Meb Kefelzighi made history as the first American man to the win the Boston Marathon since 1983 on Monday, accomplishing the feat with some unbeknowst help from his countrymen.
Robert Johnson of LetsRun.com explains that Ryan Hall, owner of the fastest American Marathon time, and other elite U.S. runners in the race intentionally kept the pace slow to prevent the African runners from surging late and overtaking Kefelzighi.
As Kefelzighi and fellow American Josphat Boit, who finished in 11th place at 2:12:52, got clear of the main pack before the 15k marker, the front group of Africans were content to stay behind.
Runner-up Wilson Chebet of Kenya said after the race that the Africans assumed that Kefelzighi, who turns 39 in May, would fade – as most out front alone usually do – and that they would be able to catch him down the stretch.
The Africans were running at a slow enough pace that the top Americans got antsy and were ready to pass the them, until Hall cautioned against it.
Nicholas Arciniaga, who finished seventh 2:11:47, explained:
“I was in the lead pack with all of the other Americans and all of the Africans and about 15k to 20k, Ryan Hall and I were running side by side, in front of the lead pack but not really pushing it, and Ryan just kept turning over to me, talking (to me and saying), ‘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.”
Craig Leon, the 12th-place finisher, echoed Arciniaga’s account:
“I think it was maybe halfway or a little past halfway and it had slowed kind of considerably and Jason (Hartmann) and I were kind of moving our way through the pack and were just going to maintain pace (and keep moving up), and at one point, Ryan he looked at both of us, and he was like, ‘Let’s give Meb a little bit of distance. I think he’s up there with JB. (Josphat Boit).’
“So we kept it slow. I don’t know if that did anything to help. But those guys had to work to catch Meb. I think Ryan was really smart to (think to) be able to say that (in the middle of the race).”
Hall, who finished fourth in the 2011 Boston Marathon with a personal best of 2:04:58, came in 20th place at 2:17:50.
But his personal sacrifice helped an American win and for that Hall was proud.
Had higher hopes and expectations of myself,but I’m thankful to b healthy and a part of @bostonmarathon this important year.So proud of Meb!— Ryan Hall (@ryanhall3) April 21, 2014
(H/T Business Insider)