Meb Keflezighi (PRON: MEHB keh-FLEHZ-ghee) won the 2014 Boston Marathon Monday before thousands of cheering spectators on hand in a show of defiance to last year's twin bombings near the finish line that killed three spectators and injured more than 260 others.
Keflezighi is the first American to win the legendary race since Greg Meyer in 1983. Pumping his fist in exhilaration, the Eritrean-born Keflezighi crossed the finish line Monday in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds. In this 118th edition of the race, he beat runner-up Wilson Chebet of Kenya by 11 seconds.
Kenyan Rita Jeptoo won the women's race for the third time, with a record-breaking time of 2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds. Ethiopian Buzunesh Deba finished second, just over a minute later.
This year's race included an expanded field of runners - 36,000, to include about 6,000 from last year who were not allowed to cross the finish line because of the bombings.
Just two weeks shy of his 39th birthday, Keflezighi is the oldest man to win the Boston Marathon since 1931. He emigrated with his family from Eritrea as a young boy in sixth grade, and they settled in California.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1998, the same year he graduated from UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), where he won four national collegiate championships in various long distance races.
Keflezighi won the men's marathon silver medal at the 2004 Olympics and placed fourth at the 2012 Olympics. He was the 2009 New York City Marathon champion.
After Monday's victory, he said that when he came to the United States as a refugee, it gave him hope. He said because of what happened last year with the bombings this was "probably the most meaningful victory for an American."
Keflezighi's win came before an estimated one million spectators, with many who spoke to the media expressing the desire to uphold the theme "Boston Strong."
Authorities say ethnic Chechen brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev set off the two bombs that exploded near the finish line at the 2013 Boston Marathon. The blast set off a manhunt that ended with Tamerlan killed in a shootout with police and Dzhokhar being arrested in a Boston suburb.
Dzhokhar, now 20, is to go on trial in November on 30 federal charges that could lead to the death penalty if he is convicted.
Organizers boosted security for this year's race, with extra cameras installed along the route, as well as thousands of police and hundreds of National Guard troops.