BOSTON (AP) – Unfinished business. Defiance. Hope, strength and resilience. They used different words but the meaning was the same for thousands of people who were stopped by twin bombings at last year’s Boston Marathon and came back this year to finish what they started.
The 118th running of the storied race from Hopkinton to Boston was run under the long and still-sharp shadow of the 117th, which turned tragic when two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people, injuring more than 260 and searing the day into a city with a long memory. On this marathon Monday, there was no choice but to remember, reflect and even confront the past, but the athletes found it easier – and more fun – to celebrate.
Jeff Glasbrenner said he returned to Boston for some “unfinished business” after being forced to stop at mile 25.9 last year following the bombing.
“I felt like those two bad guys stopped a lot of people from going after their dreams. I needed to come back,” said Glasbrenner, 41, who runs with a prosthetic right leg after losing part of his leg in a childhood farming accident.
“It was the most amazing thing crossing that finish line,” he said moments after he completed the race with two other amputees, all from Arkansas. “But it wasn’t for us. It was for all these people out here.”
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 city and its signature sporting event. “Boston Strong” – the unofficial slogan adopted after the terrorist attack – was everywhere, from the quiet suburban starting line in Hopkinton, through the sound tunnel created by the Wellesley College student body, up fabled Heartbreak Hill and finally down Boylston Street to the finish, where the bombs went off.
Lee Ann Yanni, whose left leg was badly injured in the bombing, said she could feel the energy of the crowd pushing her to the finish.
“It was really emotional crossing the finish line,” she said. “We got our finish line back. That’s all that mattered.”
The elite racers gave the crowd a reason to cheer, too.
American Meb Keflezighi won the men’s title in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds, the first American man to break the tape since 1983. Keflezighi had the names of last year’s victims written in black marker on the corners of his race bib.
Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo won the women’s race in a course-record 2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds, defending a championship from last year. She had been hoping this year for a title she could enjoy.
“It was very difficult to be happy. People were injured and children died,” she had said of last year’s marathon.
There was no denying the security measures in place since last year: There were multiple checkpoints; police along the route examined backpacks, particularly outside subway station exits; more than 100 new surveillance cameras looked down from above; and runners carried their belongings in clear plastic bags.
At 2:49 p.m., the moment the bombs went off a year ago, there was a moment of silence followed by a swelling cheer that chased runners toward the finish, rising in a wave as it got closer to the blue and gold line that marks the end of the race.
Vicki Schmidt of Nashville heard the explosions last year while running on Commonwealth Avenue but thought they were fireworks. She was prevented from finishing the race and her boyfriend, Phil Kirkpatrick, suffered hearing loss from the bombings. This year, he walked and ran the course.
“You can’t hold us back. You can’t get us down,” Schmidt said just after finishing Monday. “Boston is magical. This is our place.”
Heather Abbott, who lost her left leg in the bombings, ran the last half mile of the course on a prosthetic leg alongside her friend.
“It was hard. It was really hard,” she said, a “Boston Strong” sticker on the black prosthetic. “I was really nervous. I didn’t want to fall.”
She learned from the experience that she’s a lot stronger than she thought she was.
“And I’m going to have a normal life,” she said.
Associated Press writers Michelle R. Smith, Steve LeBlanc, Jimmy Golen and Bob Salsberg in Boston, Paige Sutherland in Wellesley and Phil Marcelo in Newton contributed to this report.
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