We all know who finished the 2015 Boston Marathon on top, but what about those runners who crossed the blue-and-yellow finish line at the day's end? Although the crowds left in the late afternoon, runners remained on the 26.2-mile course well until nightfall — or even early Tuesday morning. At 5 a.m. Tuesday, Maickel Melamed became the last runner to cross the Boston Marathon finish line in 2015, but it was in no way a last-place finish.
A long-distance runner hailing from Venezuela, Melamed was born with a rare form of muscular disease that greatly impairs his mobility. However, he's no stranger to world-class marathons, having raced and completed marathons in Tokyo, Berlin, New York, and Chicago. Monday was his first time participating in the historic Boston Marathon — and it may be his last marathon in his running career.
While most of the marathon's 30,000 runners and 34 elite athletes were already passed out in their hotel beds Monday night, Melamed continued to make his way from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to Boston's Copley Square. He persevered through the steep half-mile incline at "Heartbreak Hill" in Newton, Massachusetts, and ran through the streets of Brookline when all of the shops and restaurants were dark. But fortunately, Melamed did not go at this alone.
According to the Associated Press, the 39-year-old runner was flanked by volunteers and supporters for the duration of the 26.2-mile course. When he crossed the finish line Tuesday morning — 20 hours after leaving Hopkinton — he was met by a large crowd of friends, still yelling and cheering in Spanish despite the early hour and steady rain that never really let up during the night.
His group of supporters also carried a large "VENEZUELA" banner as he neared Copley Square. Melamed said in a tweet on Monday night that 200 Venezuelans joined him on the streets of Boston.
"It was tough, the wind, the rain, the distance, the cold, everything today was overcome," Melamed told the media at the finish line. "For me, I’m so grateful for Boston and to Boston. This is an amazing city."
WBZ in Boston reported that Melamed and Boston actually have a long history: His parents brought him to Boston Children's Hospital years ago for treatment, and they didn't think he would survive. However, the staff at BMC saved his life, Melamed said.
Friend Natalie Howard, who walked with Melamed for those long 20 hours, added to WBZ:
Walking with him is really about bringing that rhythm into your own self, and what are you going to do with it. What are you going to do with that prayer of peace that you carry inside of yourself? ... This is not about Maickel, it’s not about Venezuela, it’s about the world, and it’s about creating a world for peace with the intention of putting humanity first.
Here are some more pictures of Melamed running along the storied marathon course. Melamed live-tweeted his journey from start to finish...
Image: Getty Images