Under perfect skies Monday, amid the cheers and smiles of roughly one million people, Boston took back its marathon.
Brian Lashinksi’s eyes were alive with tremendous joy and passion as he slowed to a walk after the Boylston Street finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon, waving to spectators and shouting “Boston Strong.”
“I feel fantastic. I have never been more proud to be a part of any race in my entire life,” said Lashinski, a Minneapolis resident who trained in 20-below temperatures to prepare for yesterday’s race.
“Towards the end I just kept going. I didn’t even keep an eye on my pace. I wanted to make this the greatest race of my life,” said Lashinski.
Spectators on the sidelines kept their enthusiasm up throughout the day. As runners pushed their way through the final stretch, cheers, bells and applause bellowed into the Boston air.
“It’s been like that the whole way,” New Jersey runner Bill Washer said of the crowd. “It was awesome. It was definitely motivating. Towards the end, you just didn’t want to stop.”
Michelle Johnson-Houghton of Grand Rapids, Mich. was one of those supporters. She eagerly awaited her nephew’s arrival at the finish line.
“It’s hard to believe anything bad ever happened here. It’s such a beautiful event. This has always been such an uplifting race. People support it with their hearts and souls,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss this, and I’ll be back for more."
East Boston resident Kimberly Haley said she trained all year, but was unable to get a number.
“And if you can’t run, the next best thing you can do is show up, and support everyone else that runs. Today has made me want it even more. I’m just hungrier for it,” said Haley, admonishing the suspects of last year's fatal marathon bombing.
"How dare somebody take that away from millions of people," said Haley. "The only way to rise above that is to come right back, and pour into that loving, supportive environment again."
But for some, the day's unbridled brightness was darkened by memories of last year's tragedy.
Kristin Woodward of Washington D.C. stood on St. James Avenue, wrapped in a shiny thermal blanket. Her face, streaked with dried salt, peering over the crowds in search of her husband.
“It was hard, physically and emotionally. Truly, I was hurting a lot. All I could think about was the little boy who was killed,” Woodward said of 8-year-old Martin Richard, her voice breaking, tears welling in her eyes.
“I just kept thinking, ‘He’s never going to get to run around and play again, so you have to keep going.’”
But that sadness didn’t inhibit Woodward’s resolve: “It gave me a purpose. Every time I run a marathon I ask myself, ‘Why do this to yourself?’ but with this one, there was a reason behind every step.”