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In celebration and resilience, Boston Marathon runners race again

April 21, 2014 at 6:08 PM EDT
Under increased security, some 36,000 athletes — the second most in the race’s history — participated in the 118th Boston Marathon. Many raced to honor the three who were killed and more than 260 wounded in bombings a year ago. For the first time in decades, an American runner, Meb Keflezighi, came in first place. Judy Woodruff talks to Adam Reilly of WGBH and Maria Cramer of The Boston Globe.
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: More than a million spectators turned out in and around Boston on a beautiful April day to watch and cheer for a footrace that had more at stake than most years.

MAN: Please join us in a moment of silence.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The morning began with a moment of silence at the starting line before the 118th Boston Marathon officially got under way.

Then the mood quickly shifted to celebration and resilience, amid extremely tight security along the 26.2-mile route; 5,000 police officers were on hand, including 500 working undercover.

The U.S. secretary of homeland security, Jeh Johnson, monitored the race.

JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security: We’re all vigilant. We’re all dedicated here today in this coordinated effort, and we’re here to support a secure event.

JUDY WOODRUFF: More than 100 cameras were installed to keep a close watch along the course. Some 50 observation points were also set up near the finish line.

KURT SCHWARTZ, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency: Anything of trouble and any person that’s presenting a concern to us may be monitored very quickly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All the added security seemed to go down well with the estimated million-plus spectators who turned out.

MARTHA CAPPS, Spectator: I think it’s great. I happen to believe those that say it’s the safest place on the planet today.

RICHARD PELLESTIER, Spectator: There’s a lot more security. And if you have paid any attention to what’s happened over the last year, I mean, if you have any interest in running, this is where you want to be today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Especially this year.

JASON BARHORSE, Runner: I feel sorry for everything that happened last year, but, like, just the fact that we were all able to come back this year and still be running it was — it’s more joy than anything else.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Organizers expanded the field to some 36,000 athletes from around the world, the second most in the race’s history. That was partly to accommodate those who raced to honor the three killed and more than 260 wounded in the bombing.

CAROL MARTEL, Mother of Runner: It’s very special for — and it’s special for — because she wants to run for everyone that can’t, so it’s very special, especially after last year.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As well as another 5,000 who couldn’t finish the race last year because of the bombings.

Banners were also displayed across the city’s main public park, Boston Common, allowing spectators to sign them as a show of support for today’s racers and last year’s victims.

In the end, an American man won for the first time in three decades. Meb Keflezighi, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Eritrea, finished in a little more than two hours and eight minutes. He wrote the names of the bombing victims, in black, along the corners of his race bib. And Rita Jeptoo of Kenya captured the women’s title for the second consecutive time. She also smashed a 12-year course record in the process, finishing just under two hours and 19 minutes.

Given the anniversary, the ramped-up security and the running records, it was indeed a memorable Patriots’ Day in Boston.

We check in now with two who were out there for it, Maria Cramer of The Boston Globe. She joins us this evening from the Boston Common. And Adam Reilly of WGPH Public TV in Boston.

Maria Cramer, how did the day go overall? What would you say? 

MARIA CRAMER, The Boston Globe: It was — I mean, there were so many police officers out there.

And I have to say, it was very calm. The crowds were very well-behaved. They listened to the instructions, which were, don’t come in with backpacks. Please abide by these rules and the day should go pretty well. And in Boston so far, from what I hear, there has been only one arrest for disorderly conduct. It looks like it’s been a successful day in terms of security.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Adam Reilly, what would you add? How did you feel it went?

ADAM REILLY, WGBH-TV: I would echo the point Maria made.

The mood in Copley Square, where I was, right by the finish line, the mood was extremely relaxed. I tried to find people who might take issue with the enhanced security. And I wasn’t able to find anyone. Much like the people you quoted in your setup piece, people basically said to me this is probably the single safest spot in the country or maybe on the planet right now. And if this is the price we have to pay to feel safe and to be able to conduct marathon a year after what happened, we’re fine with it.

So very relaxed. And it was interesting. The enhanced security — sometimes at things like presidential nominating conventions, you will detect a little animosity between, say, members of the media and security personnel, or the security personnel will sort of wear their authority heavily. And at least where I was, that wasn’t the case today. It was very low-key, and I think probably more effective as a result.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Maria, what did you see that — what did you feel, see that was different about security this year? What was visible that was different?

