Running competitively on the roads for the first time in his hometown, Meb Keflezighi didn’t have time to acknowledge all the well-wishers along his half-marathon route at Sunday’s Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon & ½ Marathon to Benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Instead, he rewarded them with one of the most memorable races of his illustrious career.At the second edition, Keflezighi delighted a cheering, happy crowd at the SeaWorld finish line by winning handily in 1 hour, 2 minutes and 40 seconds, nearly three minutes ahead of runner-up Drew Polley (1:05:38).
As much as the spectators reveled in Keflezighi’s victory, they also marveled at Bizunesh Deba’s triumph in the women’s marathon. At the 14th running, the 23-year-old Ethiopian burst across the finish line in 2:23:31, an event record and the fastest time ever run by a woman in California. The previous state best was 2:24:52 by Joan Benoit (USA) at the inaugural women’s Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles on August 5, 1984. The Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon course is not record standard per USA Track & Field rule because it drops more than 1 meter per kilometer.
The men’s marathon winner was Terfa Negari also of Ethiopia in 2:11:18, and the women’s half-marathon champion was Gina Slaby of Tucson, Ariz., in 1:16:33. While the performances by Deba, Negari and Slaby were impressive, it was Keflezighi who intrigued the crowd the most.
The UCLA grad led all the way, pulling away from Kenya’s Martin Lel after four miles on the undulating, curvy course through the streets of San Diego. Lel, a three-time winner of the London Marathon and the runner-up of that event this year, shadowed Keflezighi through the early stages of the race. Then, when Keflezighi ripped off a 4:24 spurt from mile three to four, Lel was done. He struggled for another two miles before dropping out. After that, it was Keflezighi against the clock.
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