At first, Celina Coombs did not want to run the Boston Marathon again. She was scared of the crowds, the finish line, and of bringing her daughter to be among the spectators. But her husband, who last year was waiting for Coombs across the street from where the first bomb exploded, was adamant. They had to return, he said, and this time, he would run too.
So every time her nerves flared up along the 26.2 miles Monday, she reminded herself: “It’s a race. It’s a human race. It’s our responsibility to come back and be part of the race.”
When she reached the spot on Massachusetts Avenue where she was stopped last year she kept on running. It was the best feeling in the world, she said.
“Days like today, you take it back,” said Coombs, 50, of Vancouver, as she walked down Boylston Street towards Boston Common after finishing her 54th marathon and her fifth in Boston.
Exuberant runners streamed from the finish line down Boylston Street Monday afternoon, high-fiving and congratulating each other, posing for pictures, stretching tired muscles, or just laying down on the pavement. Somebody opened a fire hydrant and the water sprayed into the street.
Last year’s bombings inspired many to run, or to run harder, but last year’s emotions took a back seat to joy once the race began.
“I can’t believe the American people at all. It’s crazy, I love it. It’s like running in a full packed stadium all the way,” said Johan Lidstrom, 26, of Stockholm. “This must be the greatest race in the world.”
His favorite part, though perhaps initially the most puzzling, was the Scream Tunnel in front of Wellesley College.
“There was one mile, where there are lots and lots of girls trying to steal kisses. You know that one?” he said, smiling. “That was quite a surprise.”
Still, reminders of last year’s attacks popped up everywhere, as ubiquitous as the Boston Strong T-shirts worn by spectators.
“There were a couple times I ran past amputees,” said Andre Miller, 31, of O’Fallon, Ill., for whom running Boston was a lifelong dream fulfilled on Monday. “Then you think about it.”
As Mark Rice, 53, of Atmore, Ala., turned onto Boylston Street, he said all he could think of was Martin Richard, and his own 8-year-old daughter. He was able to finish the race last year before the bombs went off.
“I immediately went home and hugged her,” he said of his daughter.
But whether runners were searching for an end to last year’s race or for a way to remember the victims, many said they were moved by the spirit of the city.
“It’s the most famous marathon in the world,” said Silvia Savasta, 35, of Milan. It was her first Boston, and she said she came because of the bombings.
“It is important,” she said, pausing to search for the right words, “. . . to fight.”
More from the 2014 Boston Marathon — Cullen: Just like the days we used to know | Gasper: Boston reclaims its Marathon | Photos: Marathon scenes | The ‘Scream Tunnel’ and Heartbreak Hill | The elite runners | Boylston Street | Videos from the Marathon | Full coverageEvan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.