Saturday 7 December 2019

A day for patriots as defiant Boston races again

Celeste Corcoran, who survived last year’s bomb, and her daughter Sydney (right)
Celeste Corcoran, who survived last year’s bomb, and her daughter Sydney (right)
A spectator sports the slogan "Boston Strong" on his head near the finish line
Meb Keflezighi of the US reacts after winning the men's division at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon in Boston
Winner Meb Keflizighit
Supporters hang 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 Monday, April 21, 2014 in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa is presented the trophy after winning the men's wheelchair division at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon in Boston
Runners make their way down Boylston Street after finishing the Boston Marathon
A man holds up a Boston Strong poster along the race course
Kenya's Rita Jeptoo holds the trophy after winning the women's division at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon in Boston
A Boston Police bomb detection dog sits near the finish line
A runner kneels to kiss the start line as he begins his running of the 118th Boston Marathon

Philip Sherwell and Mark O'Regan Boston

They returned, they raced, they reclaimed. The celebrations of runners and deafening cheers of spectators at the sunlit finish line of the Boston Marathon were about so much more yesterday than just completing one of the world's great sporting challenges.

An estimated million people lined the route in a display of defiance and a celebration of resilience, a year after two bombs ripped through the crowd at the finish line on Boylston Street, killing three and injuring more than 260.

With the mood festive on the New England holiday of Patriot's Day, it was a remarkable contrast with the moment when the 2013 race ended in murder and mayhem, turning the same city street into something resembling a war zone.


Yet the spectre of that atrocity was inescapable as crowds turned out in record numbers to watch a field expanded to 36,000, to include some 5,000 runners who could not complete last year's race. Up to 30 Irish runners took part.

A year ago, when US President Barack Obama comforted a city in mourning, he raised its morale with the pledge: "You will run again."

Now the day had come when Boston ran again, to reclaim the streets for the world's oldest marathon. The emotion on such a charged occasion intensified as for the first time since 1983, the men's event was won by an American, Meb Keflizighi, who finished in just two hours and eight minutes.

The 38-year-old, who arrived in the US as a refugee from Eritrea aged 12, dedicated his victory to those killed last year, whose names were written on his running vest. "I said I am going to use their energy to win it, and they were spectators with me," he said.

"I am honoured to win today. The US gave me a chance and gave me hope."

Roaring him on at the finish line was a man in a cowboy hat waving American flags, Carlos Arredondo, who became one of the faces of the bombings after being photographed wearing the same hat as he pulled to safety a man whose lower legs had just been blown off.

Mr Arredondo, a Costa Rican immigrant, had been giving away flags in honour of fallen US soldiers in Iraq, including his oldest son, when the blasts exploded across the road. He said he was still haunted by his memories of that day last year and struggled to remain calm in large crowds. "No way was I not coming back to the finish line for 2014," he said.

Bob Hilliard from Clonakilty, west Cork, was there when the first bomb went off, but yesterday was determined to take part. "The security is high but it's very open and easy going. There's a lovely sense of well-being," he said.

Wexford native Lisa Horan, who also completed the race, said her family were lucky to survive last year. She was nearing the finish line when she received a phone call from her husband Kevin. He told her the marathon had been stopped, and then the line went dead.

Kevin and the couple's three daughters had secured a spot close to the finish line to cheer her on. They were lucky to escape injury given the explosions occurred close to where they were standing.

"I know how lucky we are. That could have been my family," Lisa said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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