SAN DIEGO - Meb Keflezighi, the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in 31 years, received the key to the City of San Diego on Saturday at the high school where he began his running career.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer called Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi a "true American hero," and presented him with the key during a late morning ceremony at San Diego High School.
"There are so many great ways to describe Meb. He's a great athlete, a great father, an Olympian and a San Diegan," Faulconer said. "And today, I believe we are creating another great way to honor Meb -- America's finest runner."
The Eritrean-born runner, who turned 39 on May 5, won the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21 with an official time of 2:08:37. As he approached the finish line roughly 10 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Wilson Chebet of Kenya, he could be seen pumping his fist as the crown cheered him on.
Keflezighi and his family immigrated to the United States as refugees from Eritrea in 1987, when he was 12 years old. He won both the 1,600 meter and the 3,200 meter races at the CIF California State Championship while at San Diego High School.
Keflezighi, who was joined at Saturday's celebration by his wife, children, parents, siblings, a teammate and coaches, said he began running because of academics and his hard work prevailed with successes in the high school and at UCLA, from which he earned his degree, and throughout his running career.
"Winning is not about getting first place or getting the medal, but about getting the best out of yourself each time and every time," Keflezighi said.
During the celebration, attendees were able to walk the Balboa Stadium track with the 2004 Olympic silver medalist before he receive the key to the city.
City Councilman David Alvarez, a middle and high school classmate of Keflezighi's, took the day of celebration a step further, proclaiming May "Meb Keflezighi Month."
"Not only is he committed to running, he is committed to living a positive life," Alvarez said.
Keflezighi was among nearly 36,000 runners in a race that was scarred a year earlier by two homemade bombs that killed three people and injured 264 others.
Mike McDowell, president of the San Diego Hall of Champions and the events emcee, said the whole world was watching as Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon, and his win was the exclamation point to a year of reflection and recovery and a day of triumph.
Keflezighi's victory filled hearts and raised hope throughout the country, the sport and the world, he said.
"Today on Meb Day, we will not only honor a great athletic achievement by an esteemed champion in his sport, we will also honor Meb as a true national treasure -- the pride of San Diego," McDowell said.