BOSTON STRONG: American Wins Marathon

marathon

(CNN) — The first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983 crossed the finish line Monday, triumphant in a storied race that has become a national symbol of resiliency and determination.

Race officials said Meb Keflezighi, 38, won the men’s division, with an official time of 2:08:37, according to the Boston Marathon’s Facebook page.

The women’s elite group began the 26.2-mile journey around 9:30 a.m. ET, and the elite men’s group at 10. Waves of other runners started after them.

For Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo, 33, it was a second straight victory. She again won the women’s division with an unofficial — and course record — time of 2:18:57, according to the event’s official Twitter account.

But for most of the 36,000 runners, the race had nothing to do with competition. 2013’s race was marred by bombings near the end of the course that killed three and wounded more than 260 people.

At the start Monday, as competitors stood shoulder to shoulder at the start, the race announcer shouted to them, “Take back that finish line!”

Lee Ann Yanni told CNN before the race kicked off that she planned to run wearing a necklace with a silver stingray charm that her father gave to her before he died of cancer. The force of the blasts as she ran in 2013 along Boylston Street failed to tear the memento from her body. She would not be stopped then, and she won’t be stopped Monday.

Unable to walk for five and a half weeks, she eventually got back to training and finished the Chicago Marathon last October in 5 hours and 44 minutes.

“I’m running for those who can’t,” she told CNN. “I don’t run very pretty … but at the finish line, everybody is going to be represented.”

Krystle Campbell, 29, Lingzi Lu, 23 and grade-schooler Martin Richard, 8, were killed in the 2013 bombing. More than 260 people were wounded. Some lost limbs.

This year’s race has 9,000 more runners than last year’s, and an unprecedented crowd was expected to gather, officials have said.

J.P. Norden and his brother Paul remembered the agony of the bombings recently with CNN at the Forum Restaurant on Boylston Street.

“Where we are right now where we got hurt, lost … (it) changed our lives but, I don’t know. …” J.P. said, struggling to find the words.

Each brother had his right leg amputated, and they now walk on prosthetic legs.

“It was such a tough journey and stuff,” J.P. said, “but we got so much help from everyone that it’s weird, it seems like so long away and ago and quick at the same time.”

Another survivor, Marc Fucarile, also lost his right leg. He’s undergone numerous surgeries, but shrapnel is still lodged in the inner wall of his heart. If it moves, he could die. Recently, the 35-year-old went to a court hearing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who allegedly, along with his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were responsible for the bombing.

Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police; Dzhokhar is facing numerous charges and could be sentenced to death. His trial is set to begin in November, and he has pleaded not guilty.

“Whatever he gets,” Fucarile told CNN, “he deserves.”

Officials have worked hard to make sure security is very tight Monday. Backpacks are not allowed on the course this year, said Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Costumes that cover the face, containers with more than 1 liter of liquid, and bulky clothes such as vests with pockets are also prohibited.

The course this year will be “very safe,” Gov. Deval Patrick told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “Somebody said it may be the safest place in America,” he said.

The weather for Monday’s race looks gorgeous — ideal for running — in the 40s with a brisk wind. All runners are wearing chips in their shoes, and their progress can be followed online at the Boston Athletic Association’s website.

CNN affiliate WBZ in Boston is showing images of the race as it happens on its website.

CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Holly Yan and Jason Carroll contributed to this report.