Keflizighi, Tulu win N.Y. Marathon

By associated press
Monday, November 2, 2009

NEW YORK -- Meb Keflezighi has become the first American man to win the New York City Marathon since Alberto Salazar in 1982.

Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, earned his first major marathon title Sunday. Born in Eritrea, the 34-year-old became a U.S. citizen in 1998.

He was second in New York in 2004 and third in 2005. Keflezighi, wearing "USA on his chest, won in a personal best of 2 hours 9 minutes 15 seconds.

"It can't get any better," Keflezighi said.

Four-time Boston Marathon champ Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya was second. Morocco's Jaouad Gharib finished third and American Ryan Hall was fourth.

Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia was the women's winner, with 41-year-old Russian Ludmila Petrova the runner-up for the second straight year on a day on a day when a record field of nearly 44,000 started the 40th edition of this race. Christelle Daunay of France was third.

Tulu pulled away from Petrova in the final minute to win in 2:28:52, as 14 mph winds slowed the runners on a cool day.

Two-time defending champion Paula Radcliffe fell back to fourth, hobbled by tendinitis behind her left knee.

Keflezighi won silver at the 2004 Olympics, the first American man to medal since 1976. Sunday's race proved how much depth the United States now boasts: With the event doubling as the national championship, six Americans finished in the top 10 for the first time since '79.

Keflezighi was born in the East African nation of Eritrea, growing up in a hut with no electricity. Soldiers would surround his village, looking for boys 12 and older to drag off to war.

When he was 10, his family moved to Italy; two years later, they came to the United States. Keflezighi began running in junior high in San Diego, then went on to star at UCLA.

"Definitely today wearing that USA jersey got the crowd going," he said. "Definitely wore it with big honor and pride."

Keflezighi pulled away from Cheruiyot in the 23rd mile to beat the four-time Boston Marathon champ by 41 seconds.

Defending champion Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil did not finish.

Tulu's breakthrough victory came 17 years ago at the Barcelona Olympics, when she won the 10,000 meters to become the first black African woman to capture a gold medal. She took gold again in 2000, then won her only previous major marathon title in London the following year.

Tulu, 37, struggled with her weight and endurance after the birth of her second child three years ago. But when she ran well at a half-marathon in Philadelphia on Sept. 20, she decided to enter New York.

Tulu is the oldest champion since 42-year-old Priscilla Welch in 1987 and the first Ethiopian woman to win in New York. Tulu said she plans to compete at the London Olympics in 2012 at age 40.

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