W.Pa. runners bask in Boston pride, help in 'taking back the finish line'

Runners approach the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 in Boston.
Runners approach the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014 in Boston.
Photo by Getty Images
| Monday, April 21, 2014, 11:15 p.m.

Nick End remembers past Boston Marathon crowds growing along the course, winding up with the roar of cheering fans 10 rows deep at the finish line.

This year was different.

“In the first couple miles, there were tons of people cheering,” said End, a Shadyside resident and co-founder of Shoefitr, a service for online shoe retailers. “It was almost overwhelming.”

They called out words of encouragement. They held signs. “We're taking back the finish line,” one read. Others proclaimed the city's mantra: Boston Strong.

The Boston Marathon was back on Monday. Bombings at the finish line last year claimed three lives, injured hundreds and put the region on a days-long lockdown in the hunt for the perpetrators.

Memories clung to the air, during the morning ceremonies, the weekend dinner events and in the Easter services in downtown churches, runners said.

“It was on everyone's mind,” said End, 29. He remembered it while training, on the flight to Boston and during the 2 hours, 22 minutes and 22 seconds he ran the race. This year he finished strong, putting up his best finish in his fourth time in the race.

“It's just something that's so close to everyone who's run Boston,” he said.

This year, the marathon drew 35,671 runners, according to the race's website, including 1,135 from Pennsylvania and 95 from Pittsburgh.

Jon Kissel, 30, of the North Side said the race has always electrified the city “from the moment you get off the airplane.”

The marathon is held on Patriots' Day, and many who work in the city have or take the day off to watch the race.

Last year, Kissel was about a half-mile from where the bombs went off, heading into an underground train station.

Some onlookers didn't seem to believe the police who ran into the station saying there was an explosion and shutting down the train system. Kissel said he and his friends hailed a cab to the airport, taking one of the last flights out of the city that day.

Kissel, who works for the Pittsburgh Marathon, said he has participated in fewer races than normal in the past year, but he worked hard to qualify to return to Boston.

“There was no way that I wasn't going to come back here,” Kissel said.

Adding to the moment was the first-place finish of Meb Keflezighi in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 37 seconds, becoming the first American male to win the race since 1983.

Kevin Doyle, 34, of Ebensburg, Cambria County, was once a manager at his father's running store, Up-N-Running in Valencia. On Monday, the father of three and software engineer finished the race he described as having a spot on every runner's bucket list.

Doyle said it seemed as though “the entire city of Boston” came out to support the runners.

“People told me it was going to be wall-to-wall people the entire way, but I wasn't prepared for how much crowd support there actually is,” he said.

Brooks Broadhurst of Mt. Lebanon watched his wife, Jen, run up Heartbreak Hill and past Fenway Park.

It was her first time running Boston, and Broadhurst said the crowd was spectacular.

“People were excited to be there,” he said. “It was a gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky.”

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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