UCLA alumnus Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi won the 118th Boston Marathon today, becoming the first American man in 31 years to win the iconic race.
Keflezighi, 38, graduated in 1999 with a degree in communications studies and a specialization in business. He is UCLA’s most-accomplished distance runner.
Keflezighi ran the 26.2-mile race in 2:08:37, bringing joy to a city and community of runners a year after a bombing at the finish line killed three people. According to the Boston Globe, Keflezighi wore the names of those killed on his running bib, along with the name of the MIT police officer killed during a shootout in the investigation that followed.
The victory was the latest American winless streak that Keflezighi ended. He won the New York City Marathon in 2009, ending a 17-year drought. At the Athens Olympics in 2004, Keflezighi won the silver medal to become the first American man to medal in the marathon since 1976.
Keflezighi (pronounced Ka-FLEZ-gee) was born in the east African country of Eritrea and grew up one of 11 children during the country’s war for independence from neighboring Ethiopia. His brothers hid in the bushes so they would not be forced to join the military to fight against Ethiopia, according to his bio on USA Track & Field. To escape the war-torn country, Keflezighi's family emigrated to the United States (after two years in Italy) in 1987. He became a U.S. citizen on July 2, 1998.
While at UCLA under then-coach Bob Larsen, Keflezighi won four NCAA titles during his junior year, sweeping the cross country, outdoor 5,000 meters, and indoor 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Keflezighi earned a total of 12 All-America honors in his four-year Bruin career.
In 2010, Keflezighi, who counts John Wooden among his heroes, was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame. "This is one of the biggest honors I have ever received," Keflezighi said in an interview with UCLA Athletics in 2012. "I chose UCLA to be a part of the tradition established by John Wooden, Rafer Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and all of the amazing track and field stars. To not only attend the same school, but also be in the prestigious Hall of Fame with them is amazing."
Keflezighi's sister Bahghi earned her M.D. from UCLA, and his brother Merhawi got his undergraduate degree and law degree from UCLA.
Keflezighi currently lives with his wife Yordanos Asgedom and daughters in San Diego.
UCLA Athletics interviewed Larsen after the race about what the scene was like at the finish line and Keflezighi's experiences preparing for and running the marathon.