A year ago, the Boston Marathon became a terrorist target chosen with what seemed like horrible precision. The bombing killed three, injured hundreds, and marred an iconic sporting event that resists security by its sprawling nature. The life of a metropolis was paralyzed as the perpetrators were hunted down.
A year later, however, the marathon stands as a fortress of civic will. Athletes who train to run 26.2 miles heedless of typical human limitations - and, this being the Boston Marathon, some of the best among them - are not easily cowed by one more obstacle.
Nearly 36,000 runners participated in the 118th annual race Monday, or about 9,000 more than last year - hardly a portrait of demoralization. And even though the spectators suffered most of last year's injuries, a record crowd of about a million, or twice the usual turnout, rooted for the runners. As Rep. Joseph Kennedy III of Massachusetts told MSNBC before joining the race, its spirit is embodied by "thousands of people cheering on thousands of people who they don't know and they will never see again."
Organizers expanded the race's usual capacity by a third this year partly to make room for the more than 5,000 runners who were unable to finish last year. Johanna Hantel of Malvern was finishing last year's race when the bombs exploded. Though she suffered a traumatic brain injury in the blast and has only disjointed and frightening memories of the immediate aftermath, she told The Inquirer's Michael Vitez that this year, "There was no way I wasn't going back to run."