Sunday 28 December 2014

Boston marathon defies the bombers

Published 21/04/2014 | 12:22

Ron McCracken, from Dallas, pays his respects at a makeshift memorial in Boston honouring the victims of the 2013 marathon bombings (AP)
Ron McCracken, from Dallas, pays his respects at a makeshift memorial in Boston honouring the victims of the 2013 marathon bombings (AP)
Kenya's Rita Jeptoo holds the trophy after winning the women's division at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts April 21, 2014.     REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES  - Tags: SPORT ATHLETICS)
Kenya's Rita Jeptoo holds the trophy after winning the women's division at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder
Meb Keflezighi of the U.S. reacts after winning the men's division at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. Reuters/Gretchen Ertl
Meb Keflezighi. Photo: Reuters/Gretchen Ertl
Tatyana McFadden of the United States crosses the finish line of the 2014 Boston Marathon on Boylston Street taking first place in the women's wheelchair division. Photo: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The elite men's runners race near the start of the 118th Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Runners in the first wave of 9,000 cross the start line of the 118th Boston Marathon. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
The elite men's runners compete near the start of the 118th Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Elite runners including Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi race during the 2014 Boston Marathon. Photo: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Elite women runners leave the start line of the 118th Boston Marathon in Hopkinton. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Marla Fogelman, right, hangs a banner on the second floor over Marathon Sports store, the site of the first bomb blast in 2013, before the start of the 118th Boston Marathon. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
A couple huddles while waiting to load a bus to take them to the start of the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
A police officer stands amidst runners getting ready to run the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Runners get ready to run the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Runners get ready to run the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Runners wait in line for a bus to take them to the start of the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Police officers monitor runners getting ready to run the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
BRunners eat a last meal before loading a bus to take them to the start of the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Police officers monitor runners waiting to take the bus to the start of the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Runners wait in line for a bus to take them to the start of the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Two runners walk with garbage bags on to keep them warm prior to running the Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Runners wait in line for a bus to take them to the start of the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Runners get ready to run the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Runners get ready to run the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Runners get ready to run the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
A runner tucks gel packets into his socks while getting ready to run the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
A runner with a temporary Boston Marathon tattoo gets ready to run the 118th Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
A runner huddles under a blanket while getting ready to run the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Runners wait in line for a bus to take them to the start of the Boston Marathon in the Boston Commons on April 21, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Nearly 36,000 runners set out from the Boston Marathon starting line with security tight along the 26.2-mile course today, in a show of resilience a year after the bombing that turned the race into a scene of carnage.

Two pressure-cooker bombs went off near the finishing line last year, killing three people and wounding more than 260.

American Meb Keflizighi, a former New York City Marathon champion and Olympic medallist, won the men's title today in two hours, eight minutes and 37 seconds. He was the first American man to win in three decades.

Kenya's Rita Jeptoo won the women's race in a course-record two hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds, defending a championship from last year. She had been hoping this year for a title she could enjoy.

She said of last year's marathon: "It was very difficult to be happy. People were injured and children died. If I'm going to win again, I hope I can be happier and to show people, like I was supposed to last year."

Other runners were expected to remain on the course for several hours after the winners crossed the finishing line. Last year, the bombs went off at 2.49pm local time, as spectators crowded around the finishing line to cheer the still-arriving runners about five hours into the race.

Police were deployed in force along the route today, with helicopters circling above and bomb-sniffing dogs checking through rubbish bins. Officers were posted on roofs.

Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray said it had been a long and difficult year.

"We're taking back our race," he said. "We're taking back the finish line."

A total of 35,755 athletes were registered to run - the second-largest field in its history, with many coming to show support for the event and the city that was traumatised by the attack on its signature sporting event.

Katie O'Donnell, who was stopped less than a mile from the end last year, said: "I can't imagine the number of emotions that are going to be there. I think I'm going to start crying at the starting line, and I'm not sure I'll stop until I cross the finish line."

Buses bearing the message "Boston Strong" dropped off runners at the starting line in the town of Hopkinton. A banner on one building read: "You are Boston Strong. You Earned This."

Among the signs lining the end of the route was one paying tribute to eight-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest of those killed in the bombing.

"No more hurting people. Peace," read the sign. A photograph of Martin holding a poster he made for school with those words was published after his death.

Mary Cunningham, 50, of St Petersburg, Florida, who was stopped a mile short of the finish line by the explosions last year, said: "I showed up, I'm back, and I am going to finish what I didn't finish last year."

Sabrina Dello Russo, 38, of South Boston, was running her first marathon for a good friend, Roseann Sdoia, who lost her right leg in the bombing.

"She is my inspiration from day one last year when I saw her in the ICU (intensive care unit). Every run I do, she is in the back of my head, and she will be keeping me going today," Ms Dello Russo said.

While governor Deval Patrick said there had been no specific threats against the race or the city, spectators at the 118th running of the world's oldest annual marathon had to go through tight security before being allowed near the start and finishing lines.

Fans hoping to watch near the finishing line were encouraged to leave pushchairs and backpacks behind. Police set up checkpoints along the marathon route to examine backpacks, particularly outside underground station exits.

Runners had to use clear plastic bags for their belongings.

More than 100 cameras were installed along the route, and race organisers said 50 or so observation points would be set up around the finishing line to monitor the crowd.

Runner Scott Weisberg, 44, from Birmingham, Alabama, said he had trouble sleeping the night before.

"With everything that happened last year, I can't stop worrying about it happening again. I know the chances are slim to none, but I can't help having a nervous pit in my stomach," Mr Weisberg said.

Race organisers expanded the field from its recent cap of 27,000 to make room for more than 5,000 runners who were still on the course last year at the time of the explosions, for friends and relatives of the victims, and for those who made the case that they were "profoundly impacted" by the attack.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is awaiting trial for the April 15 2013 attack and could get the death penalty. Prosecutors said he and his older brother - ethnic Chechens who moved to the US from Russia more than a decade ago - carried out the attack in retaliation for American wars in Muslim lands.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a shootout with police days after the bombings.

One runner today, Peter Riddle, a 45-year-old Bostonian, said he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from being at the finishing line last year.

"I did a lot of talking this year, but running has helped me resolve a lot of things in my head," he said. "Running the marathon this year and running down Boylston Street will help me find peace and help me move forward."

The winner of the men's race had the names of last year's victims written in marker on the corners of his race bib.

Keflezighi wore his official runner's bib with the names of the three people killed in last year's marathon as well as the name of a police officer who was allegedly killed by the bombing suspect several days later.

Press Association

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