Boston, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - Kenya's Rita Jeptoo claimed her second straight Boston Marathon title on Monday and Meb Keflezighi became the first American male to win the oldest marathon in 31 years.
Jeptoo crossed the finish line in a course record time of 2 hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds, shattering the previous mark of 2:20:43 set by Kenya's Margaret Okayo in 2002.
It was the third Boston Marathon victory for Jeptoo, as she first claimed the title in 2006. Six others have also won at least three Boston titles and only fellow Kenyan Catherine Ndereba has four.
Keflezighi then held off Kenya's Wilson Chebet to capture the men's crown, finishing in 2:08:37. He won the New York City Marathon in 2009 and became the first American winner in Boston since Greg Meyer in 1983.
"It was my dream to win Boston and to make it just like the Red Sox did and do the same thing for the people," said Keflezighi in reference to the World Series championship the Red Sox won last October that helped the city heal in the wake of last year's tragic Boston Marathon bombings.
Nearly 36,000 runners took part in this year's marathon, the most since the centennial running in 1996. It began Monday in Hopkinton with a moment of silence to honor the victims of last year's bombings at the finish line.
Security was tight, but the streets were lined with spectators throughout the course on a perfect day with clear skies and temperatures in the upper 40s at the start.
The women's race featured an American at the forefront, as Shalane Flanagan led a blistering pace. She dropped off the lead pack of seven runners with about six miles to go and Jeptoo broke away from the rest with about four miles left.
Jeptoo increased her lead over the next two miles and cruised to the finish line with no other woman in sight. Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia was a distant second, 1:02 behind Jeptoo and Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia was third at 2:20:35.
Flanagan, who was fourth last year, finished seventh this year in a time of 2:22:02.
"I ran everything I had in me today, right until the tape," said Flanagan. "I'll be back to run here until I win it."
While it was thought Flanagan might have a chance to become the first American women's winner since Lisa Larsen Weidenbach in 1985, an American male winner on Monday wasn't really a consideration.
Keflezighi, however, had other ideas.
The 2004 Olympic silver medalist broke away from the lead pack midway through the men's race and built a lead of about a minute with less than 10 miles remaining. He kept the solid lead heading into the city, but saw it trimmed to about 20 seconds with three miles left and a charging Chebet was only about eight seconds off the pace with less than a mile to run.
Keflezighi, though, had something left in the tank and didn't let Chebet get any closer. He pumped his fists as he approached the finish line then broke into tears shortly afterward.
"Looking back is not a bad thing, it can save you a win," said Keflezighi.
Chebet crossed the line 11 seconds behind the winner with fellow Kenyan Frankline Chepkwony another two seconds back.
Born in the African country of Eritrea, Keflezighi immigrated to the United States with his family in 1987 after spending two years in Italy. He lives in San Diego with his family and is one of the most decorated American distance runners.
Keflezighi won the U.S. Olympic trials in 2012 and finished fourth at the London Games. His time Monday bettered his personal best of 2:09:08 set at the U.S. Olympic trials two years ago in Houston.
Two other U.S. men finished in the top 10, as Nicholas Arciniaga was seventh followed immediately by Jeffrey Eggleston.