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Boston Marathon: Northern Ireland man's poignant return

By Amanda Ferguson

A Co Down man caught up in the deadly Boston Marathon bombing last year is to return to the city to take part in this year's event.

Michael Roberts, from Crawfordsburn, will travel to Boston today to take part in the 114th marathon on Monday to show "solidarity".

Four people, including an eight-year-old boy, died and 260 people were injured when Chechen brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of last year's event.

Mr Roberts recalled the moment the bomb exploded on April 15, 2013.

"It was a hard run for me and I stumbled a bit at the end and they brought me into the medical tent for a little bit of observation," he said.

"I was in the medical tent, which is quite close to the finish line, as the two bombs went off and I said to someone: 'I know what that sounds like'.

"There was a great deal of stunned silence outside and mayhem. You're just bewildered, and I was too."

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was later killed in an exchange of gunfire with police and Dzhokhar Tsarnev was captured.

He is currently awaiting trial.

Understandably, security has been stepped up for this year's marathon, with an increased police presence in the area in the build-up to and during the race expected.

Police departments from New Jersey to Maine are sending in : SWAT teams, bomb squads, aerial surveillance and dog teams.

Competitors have also been told to keep their belongings in clear plastic bags. Mr Roberts explained it was only natural that last year's devastating incident would be in the thoughts of everyone involved this year.

"There will be a great sigh of relief when it's over," he said.

"I think there'll be a lot of emotion.

"I think there'll be a lot of T-shirts with 'Boston strong' on it."

Mr Roberts is determined to stay focused on the race and enjoy catching up with his friends during the poignant US trip.

"I'm just hoping I run reasonably well and I will get a chance to see my friends again," he said.

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, who has taken on the course 18 times, will not be running on Monday, a state holiday, because he has a job to do.

"It's Patriots' Day," he said.

"It's what it means to be a Bostonian here, it really is."

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