“I’ve been a very fortunate person, from humble beginnings, from war-torn Eritrea, came as a refugee and the United States gave me hope. I take so much pride in being an American.”
Meb Keflezighi, 38, the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in 30 years. He crossed the finish line in 2:08.37. Keflezighi had said that if he won, he wanted the national anthem to be played at the finish line.
“I’m blessed to be an American and God bless America and God bless Boston for this special day,” Keflezighi said.
Keflezighi came to the United States at age 12 after his family, which includes 11 children, left the African nation of Eritrea to escape a life of poverty and a violent war with Ethiopia. When the family settled in San Diego, he spoke no English and had never raced a mile. His grades and athletic skills earned him a full scholarship to UCLA, he became a U.S. citizen in 1998 and ran for his country in three Olympics, winning a silver medal in 2004. In 2009, he won the New York Marathon, the first American to do so in 27 years.
Keflezighi wore the names of four victims of last year’s bombings on his race bib. Written in marker in small, neat letters in each corner were Krystle, Lingzi, Martin and Sean. Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi and Martin Richard were killed in the bombings during last year’s race, while MIT Officer Sean Collier was killed a few days later during the search for the suspects.
Keflezighi, “like his parents, is a deeply religious Christian,” the Wall Street Journal reported in 2009 after he won the New York City marathon. “Though his training schedule doesn’t always allow him to make it to church every Sunday, he makes time for prayer ‘every day before I go to sleep and every day before I get up.'”
Keflezighi, whose first name Mebrahtom (Meb) reportedly means “let there be light,” shares his testimony in the 2010 book Run to Overcome: The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long-Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream.
He lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., with his wife, Yordanos, and their three daughters, Sara, Fiyori and Yohana.