Maickel Melamed has been told that he can’t. But he showed the world, yet again, that he can.
The final participant in the 119th Boston Marathon to cross the finish line, Melamed completed the 26.2-mile course in just under 20 hours. The 39-year-old Venezuelan was diagnosed as an infant with a condition called hypotonia that impairs his mobility. Wearing bib No. 30965, he began his race with the mobility impaired competitors at 8:50 a.m. on Monday morning. The chants and exhortations of the fans and volunteers accompanying him reverberated through the otherwise empty streets of Boston as he battled the terrain and the elements until nearly 5 a.m. on Tuesday.
“The rain, the distance, the cold — I mean everything today — was overcome because when we are a team the human creativity, the human magic appears every time,’’ Melamed told reporters at the finish line.
After he was born in Caracas, Venezuela, with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, doctors told Melamed’s parents that he wasn’t likely to live for more than a few days. They were then told that he wouldn’t ever talk, that he wouldn’t ever walk. Now approaching his 40th birthday, he is a motivational speaker who has participated in multiplemarathons.
“Maickel is what we need, what we want because his energy is so unbelievable. It gives Venezuelan people hope,’’ said Franklin Marval, a Venezuela native living in Boston who came out to show his support. “It’s like we know that things can be better. You get inspired by him. He’s so positive and you’ve got to do the same.’’
With a crowd of supporters counting off his steps and Boston Police blocking the streets ahead of him, Melamed turned right on Hereford at 4:14 a.m., more than 16 hours after Lelisa Desisa won the men’s race.
“Si se puede,’’ his supporters chanted in Spanish as he made his way along the final miles of the course.
In English, the phrase can be translated as “Yes, we can.’’
He turned left on Boylston at 4:23 a.m., nearly six hours after the official after-party for marathon participants had closed up for the night.
“Si se puede!’’
Lightning sporadically illuminated his path over the famed final blocks of the marathon as rain poured down, carrying away discarded cups from water stations long gone in rivulets hemmed in by the curbs bordering the famous thoroughfare. Through it all, Melamed advanced one step at a time.
“Si se puede!’’
With the cheers of his supporters mingling with the thunder of the pre-dawn storm and a phalanx of television cameras awaiting him, Melamed crossed the finish line at 4:49 a.m., just shy of 20 hours since he’d set out from Hopkinton.
“Maickel is an inspiration,’’ Gabriella Uzcategui, who was born in Venezuela and currently lives in Boston, said of the man everyone had come out to see. “He’s one of those persons that you can be really inspired by because he goes and does things. You see this person who has muscular dystrophy and you see him running. Now this is the fifth time he does it. You really want to follow him.’’
Completing the Boston Marathon was especially important to Melamed as his parents brought him here to receive medical treatment as a child. He planned for it to be his final marathon.
“For me I’m so grateful for Boston and to Boston,’’ he said after finishing. “This is an amazing city.’’
The city of Boston showed its appreciation for Melamed later on Tuesday. Mayor Marty Walsh presented Melamed with a finisher’s medal.
Pictures From the 119th Boston Marathon