26.2 Strong | David Willey

July 22, 2014 3:57 PM

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26.2 Strong | David Willey

Right about now, all over America, a couple hundred thousand runners are beginning to train for fall-marathon season. To them, the most important marathon is the one that's ahead, whether it's in Chicago or New York or Philly or Pensacola. But the most meaningful 26.2-miler of the year -- perhaps of the century -- was run on April 21. On Patriots' Day in Boston, I rode in the press truck covering the women's lead pack, tweeting 100-something times about Shalane Flanagan, who graced our front cover in May and led the race from the gun. She ran a three-minute PR (2:22:02) and an American record for the course but finished seventh. We so badly wanted an American to win this Boston Marathon. But because Flanagan made good on her vow to run to win, she simply couldn't stick with repeat champ Rita Jeptoo or other women she had carried through a torrid first 20 miles, until they poetically surged away on Heartbreak Hill. It was a great, gutsy performance that was awe-inspiring to watch from the front row. After jumping off the truck at the finish, I looked at the big screen and saw... Meb? I ran to the media center and almost crashed into Merhawi Keflezighi, Meb's brother and agent. We traded saucer-eyed, slack-jawed expressions, and he ran out to watch the finish in person while I ran inside to watch the live TV feed. When Meb crossed the line, becoming the first American man to win in 31 years, the room -- normally a staid collection of impartial journalists -- erupted.

My favorite moment, however, may have been when Juli Windsor, who at 3'9" had started the race first in the mobility impaired division and led for 15 kilometers, was overtaken by Flanagan and the lead pack. Juli (whom we profiled in our April issue) looked to her left with her own astonished express...

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