The first New York City races since the Boston Marathon bombings gripped a still-grieving nation Sunday morning stepped off with police on high alert and runners and spectators feeling cautious but determined to press on.
Many had Boston's victims on their minds but said the heightened security put them at ease.
New York Police Department patrol cars lined 11th Avenue outside Pier 57 near 15th Street in Manhattan, as runners entered a staging area ahead of the inaugural 9/11 Memorial 5K Run/Walk.
Cops huddled in front of entrance and exit areas, and some officers wore black jackets labeled "NYPD Counter Terrorism."
But that hardly deterred runners as they entered the pier, signing messages on a Tribute Wall, saying the race took on added significance.
"I saw all the patrols, and I feel pretty darn good, thankful that they're here," said Milly Nunez, 28, a medical assistant from Freeport.
Her friend, Karen Arevalo, 33, also from Freeport, said she was fearful, at first, when she saw the blasts last Monday.
"Once I'm ready to cross the finish line, do I have to look back, do I have to look behind, look left and right?" she said.
She added, the presence of extra security "is just going to make sure I run harder and faster."
Meanwhile, in Central Park, at a second run, Jason Martin, of Manhattan, originally from the suburbs of Boston, also said he felt a sense of security.
"I'm not worried about lightening striking twice," he said. "I find New York to be the safest place on earth; I feel safe here."
Participants in the four-mile City Parks Foundation Run for the Parks and Kids' Races wore "I Run ... for Boston" bibs and T-shirts.
And the starting line was adorned with Boston's flag.
As in downtown Manhattan, police were visible everywhere. Officers lined the perimeter of the course, and the start line included a mobile command center. Participants were asked to use only clear bags to carry their belongings as a security precaution.
Before the 9/11 race downtown, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a solemn dedication to the victims in Boston.
He added, "We know what you are feeling, the pain . . . we know the frustration."
There, a group of friends from California described feeling undeterred throughout the week, despite worried pleas from friends and family members to avoid the race.
"It was kind of weird going into this run," said Shaun Pescador, 36, an optician from San Jose, Calif. She said she considered the idea that terrorists might "add salt to the wound."
"I hope nothing happens because it's a 9/11 memorial," she said, but, "I'm not just going to stop living my life."
Her friend Agnes Solsoloy, 33, an ergonomics coordinator at Google, said she recalled a sense of apprehension while watching broadcasts of the bombings.
"When we first heard it on the news, I was apprehensive," she said. Reassuring emails from the memorial foundation, the friends said, propelled them.
Lucinda Trozze, a corporate flight attendant from Severna Park, Md., will walk with her sister, who came from Binghamton. "I'm more determined than ever," said Trozze, and noting the police presence she said, "I feel the safest."
Said her sister, Pamela McKedy, 65, of Binghamton: "I was apprehensive at the beginning when it first happened, but as the week went on, the apprehension subsided."
Jay Guillermo, 49, of Summit, N.J., said Friday's arrest allayed all tensions.
"The presence of the police is really comforting." At first, he said, he felt anxious, "but with the speed of finding the suspects, it's really comforting."
Though, he said, "With all the police presence, I feel at peace to run," he added, "I still have to keep my eyes open in case. We cannot be complacent, even though there is presence of police, we have to keep a watchful eye."
-- Eli Rosenberg