The Sweet Story Behind Meb Keflezighi’s Boston Marathon Win

Meb Keflezighi, of the United States, is greeted with a hug at the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21, 2014.
National Journal
Ben Geman
April 22, 2014, 11:11 a.m.

By now you’ve prob­ably heard about U.S. run­ner Meb Ke­flezighi’s emo­tion­al win at Monday’s Bo­ston Mara­thon, the first time an Amer­ic­an man has won in 31 years (the on­go­ing drought for U.S. wo­men is barely short­er at 29 years).

If not, a quick re­cap of the first Bo­ston since last year’s deadly fin­ish-line bomb­ing: Meb, an­cient by elite run­ning stand­ards at nearly 39, opened a roughly one minute, 20 second lead mid-race and then held off Kenyan Wilson Cheb­et, who closed the gap to un­der 10 seconds in the fi­nal miles.

Left un­known is why the race un­fol­ded so strangely, with a blaz­ing-fast field of elite Kenyans and Ethiopi­ans (ar­riv­ing with per­son­al bests sev­er­al minutes faster than Meb’s) al­low­ing such a large gap to stay open for much of the race.

The run­ning-junkie web­site Let­s­run.com pub­lished a story Tues­day that may help an­swer the ques­tion. It looks like sev­er­al Amer­ic­ans, once they real­ized that Meb had broken well away, may have used an ad-hoc team tac­tic re­min­is­cent of the Tour de France and oth­er cyc­ling races to help Meb main­tain his ad­vant­age.

Ac­cord­ing to their story, the quirky, self-coached U.S. run­ner Ry­an Hall — once the na­tion’s best who has struggled with in­jur­ies in re­cent years — saw a way to help Meb main­tain his lead.

He urged oth­er Amer­ic­ans in the chase pack to avoid push­ing the pace in or­der to dis­cour­age the Afric­ans from start­ing to close the gap earli­er.

Here’s what Amer­ic­an Nick Arciniaga, who would fin­ish sev­enth, told Let­s­run.com:

“I was in the lead [chase] pack with all of the oth­er Amer­ic­ans, all of the Afric­ans and about 15k to 20k, Ry­an Hall and I were run­ning side by side, kind of in front of the lead chase pack but not really push­ing it, and Ry­an just kept turn­ing over to me, and talk­ing like, ‘Hey don’t push the pace. If they want to let those guys go, they are go­ing to have work to catch back up to them. We are not go­ing to help them out with that at all. If we want an Amer­ic­an to win, this is how it’s go­ing to be done.’”

“From then on in, the game plan between my­self and Ry­an, and we told Abdi [Ab­dirah­man] and few of the oth­er guys as well when they catch up or go to the front, ‘We’re try­ing to get an Amer­ic­an to win this race. That’s one of the biggest goals about today.’”

To be sure, these kinds of tac­tics are more com­mon in cyc­ling, which is or­gan­ized around teams and where tuck­ing in be­hind oth­er riders — either team­mates or al­lies against a com­mon foe — saves massive amounts of en­ergy.

But run­ners can work to­geth­er, too. U.S. run­ner Craig Le­on told Let­s­run.com a sim­il­ar story to Nick Arciniaga’s, say­ing that shortly after the halfway point, as the pace was re­l­at­ively slow, Hall told him and fel­low Amer­ic­an Jason Hart­mann, “Let’s give Meb a little bit of dis­tance.”

“So we kept it slow. I don’t know if that did any­thing to help. But those guys had to work to catch Meb. And I think Ry­an was really smart to be able to say that,” Le­on said. Hall, who would fade badly and fin­ish in 2:17:50 (a dis­astrous time for pros), con­firmed the tac­tic through his agent, ac­cord­ing to the Let­s­run.com story.

Nobody is tak­ing cred­it away from Meb for the gritty vic­tory. Le­on talked about Meb’s com­bin­a­tion of tal­ent and pro­fes­sion­al­ism and race smarts. But Arciniaga was pleased that the small ef­fect was enough to help Meb win.

The story, by the way, is draw­ing some skep­ti­cism on Let­s­run.com‘s rough-and-tumble mes­sage board.

What We're Following See More »
IN ADDITION TO DNC AND DCCC
Clinton Campaign Also Hacked
4 hours ago
THE LATEST
1.5 MILLION MORE TUNED IN FOR TRUMP
More People Watched Trump’s Acceptance Speech
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Hillary Clinton hopes that television ratings for the candidates' acceptance speeches at their respective conventions aren't foreshadowing of similar results at the polls in November. Preliminary results from the networks and cable channels show that 34.9 million people tuned in for Donald Trump's acceptance speech while 33.3 million watched Clinton accept the Democratic nomination. However, it is still possible that the numbers are closer than these ratings suggest: the numbers don't include ratings from PBS or CSPAN, which tend to attract more Democratic viewers.

Source:
AFFECTS NOVEMBER ELECTIONS
North Carolina Voter ID Law Struck Down
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned North Carolina's 2013 voter ID law, saying it was passed with “discriminatory intent." The decision sends the case back to the district judge who initially dismissed challenges to the law. "The ruling prohibits North Carolina from requiring photo identification from voters in future elections, including the November 2016 general election, restores a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensures that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting will remain in effect."

Source:
NORTH DAKOTA TO ILLINOIS
Massive Oil Pipeline Approved for the Midwest
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

An oil pipeline almost as long as the much-debated Keystone XL has won final approval to transport crude from North Dakota to Illinois, traveling through South Dakota and Iowa along the way. "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the final blessing to the Dakota Access pipeline on Tuesday. Developers now have the last set of permits they need to build through the small portion of federal land the line crosses, which includes major waterways like the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers. The so-called Bakken pipeline goes through mostly state and private land."

Source:
DISAPPOINTING RESULTS
GDP Grew at 1.2% in Q2
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The U.S. economy grew at an anemic 1.2% in the second quarter, "well below the 2.6% growth economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast." Consumer spending was "robust," but it was offset by "cautious" business investment. "Since the recession ended seven years ago, the expansion has failed to achieve the breakout growth seen in past recoveries. "The average annual growth rate during the current business cycle, 2.1%, remains the weakest of any expansion since at least 1949."

Source:
×