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One year on, runners head to the starting line of the Boston Marathon

About 36,000 runners have registered for the race — the second-largest field in its history.

Runners queue to board busses ahead of the 118th Boston Marathon
Runners queue to board busses ahead of the 118th Boston Marathon
Image: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Updated at 1.39pm

RUNNERS HAVE STARTED preparing for the start of this year’s Boston Marathon.

About 36,000 runners have registered for the race — the second-largest field in its history, many of them coming to show support for the event and the city that was shocked by last year’s attack where a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

“I can’t imagine the number of emotions that are going to be there,” said Katie O’Donnell, who was running the marathon last year and made it 25½ miles before she was stopped less than a mile from the finish line when the twin bombs exploded.

“I think I’m going to start crying at the starting line and I’m not sure I’ll stop until I cross the finish line.”

Bob Hillard from Clonakilty, Co Cork, was just minutes from the first blast, and said he had no idea what was happening until much later.

“We thought it was a gas explosion or something because there was a lot smoke,” he told RTÉ’s News at One.

“It all happened so quick for us we didn’t realise what had happened until we got back to our hotel room”.

He said the attitude in the city has turned what hate was present after the attack last year into love and support.

Hillard added that the atmosphere has been “electric” all week,

The most obvious change for the 118th edition of the world’s oldest annual marathon was the heavy security presence with State and local police officers were everywhere, even on the rooftops of some buildings.

“Boston Strong”

A bus dropping off runners had the words “Boston Strong” on the electronic sign at the front that usually posts the bus’s destination. A banner posted on a commercial building in Hopkinton read: “You are Boston Strong. You Earned This.”

Spectators coming to the start line have to pass through police checkpoints.

“There’ll be considerably more police presence,” Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

But we also don’t want to have it, you know, kind of a race through a militarized zone. So it’s about striking a balance, and I think we have struck that balance.

Runners attending the event will have to use clear plastic bags for their belongings, and fans hoping to watch near the finish line are encouraged to leave strollers and backpacks behind.

More than 100 cameras have been installed along the route in Boston, and 50 or so “observation points” will be set up around the finish line “to monitor the crowd,” the Boston Athletic Association said.

Patrick said there have been no specific threats against the race or the city for the Massachusetts holiday of Patriots’ Day.

“We’re not taking that as a sign to sort of stand down,” he said.

‘We’re prepared’

“We’re very prepared, and we’re assuring people as much as we can that it’ll be a fun day and a safe one.”

Race organizers expanded the field from its recent cap of 27,000 to 36,000 make room for more than 5,000 runners who were still on the course at the time of the explosions, for friends and relatives of the victims and for those who made the case that they were “profoundly impacted” by the attack.

Authorities say two ethnic Chechen brothers who lived in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and the Dagestan region of Russia planned and orchestrated the marathon bombings on April 15, 2013.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died following a shootout with police days after the bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges and is awaiting a trial in which he faces a possible death sentence.

Prosecutors say the brothers also killed MIT police Officer Sean Collier days after the bombings in an attempt to steal his gun.

Originally published 1.28pm. Additional reporting by Nicky Ryan.

Read: Unfinished business for one Boston Marathon competitor >

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