What has often been describedas a “sea of humanity,” the waves and waves of people running from Staten Island to Central Park in the five-borough New York City Marathon, Sunday was mostly just flotsam in the wake of 34-year-old Meb Keflezighi.
The Eritrean-born American led the annual stampede of elite professionals and everyday folk, including a surprising new surge of U.S. male talent, to win the 26-mile, 385-yard test in 2 hours, 9 minutes, 15 seconds. The 43,740 trailing him represented the largest marathon field ever and included Keflezighi’s final challenger, four-time Boston Marathon champion Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya, who finished second in 2:09:56, 41 seconds behind. Morocco‘s Jaouad Gharib was third in 2:10:25.
With just more than two miles to go, Keflezighi – it’s pronounced kuh-FLEZ-ghee – at last broke Cheruiyot and sailed the last yards while pointing repeatedly to the “USA” on his white running shirt and giving a thumbs up. Not since Alberto Salazar, in 1982, had an American, male or female, won New York. And not so far behind Keflezighi, in an event dominated by Kenyans, South Africans, Ethiopians, Portuguese and Britons in recent years, were five more Americans in the top 10 and a total of 12 – counting Keflezighi – in the top 20.
Ryan Hall was fourth, Jorge Torres seventh, Nick Arciniaga eighth, Abdi Abdirahman ninth and Jason Lehmkuhle 10th.
“I think,” said Torres, a Chicago native based in Colorado who was making his marathon debut at 29, “there’s a new era of distance running for young Americans, who may not look up to us, but they’ll try to challenge us.”