Boston: Meb Keflezighi ended a 31-year Boston Marathon win drought for American men and Rita Jeptoo defended her title Monday in a race that began with remembrances of last year's bombing tragedy. Keflezighi became the first American man to win the famed race since Greg Meyer in 1983 while Kenya's Jeptoo added to her 2006 and 2013 victory haul in a record time for the 26.2-mile classic.
A moment of silence was observed before the start by a field of 35,755 from 95 nations for the victims of two bombs hidden inside backpacks that exploded near the finish line last year, killing three people and injuring more than 250 others.
Keflezighi, who was born in Eritrea and became an American citizen in 1998, held off Kenya's Wilson Chebet to win in two hours, eight minutes and 37 seconds. Chebet was 11 seconds adrift with Kenyan Franklin Chepkwony third in 2:08:50.
Keflezighi, 38, realized his goal of a historic victory for the people of Boston to help ease the recovery from last year's finish-line horror, much the way the Boston Red Sox dedicated their triumph in last year's Major League Baseball World Series to the city.
"It was my dream to win Boston and to make it just like the Red Sox did and do the same thing for the people," Keflezighi said.
Keflezighi, whose other wins include the 2009 New York Marathon and 2012 US Olympic trials, set a personal best with the second-fastest US men's time ever at Boston. His best prior Boston finish was third in 2006.
It marked the first time since 1991 that the men's winner was not from Kenya or Ethiopia.
Jeptoo set a women's course record of 2:18:57 to defeat Ethiopia's Bizunesh Deba by 62 seconds with Ethiopian Mare Dibaba third in 2:20:35. Jeptoo, 33, shattered the prior Boston women's mark of 2:20:43 set by Kenya's Margaret Okayo in 2002.
The only woman to have won more often at Boston than Jeptoo, who won at Chicago last year as well, is Kenyan Catherine Ndereba with four titles. Six other women have taken three as well.
Deba was last year's New York Marathon runner-up while Dibaba won the Xiamen Marathon earlier this year in China for her first title at the distance.
Jeptoo's training partner, compatriot Jemima Sumgong, was second at Chicago last year and second in Boston in 2012 by only two seconds, but settled for fourth this year in 2:20:41.
South Africa's Ernst Van Dyk won his 10th Boston Marathon men's wheelchair crown in 1:20:36 while American Tatiana McFadden took her second consecutive women's wheelchair title.
Keflezighi took charge at mile eight and although joined for a while by countryman Josphat Boit, he was out on his own by the 18-mile mark.
Chebet, a three-time Amsterdam winner and former Rotterdam champion who was fifth in 2012 in his only prior Boston start, closed late to keep the American looking over his shoulder late but could not overtake him.
"Looking back is not a bad thing," said Keflezighi. "It can save you a win."
Ethiopia's Markos Geneti, the Dubai Marathon runner-up in January, was fifth in 2:09:50, 13 seconds behind fourth-place finisher Vitaliy Shafar of Ukraine.
US runner Shalane Flanagan took the lead at the women's start with a first mile in 5:11 and she completed 5km in 16:10 as the leading group was trimmed to 12.
Flanagan and Ethiopia's Buzunesh Deba set the early pace but at 20 miles, Deba grabbed the lead alone as the pack was reduced to five, Flanagan falling back and Kenyan Caroline Kilel dropping out.
"I ran everything I had in me," said Flanagan. "I'll be back to run here until I win it."
At mile 22, Jeptoo made her move and seized the lead, quickly pulling away and seemingly stretching her margin with nearly every stride on her way to the course record.