Boston has held its annual marathon with strong memories of last year's deadly bombings. The day was also noteworthy for the men's race, where an American won for the first time in 31 years.
Before marathoners set off from the start line in Boston on Monday morning, they bowed their heads in a moment of silence to remember those whose lives were indelibly changed just over a year ago.
On April 5, 2013, two pressure cooker bombs stored in backpacks detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed in the attack and over 260 wounded, many of whom sustained severe injuries to their legs.
"We've tried to strike a balance between enhanced security and persevering the family feel of this day," Massachusetts state Governor Deval Patrick told reporters.
Boston's police department deployed some 3,600 personnel to ensure safety at this year's highly anticipated event. It has also required runners to leave their belongings in clear plastic bags.
An additional 100 cameras have been installed along the course to monitor the crowds, according to the Boston Athletic Association.
Less than a week after the terrorist attack, local police working together with the FBI identified Chechen brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the alleged perpetrators. Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a subsequent shoot out with police, while Dzhokhar, now 20, was arrested. He is awaiting trial and could face the death penalty if convicted.
A track coach from New Jersey, Robert Hollis, said the increased police presence had put some participants on edge.
"There is some nervousness. I wasn't scared until 15 minutes ago, but when I saw all those cops and the dogs on the Amtrak train, I got a little nervous," Hollis told Reuters news agency. "We just live in a different age and time now."
However, the changed security situation did not faze some of the runners who had returned to complete the 26.2-mile race this year, including 1968 Boston Marathon winner, Amby Burfoot.
"We (the runners) are so lucky because we are going down the middle of the parade, with fans on both sides of the road. All of us, we feel so lucky that we are part of this," Burfoot told AFP news agency in an interview.
"At the end of the day, we all say Boston lives, Boston strong, Boston endures forever," he added.
Nearly 36,000 runners were registered for the 2014 marathon, the second largest field in the race's history. Event organizers reportedly expanded the number to allow last year's runners who didn't complete the marathon to return for a second attempt.
American takes men's top spot
Meb Keflizighi took top spot in the men's race with a time of 2:08:37. Adding to a resume that includes taking first place in the New York City Marathon and an Olympic medal, Keflizighi became the first American to win first place in Boston in 31 years.
"At the end, I just kept thinking, 'Boston strong. Boston strong," Keflezighi said. "I was thinking give everything you have."
In the women's division, Kenyan Rita Jeptoo defended her title, finishing 2:18:57.
American Olympian Shalane Flanagan, who placed seventh in the women's race, said the turnout at this year's race was incredible.
The fans crowding the sidelines were "so loud that my ears almost hurt," Flanagan said.
kms/ccp (AP, AFP, Reuters)