MARIA CRAMER: There were a lot more dogs. And there were streets that were closed that are normally not closed. And Boylston Street, which is a street where people can go back and forth very easily, they have a lot of freedom and access to that area, that was closed by noon.

No more pedestrians were allowed onto that street, to the annoyance of some people who were trying to get on from nearby Newbury Street. But, like Adam said, most people understood this is what it has to be like. So it was very, very tight in terms of where you could walk. That’s not the kind of marathon most people in Boston are used to.

And I don’t know if that’s what it is going to look like next year. It will be interesting to see if they replicate this. But I think the police really feel like this was the way to handle it, and most spectators agreed with them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Maria…

ADAM REILLY: I’m sorry.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Adam, go ahead. And…

ADAM REILLY: I’m sorry for jumping in.

I was going underscore Maria’s point. To have Boylston Street closed off, I believe from the Boston Public Garden to Massachusetts Avenue, that’s a big deal. I was trying to connect with my cameraman earlier this morning. And it took me a good 45 minutes to basically do the equivalent of crossing a street in two minutes. Now, that’s not a big deal because it was an inconvenience for me.

But, as Maria mentioned, I think a lot of spectators were kind of thrown. There were times when it was a little unclear about how you were supposed to get from point A to point B. But, again, general acceptance was the rule.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Maria, you both…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you go ahead. Go ahead. I want to hear what you have to say.

MARIA CRAMER: Oh.

Well, you know, I was going to say exactly what Adam said. Basically, people — they have been advertising for a while. The police had been pretty vocal about what they were going to do, especially in Boston — in Boston, where the marathons struck — excuse me — where the bombs struck last year.

They told people, you know, be prepared for this. So people weren’t prepared. Many of them were perplexed and cursing under their breath a couple of times. So, you know, you had some surprise on that level. And it was confusing. But the goal was to have as few people on Boylston as possible, so that police and anti-crime units, plainclothes officers could move around. And that is what they seem to have accomplished.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Maria, did you sense there was an effect on the runners themselves? I know there were, what, 9,000 more than last year.

MARIA CRAMER: I think in a way there was, because the crowds are usually a little thicker along Boylston Street.

And you saw some runners sort of throwing their hands up trying to get the tears and the screams to be a little louder. And I was asking some spectators who come year after year, and they said, yes, usually, you have more people along Boylston Street. And they said, it seems like people are a little bit more subdued, and I don’t know if it is because they are looking for things, if they are looking on the street to see if any bags have been left behind, if there was any fear.

So there was a calmness to this marathon that you normally don’t see. It is normally a much, you know, rowdier event. And I think there was a sort of feeling of, let’s just — let’s just see if everything’s OK…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Adam…

MARIA CRAMER: … before we get too excited.

ADAM REILLY: It is interesting that Maria said that.

I actually had heard something a little bit different from a couple runners at the finish line. I had one woman tell me that the crowd, which is known for being an incredibly supportive crowd, that it was sort of even more passionate and supportive this year than in previous years. But that just goes to show you that these things are subjective.

I think that a lot of the runners I talked to decided that they were going to run because of what happened last year. That was why they were here today or a big part of the reason. But they also told me that once the race began, by and large, they put last year’s events out of their mind.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Adam, is it — did you get a sense from people that they hope that this kind of security is not there indefinitely?

ADAM REILLY: I didn’t hear that from a single spectator or a single participant.

But it will be really interesting to see — Maria mentioned what subsequent marathons are going to look like. And I think that is the huge unanswered question. Is this security going to become standard? Is there going to become a point after which people start to chafe at this?

This year, everyone was a little bit anxious. Even though we all assumed it was a very, very safe event, I think there was still sort of a collective sigh of relief when it ended without anything weird or unpleasant happening. Two years from now, or five years from now, or 10 years from now, that discussion may be different.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Adam Reilly, WGBH.

Maria Cramer of The Boston Globe joining us, Maria, thank you from the Boston Common.

MARIA CRAMER: Thank you.

Note: Due to web restrictions, the published video is edited.