BOSTON -- Dennis S. Manning of Dorchester watched the streams of runners turn onto Boylston Street with a baseball cap on his head and a 4-year-old on his shoulders.
The cap was from the Savin Hill Little League, Martin Richard's the neighborhood league.
The 4-year-old was Dennis P. Manning, waving an inflatable noisemaker and asking for more snacks as he watched the 118th Boston Marathon over his dad's head.
"I want him to know, down the road, that he was here today," Manning said.
Manning pointed to the right, showing his son the building where he used to watch the race as a kid, standing in the windows with his older brother.
To their left, a banner draped over the Engine 33/Ladder 15 firehouse paid tribute to the victims of the attack on last year's marathon: Martin Richard, 8, of Dorchester; Krystle Campbell, 29, originally from Medford; and Lu Lingzi, 23, of Shenyang, China -- all killed when twin bombs were detonated at the finish line last April 15 -- and MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, a Wilmington native shot three days later, allegedly by the bombing suspects.
Manning hadn't been at last year's marathon. He hadn't been to one in about 15 years. But he insisted on going Monday.
"If you're telling me I can't come because you are destroying it," he said, pausing to gesture out at the packed sidewalks, "see how that worked out."
Among the crowds that filled in Boylston street in the marathon's final stretch were those who said they came to show pride, strength and community spirit.
Some were first-time spectators. Kathy Montemaggi rode into the city from her home in Buzzards Bay, a decision she made after watching last week's memorial ceremony. Nate Mihelis came over from Somerville, bringing kids Sophie, 5, and Noah, 7, with him.
"Some of my friends were like, no, you shouldn't go down there, you shouldn't bring your family," Mihelis said. "But this is the year I wanted to be here."
In matching purple "Team Brenna" t-shirts, the Newfell family of Billerica claimed a spot right up against one of the barricades.
This was Brenna Newfell's third marathon, run in support of the Alzheimer's Association.
"It has a different meaning this year," said Pam Newfell, Brenna's mother. "Everyone is really into it together, as opposed to individualistically. It's a team effort."
Last year, husband and wife Dave Manley and Nancy Shorter of Gloucester had been at the finish line. This year, they picked a spot a little bit earlier on the course, not wanting to return to the exact same spot.
"It's good to be back here," Shorter said. "I grew up watching the marathon, and it was just so sad after last year."
After the bombs went off, Shorter and Manley found themselves tending to an injured runner, a stranger. On Monday they wore shirts with her name on them -- "Allison Strong" for Allison Byrne -- as they waited to cheer for her husband Josh.
Shorter talks about the Boston Marathon with a grin on her face. Her favorite part of being there?
"Everything," she said. "Just reclaiming the marathon."
Behind them, a group of college students offer free hugs to passersby. A different group walks around with free candy and signs proclaiming love for Boston. T-shirts bear images of the city's skyline and logos for the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics.
Spectators gather for photos in front of a mutlicolored mural by the Prudential Center. As they pose in front of the word "BOSTON," spelled out in giant white letters, artist Ernest English explained his goal. Members of the Emagination Collaboration team will fill in the white letters with photos they take of people at the race, creating an image that represents the identity of the city and the event.
"It's basically people coming together and making a community," said English, who did a similar project about a month after last year's marathon.
As the elite women runners passed the Prudential Center, Leslie Russo of San Rafael, Calif., joked to her sister Marina Muhlfriedel that they'd only really been able to glimpse the tall runners so far -- despite standing on a planter for a better view.
But they didn't mind. If they couldn't see the course, they could see the other spectators, with their American flag capes, ringing cowbells, heart-shaped temporary tattoos and "Boston Strong" t-shirts.
"It's a great party," said Muhlfriedel, of Los Angeles. "The energy and the spirit and the people -- it is Boston. I don't feel like they're really encumbered by the past. They're moving forward."