On Monday in Boston, Massachusetts, tens of thousands of runners braved cold and slick conditions to participate in the 119th Boston Marathon.
Just two years after the infamous attack on the annual race, this year's festivities appeared to mark a return to normalcy—30,000 marathoners participated, up from last year's 27,000. Another 2,000 were turned away due to space limitations.
"Runners and spectators are expected to pump $182 million into the local economy," noted G. Jeffrey MacDonald. "That represents a 33% increase since before the bombings."
As for the race itself, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia won the men's marathon for the second time, running the 26.2-mile course in just two hours and nine minutes. Desisa notably donated his first medal to the victims of the 2013 bombing, which took place only hours after he crossed the finish line. Caroline Rotich of Kenya beat out Ethiopian sprinter Mare Dibaba by just four seconds to score the women's title.
Survivors Join the Race
A majority of those injured in the 2013 attack were bystanders on the sidelines of the event rather than marathon participants themselves. This year, 25 of those survivors (many of whom are novices) are running the marathon after training with a group called 415 Strong.
Named for the date of the attack, 415 Strong is part training group, part support group for those who not only sustained physical injuries in the Boston Marathon bombing, but also suffer from PTSD in the aftermath of the attack.
“I can’t be in a stressful environment where people are loud and everyone is yelling. I tend to remove myself," Sabrina Dello Russo told Time. "People who didn’t experience what I did don’t understand that.”
Rebekah Gregory, whose injuries in the 2013 bombing eventually required her left leg to be removed, will participate in this year's run with a prosthetic leg. At a tribute run last year, she crossed the finish line in a wheelchair.
"Running has been a huge release to me with all of the craziness going on," she told ABC. Gregory was also one of the many survivors who testified at the trial of convicted marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Families Speak Out Against the Death Penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
In recent days, a few Boston Marathon bombing victims and their families have spoken out against the prospect of giving Tsarnaev the death penalty. Last week, Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son Martin died in the attack, wrote that in the service of speeding the process along, Tsarnaev should be given life in prison. “We hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring,” the couple wrote.
On Sunday, Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, newlyweds who both lost limbs in the attack, echoed the Richards's calls against capital punishment. “We wish that he could feel the searing pain and terror that four beautiful souls felt before their death, as well as the harsh reality of discovering mutilated or missing legs," the couple wrote in a joint statement to The Boston Globe. "If there is anyone who deserves the ultimate punishment, it is the defendant. However, we must overcome the impulse for vengeance.”
Ahead of Monday's festivities, the jurors in the Tsarnaev case were ordered to avoid the marathon for fear that the events would prejudice the deliberations over the penalty phase of the trial. Those deliberations begin on Tuesday.