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Mike Cassidy, Meb’s NYC Finishing Partner, Thrilled About Boston Win

Cassidy's NYC Marathon finish with Keflezighi means even more now after Meb won Boston.

Cassidy’s NYC Marathon finish with Keflezighi means even more now after Meb won Boston.

Six months ago this weekend, Mike Cassidy had the experience of a lifetime, finishing the New York City Marathon with Meb Keflezighi.

If you recall the story, neither runner had a particularly great day. Keflezighi was expected to contend for a top-five finish, but he fell off the pace and was struggling near mile 23 when Cassidy, a local runner from Staten Island, caught him. Cassidy, a 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifier with a 2:18:52 PR, struggled through the first 10 miles of the race and was just trying to hang on to the finish.

The unlikely pair ran the final three miles together, finishing with hands clasped in triumph in 2:23:46 in 22nd and 23rd place, respectively.

Needless to say, the 28-year-old Cassidy has become one of Keflezighi’s biggest fans, and watching him win the Boston Marathon on April 21 on live TV gave him chills.

“I know that finish in Boston meant a lot to a lot of people, but it certainly meant something very personal to me just knowing that in his previous marathon I was running with him at the finish line,” says Cassidy, who recorded the race and has since replayed parts of it several times. “New York was not my best race either and it was disappointing on some levels, but to see that he came back from disappointment and was able to do something spectacular gives me more confidence to know that, yes, I will have better marathons in the future and there are good things to come.”

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Like everyone else, Cassidy was amazed at the way the race played out in Boston, given that there were more than a dozen runners in the race with a PR faster than Keflezighi. He was impressed with Keflezighi’s tenacity over the last several miles, especially how he kept his form and was rallied off the energy of the crowd.

“It was completely incredible. If you could write a script for how you would have wanted it to turn out, that’s what you would have written,” Cassidy says. “It had been so many years since an American had won and after everything that happened last year, for Meb to be the person who did it, a guy who has done so much for the people of Boston, whose life story represents the American dream is really just emblematic of complete triumph.

“And to come out at almost age 39 and set a PR, it is certainly heartening to everyone who runs that you can still keep making progress if you do the right things. Considering it was Boston, which is not exactly a PR course, it makes it all the more impressive.”

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Cassidy ran the Boston Marathon in 2013 in 2:24:23, but says he hit the wall hard. Still, knowing the course and watching Keflezighi battle through to the finish was a huge highlight.

“Watching Meb on the last few miles of the course, I could envision those last couple of hills and slight inclines near the 25-mile mark and seeing him increase his lead slightly,” Cassidy says. “Knowing how much that hurts and seeing him have the composure to fight through it was completely unbelievable.”

Cassidy has kept in touch with Keflezighi and had another amazing experience with him at the NYC Half on March 16. At that race, Keflezighi was battling a tweaked hamstring and finished 10th in 1:02:53, while Cassidy ran a decent race and finished 33rd in 1:07:18, not far off his PR. Afterward, they did a cool-down run together.

“My girlfriend was still running and I wanted to cheer her on and he said, ‘Sure, I’ll run with you and we’ll cheer her on,’” Cassidy says. “We were running back and forth along the West Side Highway and he was cheering for a lot of the random people who were coming through. And you saw a lot of people do a double-take when they saw who was standing out there cheering for them as they were finishing up their race. It was pretty incredible that he would take the time to do it.”

RELATED: Runners Helping Another In Boston

Cassidy is training for Grandma’s Marathon on June 21 in Duluth, Minn., with the hopes of running faster than 2:18:00 to qualify for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Los Angeles. Watching Keflezighi come down the homestretch with Kenyan Wilson Chebet hot on his tail was nerve-wracking, but personally gratifying for Cassidy.

“When he made the sign of the cross when making the final turn I think was a pretty good moment whether people are religious or not,” Cassidy says. “It sort of demonstrated that he was part of something bigger and that there were all of these factors coming together on that day. To see him come down that final stretch and pumping his fist with 400 meters to go was amazing. Once you finally knew he had it and was going to win was unbelievable.”