- Associated Press - Monday, April 18, 2016

BOSTON (AP) - They came bearing cow bells, clever signs and superhero costumes.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators took in the 120th running of the Boston Marathon on Monday, a jubilant celebration that came three years after bombs detonated at the finish line of the storied race, killing three people and injuring hundreds more.

Julie Robert, of Montreal, Canada, wore a Wonder Woman costume as her three young children, dressed as Batman, Robin and Supergirl, clung to the barricades near the end of the race waiting for Dad to complete the final stretch.

“He’s our superhero, so we dress like superheroes,” said Robert, referring to her husband, Jocelyn, who was running his first Boston Marathon. “He doesn’t know we’re dressed like this. It’s going to be a great surprise.”

Along the course’s notorious Heartbreak Hill, a handmade sign read: “Relax, you’re running better than the GOP.” Spectators and runners even caught a glimpse of Hollywood in action, as actor and Boston native Mark Wahlberg, dressed in police uniform, filmed a scene for his upcoming “Patriots Day” movie, about the 2013 attack.

Others packed the al fresco patios of bars and restaurants along the marathon’s famed finish line on Boylston Street.

“The atmosphere is incredible, the people are really excited and the weather is terrific,” said Jim Lundblade, a Portland, Oregon, resident who claimed a prime spot at the race’s final turn at Hereford and Boylston streets to catch his son, Eric, run his first Boston Marathon.

Crowds, five to six people deep in places, cheered enthusiastically for nearly everyone who passed, from the field’s elite runners to a male runner wearing little more than a bow tie and American flag underwear.

Some of the loudest applause was reserved for 2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivors like Marc Fucarile, who lost a leg in the attack and crossed the finish line using a hand cycle in about 2 hours, 22 minutes.

“It was amazing, the support,” he said afterward. “I did this for my son to know that it can be done.”

For others in attendance, the marathon - a central part of Patriots Day, a springtime holiday unique to the Boston area that commemorates the start of the Revolutionary War - will always be a time for reflection.

Michelle Rivera, a Webster, Massachusetts, resident, had been at the finish line with her two daughters in 2013 waiting for her husband, Jose, to complete his first Boston Marathon.

The family escaped unharmed, but her husband wasn’t able to finish the race. He’s come back every year since then to run it, and she’s been there each time to cheer him on.

“Today, I’m thinking about how lucky we are to be here,” Rivera said. “To this day, I can’t believe it. God was with us that day.”

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