When runners in the Boston Marathon complain about their quads burning and their slower-than-expected finish times, you know the great granddaddy of marathons is back to normal again, even if it's a new normal.
The 118th Boston Marathon, the first since bombs near the finish line killed three people and injured 264 others a year ago, went off without incident on Monday, thanks largely to a determined city and nation and the heavy presence of police and military personnel.
There were 36 Charleston-area runners registered for the race, and some of them had mixed feelings about the security at this year's event.
"It was really over the top," said Mike Seekings, a Charleston city councilman and Cooper River Bridge Run board member. "From beginning to end, it was a lock down . The whole way was lined with police and military."
But Seekings, who finished the marathon in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and was registered for 2013, added the organization was "super smooth" and that the city of Boston needed to "put this (the tragedy) behind them."
Demi Knight Clark, who was among the last runners to finish as the first bomb went off last year, described the marathon as having "wall-to-wall police" on Monday.
"They were so considerate. There were bomb-sniffing dogs, but they (the officers) were also letting children pet them," said Knight, who lives in Mount Pleasant.
"The marathon was awesome from beginning to end. There was an amazing vibe out there. Everyone is happy and, I think, breathing a huge sigh of relief," said Clark. "Finally, Boston got its day back."
And so did the United States.
For the first time since 1983, an American man, albeit a naturalized one, won the Boston Marathon.
While most of the attention was on hometown girl and U.S. Olympian Shalane Flanagan, it was Meb Keflezighi who became a national hero and symbol of American determination and resiliency.
Keflezighi, who was born in what is now called Eritrea but moved to the U.S. when he was 12, fought off a late challenge by Kenyans Wilson Chebet and Frankline Chepkwony and won the men's division in 2 hours, eight minutes and 37 seconds.
"This is probably the most meaningful victory for an American because of what happened last year," Keflezighi said. "I'm almost 39. I just ran a personal best. I just won the Boston Marathon. I feel blessed."
For the women, 33-year-old Rita Jeptoo of Kenyan won in a women's course record of 2:18:57 and defended her title from 2013. Meanwhile, Flanagan - who led the women's pack for most of the race - finished seventh with a U.S. women's course record of 2:22:02.
Word of Keflezighi's win made it out to runners who were still on the course, according to Matthew Moldenhauer, 30, of West Ashley and amputee Richard Blalock, 61, of Mount Pleasant, who were running separately.
Blalock, who was among the 5,000 who were stopped from running in last year's race but finished his first Boston Marathon on Monday, said the large crowds in the city limits started chanting "USA! USA!"
When Moldenhauer heard that an American had won, he was at Mile 20 and starting to suffer fatigue. The news, along with the cheering crowds, gave him inspiration to finish in 3:04:18, shy of his goal of breaking three hours but among the top 10 percent of finishers.
All the runners said temperatures in the mid-60s that climbed toward 70, combined with bountiful sun, took its toll on runners. Blalock had severe leg cramps.
While Demi Knight Clark set a personal record of 4:01:15, she saw many runners cramping up along the course. She suspected that many New England residents, who endured a brutally cold winter, were particularly not ready for the warmer temperatures.
Boston's famed course took its toll on Bill Rowell, 58, of Mount Pleasant, who was on pace to re-qualify for the marathon with a 3:30 or better.
"I got to the top of Heartbreak Hill and my quads and calves were killing me. The last four miles were painful, so I just told myself to take it easy and enjoy the crowds along Hereford and Boylston Streets."
Demi Knight Clark, who was at the finish line last year when the first bomb blew up, celebrates getting her 2014 Boston Marathon finisher medal. Provided×
Matt Moldenhauer, 30, of West Ashley, and Bill Rowell, 58, of Mount Pleasant, met up after the Boston Marathon in a sun-splashed Boston Common Monday afternoon. Provided×
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