Five days after an attacker killed eight people and injured 12 others in Lower Manhattan, the annual New York City Marathon went off without a hitch Sunday, as New Yorkers expressed determination to go about their lives — though under a heavy blanket of security.
Along the race route in Brooklyn, crowds lined the street, sometimes four deep, toting small children, holding signs and ringing bells to cheer runners on.
More than 50,000 participants took part in the race, and the New York Police Department had expected about 2.5 million spectators.
Heavy security was visible, with counterterrorism police and National Guard officers in fatigues stationed at major intersections, dump trucks filled with sand blocking off roads and helicopters flying above.
Uptown, near the finish line at Central Park, sand trucks were parked at multiple points along Columbus Circle, and what looked like police officers using binoculars could be seen looking from high-rise buildings.
“Coming from the Oculus out here, it was obvious there was a big security presence,” said spectator Drew Clausen, 38, referring to the transit hub near the World Trade Center.
Clausen’s wife, Annie, said it was reassuring to see so many police out on the streets.
The Clausens, from Columbus, Ohio, were at the race with other family members to cheer on Drew’s brother, a former New Yorker who they said expressed no hesitation about running Sunday.
“He was more concerned about getting sleep, eating carbs and qualifying for Boston,” Drew Clausen said.
Francisco Garat, 40, was visiting from Buenos Aires. Five of the people killed in Tuesday’s attack were also from Argentina, visiting as part of a group celebrating its 30th high-school reunion.
“They were just having a good time, and it turned into disaster,” Garat said.
But for his own part, Garat said he was undeterred from coming out to watch two friends run in the race.
“I feel safe — much safer than in Buenos Aires,” he said. “And if something happens, it’s just bad luck, and what are you going to do?”
At a news conference last week, New York Police Chief Carlos Gomez said New Yorkers could expect an increased police presence across the city and specifically at the marathon, the city’s 47th annual.
“It’s going to be a very safe event,” Gomez said, noting that the department had doubled its observation teams, including rooftop observation and countersniper officers, and added heavy weapons teams, bomb-sniffing dogs, and uniformed and plainclothes officers.
Eunice Hong, 39, brought her two sons, 8 and 5, to watch their dad compete in the event. She said she was on heightened alert, but skipping the marathon was never in question.
“We can’t not live our lives,” she said.
Hong and her family live in Tribeca in Manhattan, just a few blocks away from where the terrorist attack happened Tuesday. But she took her kids trick-or-treating in the neighborhood that night.
“I have faith in the New York Police Department,” she said. “I almost felt safer with all the police out.”
Hong said she remembered being in New York after the attacks on the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. “We’re resilient,” she said.
Subways were packed with New Yorkers going about their regular business, as well as with those carrying balloons and signs on their way to cheer on relatives and friends.
Along the southern edge of Central Park, where the reds and yellows of autumn trees provided a backdrop, throngs of people lined the route to the finish line, separated from sidewalk hotels and shops by two lines of police barricades. Officers stood at intervals guarding entry points and checking bags with metal detectors.
It was the first New York marathon for Callie Thompson, 23, who moved to the city from South Carolina six months ago. Thompson said she decided to skip the downtown Halloween parade hours after the attack, but she didn’t let it stop her from coming on Sunday.
“You can’t let it dictate your life. You can’t let [the terrorists] win,” she said.
Maya Brand, 28, a native New Yorker, was at the race to support her friends, who are teachers at a downtown elementary school. She laughed off any suggestion that she might not have come because of safety concerns.
“I left my bodyguard at home,” she joked.
Runners, too — many from other countries — appeared to be unfazed.
Rob Gibb, 31, of Ottawa, said he felt “no concerns” about participating.
Oscar Parra, 43, is from Barcelona and arrived in New York with his wife about 10 days ago. Though they were startled by the attack, he said he didn’t worry at all about running on Sunday.
“The security was great, and everything was very organized and super controlled,” he said.