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In 2017, Meb Keflezighi Will Run The Boston Marathon For The Last Time

Meb Keflezighi, of San Diego, Calif., celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 118th Boston Marathon in 2014 in Boston. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Meb Keflezighi, of San Diego, Calif., celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 118th Boston Marathon in 2014 in Boston. (Charles Krupa/AP)
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It was really something I thought I'd never live to see.

I was on-the-air, live with Here & Now and standing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon to describe what I was seeing. And what I was seeing was an American winning the Boston Marathon men's open race for the first time since 1983.

It was Patriots' Day that Monday, April 21, 2014. And the American who broke the tape was Meb Keflezighi.

His victory packed an emotional punch that brought tears to the eyes of many who lined Boylston Street on that beautiful day.

A year before, two bombs had exploded near the finish line of the marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260. That year, Keflezighi had just left the finish area when the bombs went off. He had promised to return and run the marathon again in 2014 to honor the victims and survivors. He did, winning the race with the victims' names on his bib.

Keflezighi also ended that long U.S. drought in the men's race. And it somehow seemed appropriate to the story that he was the one who ended that streak for the nation.

Keflezighi's family fled civil war in Eritrea, ultimately making it to the United States and settling in the San Diego area. Keflezighi started to develop as an athlete and was a star runner at UCLA. He became one of the best marathon runners in the world in a career that will end with him in his 40s.

He won the silver medal in the Olympic Marathon in Athens in 2004. He won the New York Marathon in 2009. Three years later, he fought to a fourth place finish in the 2012 London Olympic Marathon.

This past summer, he was on the U.S. Olympic team again, running the marathon in Rio de Janeiro. He never really had a shot at a medal, but after he slipped at the finish line, he popped up with a few pushups and a bright smile on his face.

I can imagine he'll wear a similar smile next April when he runs the Boston Marathon for the final time.

The race sponsor, John Hancock, announced on Wednesday that Keflezighi will be among six former champions returning for the 121st edition of the iconic race.

For Keflezighi, it is goodbye — and the race will be one part of his farewell to a sport that he has given so much back to. He always said he wanted to end his career with 26 marathons, to match the distance of the race: 26.2 miles.

Boston 2017 will be marathon No. 25. New York next November will make an even 26.

Alex Ashlock Twitter Producer, Here & Now
Alex Ashlock has been a producer for Here & Now since 2005. He started his WBUR career as senior producer of Morning Edition in 1998.

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