With a SWAT team parked near the starting line, Scott Wietecha of Hendersonville, Tenn., won the St. Jude Country Music Marathon on Saturday after missing the Boston Marathon because of too much training.
This was the largest combined marathon and half-marathon in the United States since the April 15 bombings. Heavy security turned out on a cold and rainy Saturday morning with more than 30,000 runners and a crowd estimated at more than 50,000.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was on hand along with Nashville police, more than 150 private security officers and extra bomb-sniffing dogs.
Wietecha finished in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 41 seconds for his first marathon victory. He is only the second American champion in the 14-year history of the race, and the win follows his decision not to run in Boston. The 31-year-old Wietecha said he had trained so much he felt too worn out to run well in Boston.
"I was bummed at first, but I'm actually pretty happy it didn't work out," Wietecha said. "I feel bad for what happened there but I'm glad I was able to come back here and getting my marathon in. It was a cool experience coming out here and winning the hometown run."
The Boston bombings killed three people and injured more than 260. The victims were remembered throughout the race.
Before the start, Boston's adopted song, "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond, blared through speakers. A moment of silence was held, with heads bowed and peace signs raised. An American flag waved as the first wave of runners took off on Nashville's streets.
"With runners, they bond together, so it makes people stronger, "Wietecha said. "So I don't understand the goal of (the bombings)."
Security had been a top priority since the bombings. Nashville officials held a news conference Tuesday to reassure runners and their family and supporters they would be safe with a heavy presence of federal and state officials. They also reminded everyone to be alert for anything suspicious, with a hotline set up for tips.
T.C. Weber of Nashville waited for his wife, Priscilla, near the finish line with his 2-year-old son, Peter, and 3-year-old daughter Avery. Weber, 47, wasn't concerned about his safety.
"Unless the buffoon brothers moved down here, too, I think we're fine," he said.
Jennifer Moore of Brentwood held an umbrella as she searched for her boyfriend, Allan Williams, who was running the half-marathon.
"Obviously, there was always a concern," Moore said. "But we knew security was increased and not to stand near trash cans and to be cognizant of your surroundings."
Wietecha, competing in his fourth marathon, finished five minutes before runner-up Andrew Catalano of Colorado Springs, Colo. Jill Horst of Rome, Ga., was the top women's finisher at 2:57:52. The rain prevented faster times, with no one within 10 minutes of the course record set by Kenya's Luke Kibet in 2000.
"This is a miserable day," said Justin Gillette of Goshen, Ind., who placed third. "People are standing here and getting poured on. It is not fun. You wouldn't do this unless you were crazy in head."