Boston (AFP) - The Boston Marathon returns Monday amid major security after last year's deadly bombings as a near record 35,660 runners get set to compete.
One million people are expected to line the route in a show of defiance and to honor the victims and survivors of the attacks that killed three people and wounded more than 260.
More than 3,500 police -- double the number in 2013 -- plus members of 60 different local, state and federal security agencies, will deploy to protect the race.
Organizers have drastically tightened security for participants and bags have been banned at the start in Hopkinton, along the course and at the finish line.
The Tsarnaev brothers, the presumed bombers, allegedly hid the explosive devices in backpacks. Glass bottles and large containers of any kind have also been banned.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick vowed the massive event, which coincides with the state's Patriots' Day, would be "very safe."
"We're very alert. We're very prepared, and we're assuring people as much as we can that it'll be a fun day and a safe one," he told CBS's "Face the Nation" show on Sunday.
But despite the beefed up police presence, "we've tried to strike a balance between enhanced security and preserving the family feel of this day," he said.
Across the city, people could be seen wearing "Boston Strong" shirts, with banners bearing the mantra proudly displayed in stores, restaurants and hotels.
Amid bright sunshine, hundreds of runners and onlookers stopped by a memorial -- decorated with flowers and shoes -- that had been set up to honor those who perished in the twin blasts on April 15, 2013.
"We will never forget them" read a sign by four crosses with the names of those killed -- including a police officer allegedly gunned down when he crossed paths with the attackers during the city-wide hunt for the two brothers.
Others plan to pay tribute on Monday during the race. Heather Abbott, amputated below the knee, will be standing close to the starting line to applaud those who saved her life, Peter Riddle and Erin Chatham.
"I'm really excited to be with them," she told AFP.