the last several miles chipping away at the big lead Keflezighi built midway through the race.
Was Meb going to hold on? Was his bold race strategy going to work? Or was it too good to be true? It was hard to tell. We needed a sign.
With just a few hundred yards to go, that sign finally came. Still running hard, Meb pumped his fist as a gesture to the cheering crowd. Simple, and, for Meb’s fans, relieving.
He had it, he knew it, and now the rest of us knew it too.
Several more fist pumps followed, then a removal of his sunglasses just before crossing the finish line in a new PR of 2:08:37 for the victory. His wife jumped into his arms as he let out a primal scream with his arms stretched wide.
Considering what the 2014 Boston Marathon meant to the U.S., one year after bombings at the finish line rattled the nation, Keflezighi’s gutsy performance was straight from a movie script. He became the first American male winner of the Boston Marathon since 1983. And he’s the clear choice for Competitor’s men’s runner of the year.
Meb undoubtedly locked up our award in April, but he cemented it in November with a strong showing at the New York City Marathon. On a chilly, windy day, Keflezighi finished fourth in a time of 2:13:18, his best placing in New York since winning the race in 2009.
Keflezighi turned 39 in 2014, but you could make a case that this was his best year of running yet (he also won the U.S. half marathon championship in January in 1:01:23, one of his fastest times ever). His career has been ripe with accomplishments, but never had he come through so big with the running world watching so closely.
Meb will continue to race at least through the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, and, should he qualify, the 2016 Olympics in Rio. He will be 41 years old by then. He could very well have achievements left to grab, and he’s certainly expecting as much.
But no matter what’s still to come, 2014 will be tough to top. It was the year he ran 26.2 miles with an entire nation on his back—and won.