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Ryan Hall, other U.S. runners wouldn’t help East Africans catch Meb Keflezighi

Apr 22, 2014, 1:57 PM EDT

Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi AP

Meb Keflezighi was an undoubted underdog going into the Boston Marathon. He needed plenty of things to go right to win. Taking nothing away from Keflezighi’s victory, his fellow top U.S. marathon runners played a small role.

LetsRun.com caught up with other top American finishers, who revealed how Keflezighi’s 2012 Olympic teammate, Ryan Hall, led the way in not taking charge in a chase group.

“Ryan Hall and I were running side by side, in front of the lead pack but not really pushing it, and Ryan just kept turning over to me, talking [to me and saying], ‘Hey don’t push the pace,'” said Nick Arciniaga, who finished seventh. “‘If they [non-American runners] want to let those guys go, they are going to have work to catch back up to them. We are not going to help them out with that at all.  If we want an American to win, this is how it’s going to be done.’”

Hall confirmed the story, according to LetsRun, and added a text message to Sports Illustrated.

“It’s true. First it was Nick Arciniaga, then different American guys would go to the front [of the chase pack, after Meb and Josephat Boit had pulled away] and start pushing. I kept telling them not to, that we needed to give Meb as much space as possible. If the African guys were going to try to catch him, we weren’t going to do the work to help them. It wasn’t my day to win, as much as I wanted to. Meb winning was the next best thing and what the US needed.” Hall said he hadn’t talked to Meb about the tactic after the race. “I haven’t seen him since the race. I flew home right after the race. I don’t want to take anything away from his victory.”

The favorites going into Monday’s race were from Ethiopia and Kenya, the two dominant nations in men’s marathon running. Kenyan Wilson Chebet was the closest pursuer of Keflezighi, closing the gap to single-digit seconds over the final few miles, but Keflezighi held him off to win by 11 seconds.

Hall and the other Americans’ tactic, to not take the lead of the chase group, is similar to what is often seen in cycling stage rages such as the Tour de France. If a rider is leading on a breakaway, his teammates will not take turns doing the work at the front of a chase group.

Cycling is a bit different than major marathon running, where there are no “teams,” but, as Hall said, having another American win was the next best thing for any U.S. runner if he was not able to cross the finish line first.

Hall is the fastest U.S. marathon runner of all time, though his time, 2:04:58 from the 2011 Boston Marathon, does not count as an American record due to the point-to-point, net downhill course.

He finished 20th in 2:17:50 on Monday, his first completed marathon in more than two years after withdrawing before the 2013 Boston Marathon and 2012 and 2013 New York City Marathons due to injuries.

Video: Keflezighi’s stunning Boston victory

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