A day for patriots as defiant Boston races again
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)