BOSTON – Some ran to honor the dead and wounded. Others were out to prove something to the world about their sport, the city or their country. And some wanted to prove something to themselves.
With the names of the victims scrawled on their bodies or their race bibs, more than 32,000 people ran in the Boston Marathon on Monday in a powerful show of defiance a year after the deadly bombing.
“We’re marathon runners. We know how to endure,” said Dennis Murray, 62, a health care administrator from Atlanta who finished just before the explosions last year and came back to run again. “When they try to take our freedom and our democracy, we come back stronger.”
The two pressure cooker bombs that went off near the end of the 26.2-mile course last year killed three people and wounded more than 260 in a spectacle of torn limbs, acrid smoke and broken glass. But the city vowed to return even stronger, and the victory by Meb Keflezighi – the first American in 31 years to win the men’s race – helped deliver on that promise.
On Twitter, President Obama congratulated Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan, the top American finisher among the women, “for making America proud!”
The race was held under extraordinary security, including 100 new surveillance cameras, more than 90 bomb-sniffing dogs and officers posted on roofs.
As runners continued to drag themselves across the finish line in the late afternoon, more than six hours into the race, state emergency officials reported no security threats other than some unattended bags.
At 2:49 p.m., the time of the first explosion, the crowd at the finish line observed a moment of silence – then broke into some of the loudest cheers of the day, with whooping, clapping and the clanging of cowbells.
Some of the victims themselves returned for a ceremonial crossing of the finish line.
“It was hard. It was really hard,” said Heather Abbott, who wore a “Boston Strong” sticker on the black prosthesis where her left leg used to be. “I was really nervous. I didn’t want to fall. I’m just glad we made it.”
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is awaiting trial in the attack and could get the death penalty. Prosecutors said he and his older brother – ethnic Chechens who came to the United States from Russia more than a decade ago – carried out the attack in retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim lands. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a shootout days after the bomings.