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Runners make their way to the finish line of the Boston Marathon, April 21, 2014.Gretchen Ertl/Reuters

One million spectators. More than 35,000 athletes. Double the number of police officers. Everything was big at this year's Boston Marathon, after last year's bombings killed three and injured hundreds. Karen McColl talks to some of the Canadians who ran.

Tom Hoogendoorn made the decision to run in this year's Boston Marathon immediately after finishing last year's race.

"I wanted to see the spirit of Boston come alive again," he says. "[This year] met and exceeded my expectations."

This is the fourth time the 52-year-old dairy farmer from Agassiz, B.C., has run the Boston Marathon. His son, Brandon, flew down from Fort McMurray, Alta., to cheer him on but his wife declined. She was a little nervous, he says, and doesn't like crowds.

"The people were just fantastic," he says, adding he fed off the energy of the crowd when the heat started slowing him down. "When they see a Canadian flag, the cheers are phenomenal."

But he describes the police presence as a little "over the top," saying he figures there were about double the number of officers than in past years.

And next year? "Oh yeah, I'm coming back," he says. "Boston is an addiction."

"Run for yourself but finish for them."

That sign, held by a spectator, made a huge impression on Stu Vander Geest, 35,who ran the Boston Marathon for the first time Monday.

He says the massive number of spectators and the moment of silence for last year's bombing victims put things into perspective for him.

"Running this is not as hard as what a lot of people had to go through in the last year," says Mr. Vander Geest, who lives near Pickering, Ont.

"There was no part of the race with no people [along the sidelines]. Forty-two kilometres of people, sometimes four deep."

Mr. Vander Geest was joined by his training partner Rick Atkinson, 46, a four-time Boston Marathon veteran who ran last year.

Mr. Atkinson says this year's Boston Marathon was "a hard race."

"My legs are killing me," he moans as he rests in his hotel room overlooking Boston Harbor.

Despite the challenges, Mr. Atkinson says he will remember the moment of silence most. "It was an opportunity to reflect," he says.

Jean Marmoreo says she isn't taking anything for granted even though she has become the first person to win their age category five times at the Boston Marathon.

Ms. Marmoreo, who is 71 and from Toronto, was just starting to feel like she "didn't have anything left" when she turned onto Boylston Street, the final leg of the marathon. "I finally thought, 'It's finished,' " she says, knowing she was one kilometre from the finish. She went on to win the 70-74 women's age category with a time of 3:58:54.

The six-time Boston Marathoner and doctor says she found this race particularly tough, but circumstances pushed her harder. "You put out everything you had … It's our way to honour the people who lost their lives and who are injured."

Ms. Marmoreo says she doesn't know how much longer she will continue running marathons. "Every time I finish I say, 'That's it!' "

Then: "Ask me tomorrow when I'm not tired."

Amy McIntyre was in her hotel room last year when the bomb went off at the finish line. The 34-year-old from Udora, Ont., came back this year to "support the city and the community."

"As a running community, it's kind of a tight-knit world," she says Monday evening after completing her third Boston Marathon.

Ms. McIntyre noticed a few differences with the race compared to last year. "It was crazy, it was so exciting. The crowd was unbelievable compared to last year," she says. "It was loud."

Ms. McIntyre says 10,000 extra people ran this year and the course was "packed," but everything was well-organized and ran smoothly.

"There were tons of kids out," she says, handing out water and Freezies. "That was really cool."

Her favourite moment was crossing the finish line. "I think that was a very emotional spot for a lot of people," she says. "There are a lot of memories on that street."

Canada's fastest female marathoner in Boston this year was Lanni Marchant, who says the crowd kept her company for much of the race.

"There wasn't a portion [of the race] that wasn't covered with people," says the 30-year-old, who is originally from London, Ont., but now resides in Chattanooga, Tenn.

She is happy with her performance, finishing 14th in the women's category and 105th overall with a time of 2:30:34.

This was Ms. Marchant's first time running the Boston Marathon and she says it felt good to see some many runners and spectators out in "full force."

"You can't attack running and Boston" without people coming back to show their support, she says.

Mr. Marchant enjoyed passing some of the wheelchair racers on the uphills and having them fly by her on the downhills.

"They would take time to congratulate me on my race," she says.

Tom McGrath of Edmonton was the first Canadian to finish, with a time of 2:30:24. He finished 101st overall.

"I'll remember most the crowds that were bigger and louder than any previous Boston I've run," Mr. McGrath wrote in a message to The Globe.

"I'll also remember standing on the start line listening to the American national anthem and feeling the emotion of the runners and the crowd."

By the numbers:


Number of athletes registered to run, the second-largest field in the race's 118-year history


The largest field of athletes – in 1996, the marathon's centenary


Estimate of the crowd this year, according to organizers. That's twice the usual number.


Number of police officers, double the size of the force last year. They are from Boston police, state police and the FBI.


Number of cameras installed along the route in Boston.


Estimated number of observation points set up around the finish line to monitor the crowd.

Sources: AP, Reuters, NYT and AFP

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