A year after the bombings, Meb Keflezighi wrote the names of the victims -- Martin, Krystle, Lingzi and Sean — on his race bib. He crossed the finish line wearing it as he won the 2014 Boston Marathon.
Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu were killed when the bombs exploded on Boylston Street on April 15, 2013. Sean Collier, an MIT police officer, was murdered a few days later by the marathon bombers.
Keflezighi's emotional marathon victory was the first win by an American man since 1983. It also came two weeks before his 39th birthday, making him the oldest winner in decades.
The elite runner retired from competitive marathoning last year after running Boston and New York, the 25th and 26th marathons of his storied career. But, on April 16, Keflezighi is coming back to Boston to run the marathon once again.
This time he'll be running as part of Team MR8 -- so named for the 8-year-old boy from Dorchester's initials and sports number — alongside the other men and women running to raise money for the Martin Richard Foundation. The foundation helps young people grow and learn through volunteerism and community engagement under the banners of sportsmanship, inclusion, kindness and peace.
That last word echoes the photo that emerged after the bombings: a young Martin Richard holding a hand-lettered sign that read, "No more hurting people, peace."
This year's TeamMR8 has 115 runners and has a fundraising goal of $800,000. So far, the foundation says, they've raised more than $630,000.
Keflezighi forged a deep connection with the city of Boston with his 2014 victory, and when he ran last year, fans called out his name all along the course. He was in tears at the finish line where he shared a word with Martin's father, Bill.
“We couldn’t be more honored to have Meb and all of our runners lace up their sneakers to take on this historic course for the mission of our foundation,” Denise, Martin's mother, and Bill Richard said in a statement. “Our family has a love of running, and the accomplishments of all of our runners is inspiring.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh tweeted, "This is what the Boston Marathon is all about — we look forward to welcoming you next month, Meb."
Keflezighi's life story leaves much to be admired. His family fled civil war in the northeast African nation, Eritrea, to settle in San Diego, where Meb became a track star. He went on to run at UCLA and in the Olympics. He won a bronze medal in the Olympic Marathon in Athens in 2004. He finished 4th in the Olympic Marathon in London in 2012, wrapping up his Olympic career in Rio in 2016. Along the way he also won the New York Marathon. When he added that win in Boston, he became one of the sport's great ambassadors.
Next month he'll give a little more back to the sport and the city that has given him so much when he runs to honor the memory of a little boy he never met.
Keflezighi posted the picture of Martin Richard on his Instagram and wrote:
I have always wanted people to know it was the memory of Martin and the other Boston victims that was on my mind during the 2014 Boston Marathon. That is why I am so honored to be running the 2018 Boston Marathon as [a] member of Team MR8.