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High Spirits, Tight Security At 118th Boston Marathon

Thousands Run First Boston Marathon Since Bombings

BOSTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — A remarkable finish and a remarkable story.

American Meb Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon, a year after a bombing at the finish line left three dead and more than 260 people injured.

Keflezighi is a former New York City Marathon champion and Olympic medalist. He ran the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to the finish on Boylston Street in Boston’s Back Bay on Monday in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds.

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.

PHOTOS: 118th Boston Marathon

“It was very difficult to be happy. People were injured and children died,” she had said of last year’s marathon. “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 finish line.

The 118th Boston Marathon took place amid heavy security a year after the bombings near the race’s finish line that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

Last year, the bombs went off at 2:49 p.m. as spectators crowded around the finish the line to cheer the still-arriving runners about five hours into the race.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said at the starting line in Hopkinton that officials were trying to keep a traditional family feel to the marathon while maintaining tight security.

A moment of silence was observed and “America the Beautiful” was played over a loudspeaker before the start of the race.

Despite heightened security, the mood was festive at the finish line on Boylston Street. Spontaneous applause broke out as a group of Boston police officers walked near the site of last year’s twin bombing and children danced as the Rolling Stones’ song “Start Me Up” blared over the loudspeakers.

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

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“I can’t imagine the number of emotions that are going to be there,” said Katie O’Donnell, who was running the marathon last year and made it 25 and 1/2 miles before she was stopped less than a mile from the finish line when the twin bombs exploded. “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.”

The most obvious change for this year’s race was the heavy security presence. State and local police officers were everywhere, even on the rooftops of some buildings. Helicopters circled above and bomb-sniffing dogs checked through trash cans.

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the NYPD bomb squad was also in Boston to assist with the marathon.

Bratton, a Boston native and former Boston police commissioner, has had an NYPD detective from the intelligence unit assigned full-time to Boston.

For years, state and local officials have conducted a “tabletop exercise” before the Boston Marathon, a meeting that allows them to study a map of the 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton to Boston’s Copley Square and plan for emergencies that could arise during the race.

So many new people needed to attend the session this year that they moved it from the state’s emergency bunker in Framingham to the a convention center in the city.

The crowd grew from what usually is about 100 to more than 450, according to Boston Athletic Association executive director Tom Grilk, who is in charge of organizing the race.

“Whether you have a small group or a big group, the spirit is the same,” he said this month in an interview at the athletic association’s office, about two blocks from the finish line. “And that is: How do we get our event done well?”

Runners attending the event had to use clear plastic bags for their belongings and fans hoping to watch near the finish line are encouraged to leave strollers and backpacks behind.

More than 100 cameras have been installed along the route in Boston, and 50 or so “observation points” are set up around the finish line “to monitor the crowd,” the Boston Athletic Association said.

“I was down on Commonwealth Avenue. They have equipment down there, police amassing. There is tight security,” Flushing resident, David said.

Patrick said there have been no specific threats against the race or the city for the Massachusetts holiday of Patriots’ Day.

“We’re not taking that as a sign to sort of stand down,” he said. “We’re very prepared, and we’re assuring people as much as we can that it’ll be a fun day and a safe one.”

Race organizers expanded the field from its recent cap of 27,000 to 36,000 make room for more than 5,000 runners who were still on the course 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.

“I definitely am very much looking forward to go back and finish what I started last year and also be a part of the day that I think is going to be a really big celebration of resilience for Boston and the country,” Renee Pompei of Manhattan told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.

Pompei is among the runners with ties to the Tri-State area who said they had unfinished business in Boston.

According to the Boston Athletic Association’s website, 1,773 runners from New York, 652 runners from New Jersey and 577 runners from Connecticut are participating in the race.

“Why them? Why not me?” Boston-area native Alison L’Heureux, who now lives on the Upper West Side, told WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond.

L’Heureux had reached Mile 26 and was eager to see her mom and dad at the finish line of last year’s Boston Marathon when the first pressure-cooker bomb exploded. She has been trying to make sense of the tragedy ever since.

“These people’s lives are changed forever,” said L’Heureux, who will run in Monday’s marathon. “How do they move forward?”

Robin Venick of Manhattan said she saw the bombs go off last year.

“I’m not scared at all,” she told Diamond. “The camaraderie and spirit of marathon runners is so super strong and if these people were trying to break our spirit, they’re messing with the wrong people.”

At mile 17, Manhattan resident Renee Pompei-Reynolds stopped to hug her husband Christopher. Pompei-Reynolds’ run at last year’s marathon was cut short by the explosions.

“I saw the bombs go off. I was across the street,” Christopher told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider.

Authorities say two ethnic Chechen brothers who lived in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and the Dagestan region of Russia planned and orchestrated the marathon bombings on April 15, 2013.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died following a shootout with police days after the bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges and is awaiting a trial in which he faces a possible death sentence.

Prosecutors say the brothers also killed MIT police Officer Sean Collier days after the bombings in an attempt to steal his gun.

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