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San Diegans Honor Hometown Hero Meb Keflezighi As ‘America’s Finest Runner’

Evening Edition

Above: Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi received a key to the city of San Diego from Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Saturday.

Aired 5/12/14 on KPBS News.

Saturday was declared "Meb Day" in San Diego to honor San Diego runner and Boston Marathon winner Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi.

Saturday was declared "Meb Day" in San Diego to honor San Diego runner and Boston Marathon winner Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer called Keflezighi, 39, "American's Finest Runner" and gave him the key to "America's Finest City" during a ceremony on the track at San Diego High School, where Keflezighi ran as a teenager.

"There are so many great ways to describe Meb, he's a great athlete, a great father, an Olympian and a San Diegan," Faulconer said.

Last month Keflezighi became the first American to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years, clocking a personal best of 2:08:37. He told the assembled crowd in the bleachers by the San Diego High School track that he decided to run this year's Boston Marathon after the bombings last year.

"It gives me a great honor to be an American and to be able to bring what was a bomb site last year, to be able to bring it back to a positive note," he said. "I didn't know what winning the Boston Marathon would be bringing me, but it's just been an amazing two-week experience."

Keflezighi and his family moved to San Diego as refugees from Eritrea when he was 12 years old. He started running in gym class at Roosevelt Middle School in San Diego. He said his gym teacher promised students an "A" and a t-shirt if they could run a mile in under 6 minutes and 50 seconds. So Keflezighi ran a mile in 5 minutes and 20 seconds.

He then ran track while at San Diego High School. At 19 years old, he won the 1,600-meters and 3,200-meters at the California high school track and field championships.

After living in Mammoth, California to train with the Mammoth Track Club, Keflezighi moved back to San Diego in 2013. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Mission Hills.

Keflezighi joked that the first mile of this year's Boston Marathon was easy, but said as he approached the last mile, he felt like "almost throwing up because I was running so hard and digging deep." But he said as he made the final turn of the race and heard the crowd chanting "USA, USA," he knew he'd won.

"To be able to change that to something positive that I've been visualizing for 365 days, I was emotional," he said. "It's an amazing feeling that I've achieved something that I've been doing for a long time. I feel my career has been fulfilled 110 percent."

Keflezighi was also the first American in 27 years to win the New York City Marathon in 2009 and won a silver medal for the U.S. in the marathon at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

City Councilman David Alvarez, who was a classmate of Keflezighi's at San Diego High School, upped the ante from "Meb Day." He gave Keflezighi a City Council proclamation that he said made the entire month of May "Meb Day" in San Diego.

"Let's hope that in 2016, we can do Meb Keflezighi year for the Olympics," Alvarez joked.

Boston Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi receives a key to the city of San Diego from Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

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