Boston marathon: Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours the three people killed and 250 injured in bombing last year

‘I knew I would be back. It’s about showing the terrorists you can’t  do that to America’

It was a race not everyone had been able to finish last time around but in a show of guts and determination that has come to define the city of Boston, tens of thousands of athletes turned out on Monday for its annual marathon that twelve months before had ended in shocking and indiscriminate violence.

 "We're taking back our race," marathon director Dave McGillivray said. "We're taking back the finish line."

And while it was the finish line that many had in sight, there was also reflection of the events of April 14, 2013. 

It was just minutes after Meghan Osterlind finished her 11th Boston Marathon last year when a first bomb ripped through the crowd behind her. "I didn't know what it was. Then I turned around and saw the mushroom cloud," she recalled on Monday. At the time, she grabbed the hand of her seven-year-old niece, Kiera Osterlind, who asked "What's a bomb?" as she heard the word rippling through the panicked crowd. Then, a second explosion was unleashed nearby. Ms Osterlind didn't answer. Instead she instructed it was time to drop everything and run.

"Once the second one went off, we knew. I was expecting bombs to go off down all of Boylston Street [where the last stretch of the marathon takes place]," she said.

What they didn't know then was that the marathon had been attacked by two Chechen brothers living in Boston - Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  The pair had planted two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line which killed three people and injured more than 250, of whom at least 14 required amputations. The city was virtually shut down as an unprecedented pursuit of the two men began, a dramatic manhunt that ended on 19 April with the death of one police officer. His brother already killed, Dzhokar was found hiding in a small boat in a nearby suburb. He is set to go on trial in November this year.

Like the thousands who had returned to run this year, Ms Osterlind was determined finally to turn the page on the tragedy. Altogether, a record 36,000 runners set off from the start line. Perhaps it was appropriate that when the men's elite race was done it was an American, Meb Keflizighi, an Olympic medallist of Eritrean origin, who had  won, completing the course in 2hr 8min 37sec, the names of last year's victims written across his bib.

Mr Keflizighi, the first American man to win since 1984, was not the only one to have last year's atrocity on his mind. Maggie Butcher lined up on Monday for her second marathon, hoping that it was the first she would be able to complete. In 2013, she was less than a mile from the finish when everything came to a complete stop.

A memorial to 2013 Boston Marathon bombing victims A memorial to 2013 Boston Marathon bombing victims

"I was almost done. I was super-excited, and then we just came up to a wall of runners and we got stopped and nobody really knew what was going on." A runner next to her had his phone with him and told her it sounded as if a bomb had gone off. Another entrant insisted they would finish the race, no matter what. That was when she looked up at the sky and saw it was filled with helicopters. "That was when I knew something was definitely wrong," she said. "I knew I had to turn around to get back to my boyfriend, so I ran another mile backwards with my sister."

But while many were running on Monday to finish what they started last year, others were drawn by a sense of empathy after witnessing the carnage. William Carpenter, from Cambridge in England, was running his 10th marathon but his first in Boston. "Running is an international community," he said.  "It's all about helping each other and coming together. Anybody who is a runner felt touched by [the bombing] - that someone would take something so pure and so filled with celebration of the human spirit and taint it like that."

Mr Carpenter echoed the feelings of many saying this was the year to be at Boston's race. The city was decked in the marathon's blue and yellow colours, flags sewn by people around the world were strewn across Boston Museum of Fine Arts in an exhibit called "To Boston with Love", while Boston Public Library was filled with running shoes left at the finish line last year and notes scrawled by survivors: a memorial to those who died and those who lived.

The phrase 'Boston Strong' has become ubiquitous throughout the past year - a phrase that captured the city's determination to overcome. It was worn with pride on the T-shirts of hundreds of spectators. Among the moving tributes at the end of the route was one commemorating the youngest victim, eight-year-old Martin Richard. "No more hurting people. Peace," read the sign. A photograph of Martin holding a poster he made for school with those words was published after his death.

Where there was strength in the crowd, there was also caution. Police were deployed in force along the route, with helicopters circling above and bomb-sniffing dogs checking through rubbish bins. Sergeant Alexander Machado, who was part of a heavy National Guard presence, said of his race day experience that "the military is here in the large numbers but we're still purely a support role." He added: "It's also just a showing of support. We have soldiers here from all over Massachusetts and also from many other states. They said, 'Look, we get it, you're Boston strong but today we're all Boston strong'."

In the end, finishing the race was less important for many of runners than the act simply of turning up. "I knew I would be back," said Ms Osterlind. "It's about showing the terrorists that you can't do that to Boston, you can't do that to America, we'll come back no matter what."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home