CENTRAL PARK — It was an emotional morning in Central Park as thousands of runners and spectators participated in the New York Road Runners' first organized run since the Boston Marathon bombing last Monday.
Event organizers and the NYPD took several safety precautions for the City Parks Foundation Run for Parks, including amping up police presence on the scene, and providing clear plastic bags for runners to store belongings during the race.
“This is probably the safest place in the city right now,” said spectator Juanne Harris, 49, who had been in Boston cheering her friends on Monday.
Participants were asked in advance not to bring backpacks to the race, and every garbage can in the vicinity of the 4-mile course was removed, organizers said.
Runners that did bring backpacks had to transfer the contents of their bags into a clear plastic bag before entering the registration area.
Nevertheless, a bomb scare — set off when police discovered a bike rider carrying an unidentified package on the route — briefly interrupted the race, and the runners were redirected at the last minute so the NYPD could investigate, just before 9 a.m.
A tactical unit that included a bomb-sniffing dog later determined that the package was not dangerous, cops said.
Local singer, Jojo Karlin cried as she sang the National Anthem before the race. Spectators cheered and sang along to Sweet Caroline, which played on the loud speakers as the first wave of runners took off.
“Running is one of the best expressions of freedom,” said Wilson Silva, 42, of Williamsburg after finishing the race. “It gives you a sense that nothing can stop you.”
Many participants wore blue shirts that said, “I run for Boston,” which were sold by the New York Road Runners, which said the proceeds would be going entirely to The One Fund Boston.
The club said that 6,227 runners completed the the 4-mile race.
“The day the bombing happened we decided to run,” said Stephen Wisely, 24, who lives in Washington Heights.
Wisely ran with four other students from the Physician Assistant program at Harlem Hospital. They all had friends in Boston, some of whom had been running in Monday's marathon. The four ran to support Boston, and said they were not afraid of a potential attack in Central Park on Sunday.
“I don’t believe the brothers were part of a bigger organization,” Wisley said. “It was a localized event.”
Many of the runners wore Celtics, Red Sox and Patriots — Boston's basketball, baseball, and football teams — clothing or hats. Some also had shirts from previous Boston marathons.
At the finish line, the flag of the city of Boston flew at half-mast between the American flag and New York City’s flag.
“It is scary,” said Martha Alvarez, 58. “I was there as a spectator in 2009 near where the bomb went off.”
Near the Strawberry Fields finish line, thousands of people cheered loudly as their friends and family finished the race.
For some, just being out there was comforting.
“I remember 9/11,” said Debbie Premer, 56, “I was at work and a coworker of mine lost a loved one. We can’t let terrorism take life from us. I’m so proud to be an American.”