Five NYC teachers competed in this year’s Foot Locker Five Borough Challenge, in which one marathon entrant is chosen to represent each borough. The contestants and some of their students also got to go for a jog with Meb Keflezighi (in red). (Photo courtesy www.INGNYCMarathon.org)
Defending New York City Marathon Champion Meb Keflezighi, who won the race in 2009, finished in the top 10, but came in 3:24 behind the leader in Sunday’s ING-sponsored race. Keflezighi was, however, the top U.S. Men’s finisher in sixth place, with a 2:11:38 final time. He was bested by Ethiopian Gebre Gebrmariam, who flew across the finish line with a winning time of 02:08:14.
That wasn’t the race’s only major event of note, however. Haile Gebrselassie, the 37-year-old Ethiopian distance running legend, stunned the running world when he announced his retirement after dropping out of the New York City Marathon at the 16-mile mark. Gebrselassie’s sudden retirement brings to an end a much-storied career that includes a jaw-dropping 27 world-record runs. The son of a rural farmer, he became a national hero, who invested a tremendous amount of the money that came from all of his many wins into his home country, building two schools that serve 1,200 children and establishing businesses from a fitness center to a resort that employ more than 600 people.
He may not have finished the race, but Gebrselassie’s mere presence nonetheless cast a very long shadow. “When some guys looked back and didn’t see Haile,” Keflezighi told Sports Illustrated, “they went for it. They wanted to get away from Haile.” Gebrselassie’s reputation, however, engenders absolute respect from his countrymen. Gebremariam, who went on to win the race, slowed momentarily to talk to Haile before following the breakaway. “I said, ‘Hey Haile, come on,’” Gebremariam recalled after the race. “But he said, ‘I can’t move Gebre. You have to go catch them now.’”
And that’s not all … among other luminaries seen in or about the Marathon, one in particular attracted a lot of attention. His injured left knee bound, Chilean Edison Peña, 34, triumphantly crossed the finish line of the 26.2-mile N.Y.C. Marathon Sunday afternoon. Peña was one of the Chilean miners recently rescued from deep below the ground. Nicknamed “The Runner,” Peña kept himself up by running as much as six miles per day through the underground tunnels of the Chilean mine he was trapped in for 69 days. The Marathon was Peña’s first trip outside Chile.
Keflezighi’s book, “Run to Overcome,” detailing his life’s inspirational journey, was released Nov. 1, the one-year anniversary of his NYC Marathon win. He and his team also recently launched the MEB Foundation, which stands for Maintaining Excellent Balance. Keflezighi said the Foundation is set up to work closely with organizations and communities throughout the country and around the world to promote an active and balanced lifestyle through health, education and fitness. “I want to do my part to help the New York City Marathon raise $1 million per mile for different charity organizations like mine,” he said in a letter to supporters. To contribute and learn more about the MEB Foundation, visit www.crowdrise.com/mebkeflezighi. –AG/Sports Illustrated