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4.22: Selfless Sportsmanship at the Boston Marathon

Meb and Ryan running together

Meb and Ryan running together. Source

I just read this article about how Ryan Hall worked with the other American runners on the fly to help Meb win yesterday at Boston: “American Strong: The Untold Story of American Teamwork and How Ryan Hall Helped Meb Keflezighi Win Boston.” Now, we know that in a bicycle race such as the Tour de France, a team works together to help its strongest rider win a stage through drafting and attacking as a group—without that help, not even the “great” Lance Armstrong (asterisks for DAYS) would have won a single title. That’s just how it’s done. In a running event like the Boston Marathon, however, the top athletes are not competing as a team, not even the folks from the same country or training group; each runner is trying to take first place. Yesterday, world-class runner Hall realized he wasn’t going to win and felt pretty sure Meb could, as Meb has been tearing it up lately, setting all kinds of personal-best times (at 38 years old!). So in the midst of the race, Hall thought to communicate with the other Americans to essentially draft and attack, preventing an otherwise inevitable Kenyan win. For the first time in 30 years, an American won the Boston Marathon. And in the true spirit of America, that winner was also an immigrant: Meb’s family came to the US when he was 12.

I’m not particularly patriotic, but given what we went through last year (runners, spectators, Bostonians, Americans), I just think it’s wonderful that the 30-year losing streak was broken, if even for just this one year and the Kenyans take back over next year. I was fuming yesterday, wondering what the terrorists who planted those bombs even got out of it. What good did they do for their cause, targeting civilians like that? A highly vulnerable civilian population at that, given how spent the runners are when they cross the finish line? What was the point? Some folks lost lives, limbs, family members last year, and I wouldn’t say that an American win this year makes up for any of that, but, well, it’s a little something. And knowing that he got there through the cooperation of the other Americans who set out to beat him that morning makes it all the better.

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