BOSTON (CBS) — Winning the Boston Marathon is no walk in the park, so there are plenty of perks for the winners.
In addition to a nice cash prize for the first person to cross the finish line after 26.2 grueling miles, the winner also gets an olive wreath dipped in gold and a fancy medal to remember their victory.
But imagine the perks for the first American man to win the famous race in over three decades. It’s a dream Meb Keflezighi has been living for nearly a year, ever since he won the 2014 Boston Marathon.
“It’s been endless,” Keflezighi told WBZ-TV’s Lisa Hughes in a recent interview.
The B.A.A. gave him the “B-O-S-T” from the famous finish line, which Keflezighi now has mounted at his home, sitting with his golden olive wreath.
But there is plenty more. Just two days after his victory, he got to throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park, for a Red Sox-Yankees game nonetheless. He received his own personalized “Meb, 26.2” Red Sox jersey, and even mingled with David Ortiz and Derek Jeter.
And as has become common with the champions of Boston, Keflezighi was treated to a duck boat tour of the city. It’s something he hopes to do again with his young daughters in the near future.
But the perks and accolades don’t stop in the 617 area code. On a much more national stage, Keflezighi has become a popular voice for speaking arrangements and commencement speeches. He was even included in one of President Obama’s jokes at the White House’s Correspondent’s Dinner.
“He said, ‘An American won the Boston Marathon because a Kenyan has been president for six years,'” Keflezghi recalls.
It was a story Obama relayed to him in person when Keflezighi and his wife were invited to dinner at the White House. There, they sat with the President and first lady Michelle Obama, as well as former President Jimmy Carter.
“It was an amazing experience. My wife and I went, and President Obama saw me and said, ‘Here comes the fast guy!'” Keflezighi remembers. “President Jimmy Carter told me, ‘You’re the most famous guy here.'”
Keflezighi said he, the President and Mr. Carter talked at length about his training, and just life in general. It was an experience he will never forget.
“It was an amazing experience and I feel blessed. For someone who grew up without running water and electricity, who was born in a war and was able to escape that, [it was amazing],” he said.
And Keflezighi will never forget that he’s received all these perks for winning the Boston Marathon. But if he walked away with nothing material from the race, and none of the perks that followed, he would have been A-OK with that too. He has said over and over again the 2014 Boston win is the most important and meaningful victory of his career — not for himself, but for the people of Boston after the tragic events of the 2013 Marathon.
“As Nelson Mandela said, ‘Sports unite us more than anything else.’ I wanted to win Boston every year I ran, but it happened on the most important day,” he said. “To get a call from the President to say, ‘Job well done,’ that says a lot.”
Now, Keflezighi is forever ingrained in Boston history. That in itself is an honor he has a tough time putting into words.
“It’s a huge honor to be a part of Boston history. It’s been an amazing experience,” he said. “I feel blessed to have those opportunities.
“Boston put me up there.”
Stay tuned for more coverage of the 119th Boston Marathon on CBSBoston.com and WBZ-TV — the exclusive local broadcast home of the Boston Marathon!