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Meb Keflezighi is first American to win NYC Marathon in 27 years

The 2009 New York City Marathon was won by an American for the first time in 27 years. Meb Keflezighi, 34, won the men’s race Nov. 1 with a personal best of 2 hours, 9 minutes and 14 seconds.

Meb, who was born in the war-torn African nation of Eritrea, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998–the year he received his college degree from UCLA.

“The USA gave me all the opportunities there is in education, sports and lifestyle,” said Keflezighi. “To be able to represent the USA is a big thing for me.”

Upon crossing the finish line in New York’s Central Park, a teary-eyed Meb knelt down and kissed the ground while sobbing with happiness. Keflezighi, who wore a shirt with the letters USA emblazoned across, was greeted by his mom, wife and children at the finish line.

The last American winner of the NYC Marathon was Cuban-born Alberto Salazar, who dominated the race three years in a row, from 1980-82. Since then, Kenya, Mexico and Brazil have consistently won the famed event.

Keflezighi, who won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics, suffered a setback in New York’s 2007 Olympic men’s marathon trials, when he came in 8th after suffering a stress fracture in his right hip. In addition, his training partner, Ryan Shay, died during the race of heart-related problems.

This year, Kenya’s Robert Cheruiyot, a four-time winner of the Boston Marathon, came in second, while Morocco’s Jaouad Gharib finished third and American Ryan Hall came in fourth.

On the women’s side, Ethiopian Derartu Tulu, 37, won with a time of 2:28:52. Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, 35, who won the women’s race for the past two years, came in fourth.

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