Runners vow to return to Boston

BOSTON -- Justin Farrands finished the Boston Marathon -- just not by the official standard.

The 23-year-old Connecticut native who was running for Team Hole in the Wall, benefitting Paul Newman's The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, at which he is a counselor, spent months in preparation for the very moment of crossing the finish line near Copley Square. He was between the 23rd and 24th mileposts when he began noticing bibbed runners coming toward him in the opposite direction. That's when he knew the race was over.

On Tuesday, the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon remained intact, as it was under the scrutiny of being an active crime scene. But many marathoners who roamed the downtown streets donned in their official race jackets talked about resolve. And for many, such as Farrands, that means returning to Boston on Patriots Day 2014.

"I was just telling my buddy that I want to do it again next year," Farrands said while walking through the Public Garden Tuesday afternoon, with an official race medallion draped around his neck. "I want to be able to cross that finish line."

Farrands was among the scores of runners who descended upon The Castle, the landmark building located at the corner of Arlington Street and Columbus Avenue. The location was taken over by the Boston Athletic Association as a retrieval area for the bags filled with personal belongings that runners were to pick up upon completion of the race.

Outside, Scott Smith of Spring Lake, Mich., hobbled out of a taxi, wearing a pair of shorts and flip-flops. He limped up the stairs accompanied by his wife, Robyn. Smith ran the marathon on a sponsor's exemption, winning a lottery held by his employer. He began running seriously in September when he completed a half-marathon back home.

"My wife was a block away from the explosions and heard them, felt them," Smith said. "I almost didn't come back today it shook me up that good. My cell phone, my personal belongings, I really didn't want to come back. But then we realized that you shouldn't let someone take that away from you."

In a state of heightened security, reminders of the terrorist strike were seen on just about every corner. A makeshift National Guard outpost was erected on Boston Common. Humvees and mobile communication satellite trucks darted its periphery. At City Hall Plaza, where the Big Apple Circus has set up shop for the better part of the last month, a guardsman toted an automatic rifle. The circus announced on Tuesday it will continue shows in the "spirit of service to the community."

The BAA also announced Tuesday that it will organize the 118th Boston Marathon without interruption.

"Boston is strong. Boston is resilient. Boston is our home," BAA head Tom Grilk said in a press statement. "And Boston has made us enormously proud in the past 24 hours."

Sue Maybee, 51, of Issaquah, Wash., had doubts about security going forward. The veteran of 34 marathons, including a stretch of 12 in 11 months last year to celebrate her 50th birthday, said she was "nervous" about the future.

"How can they secure 26 miles?" she asked. "It's not like we're all in a stadium, where they can secure a stadium. No matter what you do, you can never be 100 percent sure."

Fear remained palpable with the frequent sound of sirens and caravans of emergency personnel snaking through Boston's streets.

But some sought to lighten the tension. Keith Martin, a 32-year-old outdoor supply store employee from Goffstown, N.H., held a sign with the phrase "Free Hugs" printed on it while standing on the Tremont Street side of the Common.

"I had a woman over here earlier, she lives over in Allston and says she's never been so scared to go downtown," Martin said. "I basically told her, you can't fear it."

Setting fear aside, the runners will return in 2014.

"There's so much history and tradition behind it, you have to keep [the marathon] the same," Farrands said. "Unfortunately, this type of thing is becoming more and more common. I'm from Connecticut, a lot of people there just lived through Sandy Hook. But I think the key is to keep everything normal, we just can't let these people affect what we do and how we live."

Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.