MARATHON WATCH: US champ’s mind on ‘Boston Strong’

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Donny Sazama, of Hermantown, Minn., carries an American flag as he runs past the 26 mile mark of the 118th Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, 2014 in Boston. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Donny Sazama, of Hermantown, Minn., carries an American flag as he runs past the 26 mile mark of the 118th Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, 2014 in Boston. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Boston Marathon husband and wife bombing survivors Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who each lost a leg in last year’s bombings, roll across the finish line in the 118th Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, 2014 in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Race fans cheer runners at mile marker 26 of the 118th Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, 2014 in Boston. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Runners compete near the start of the 118th Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, 2014 in Hopkinton, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Meb Keflezighi, of San Diego, Calif., crosses the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon, Monday, April 21, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

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A look at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.

MEB STRONG: Men’s champion Meb Keflezighi said he kept thinking “Boston Strong, Boston Strong” as his lead dwindled over the final miles.

The American went out early and built a big lead. But he was looking over his shoulder several times as Wilson Chebet closed the gap.

Keflezighi completed the 26.2 miles in a personal-best 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds. Chebet finished 11 seconds behind.

“I’m blessed to be an American and God bless America and God bless Boston for this special day,” Keflezighi said.

He sobbed as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played over Boylston Street.

— Pat Eaton-Robb — https://twitter.com/peatonrobb

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HERE TO HELP: The Boston Public Health Commission has a drop-in counseling center available near Copley Square until 8 p.m. for anyone having trouble coping. There’s also a phone hotline people can call. Boston-area hospitals have been offering free mental health services ever since the bombings.

Jennifer Lawrence, a social worker at Boston Medical Center, said that in the aftermath of the bombings, more than 600 people used mental health services there. And while most needed no help after the first few months, she saw an increase in demand as the anniversary approached.

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HONORING THE FALLEN: As they make their final turn onto Boylston Street, runners are passing near Ladder 15, Engine 33 — the Boston Fire Department station that lost two firefighters in a recent deadly Back Bay fire on Beacon Street. The station has extended a ladder pointed up toward the finish line.

— Steve LeBlanc

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STEP BY STEP: Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block ran the race last year to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. McIntyre finished in less than four hours — about five minutes before the bombs went off. He wasn’t hurt.

The Boston native is raising money for Alzheimer’s research again this year but also asked people to donate to the One Fund set up to help bombing victims.

McIntyre wrote on his blog: “We cannot and will not forget those who are still battling the challenges that were thrown upon them. And for me, I want to show up this year and honor them by continuing to run, continuing to live and strive.”

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FINISHING TOGETHER: Newlyweds who each lost a leg in last year’s bombing completed the marathon together this year, riding handcycles for the 26.2-mile course.

Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky were newly married last year when they went to the marathon finish line to watch the runners cross. They suffered severe injuries; each lost a left leg.

On Monday, they rode side by side in the handcycle race, completing the course from Hopkinton to Boston in about 2 hours and 14 minutes. Both smiled as they rolled across the finish line, holding hands.

A spokesman for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital said the couple wanted to make sure they completed the race together.

— Denise Lavoie — https://twitter.com/deniselavoie_ap

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PRESIDENTIAL CONGRATS: President Barack Obama took to Twitter to congratulate Meb Keflezighi on his victory, as well as Shalane Flanagan, the top American woman, on her finish.

“Congrats to RunMeb and ShalaneFlanagan for making America proud! All of today’s runners showed the world the meaning of BostonStrong,” Obama wrote.

The tweet, which was sent from the official White House Twitter account, was signed “-bo.” That’s how the White House identifies tweets the president sends himself.

White House spokesman Jay Carney also opened his daily briefing by congratulating Keflezighi on becoming the first American man to win the marathon in 31 years. Carney said it was “quite an accomplishment and a great year to do it.”

— Julie Pace — https://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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LIVE FROM THE COURSE: Bill Kole, AP’s New England bureau chief, is running the race — and tweeting from every mile. His updates as he nears the finish line:

Mile 19: “Just when I was about to complain about a blister, I passed a man with a carbon fiber blade. There are no words.”

Mile 20: “Crowds so thick and insistent they barely let me stop to tweet. These people ARE truly Boston.”

Mile 21: “Heartbreak Hill conquered. Five more tough miles to gut out. But the entire city is our cheering section.”

Mile 22: “BostonCollege is to beer what WellesleyCollege is to spirit. True story.”

Mile 23: “A blister on my toe is bleeding thru my shoe. Hurts but all I can think is how grateful I am to have a foot.”

— Bill Kole — https://twitter.com/billkole

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FIRST AID: With nearly 36,000 runners attempting to run 26.2 miles, that’s a lot of aches and pains. The 1,900 medical personnel have on hand 500 bags of ice, 800 cots, 4,000 adhesive bandages, 500 tubes of petroleum jelly, 25 EKG machines and 10,000 pairs of medical gloves.

— Rik Stevens — https://twitter.com/RikStevensAP

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RUNNING TO REMEMBER: Teams of runners are taking part in the marathon in memory of each of the three people killed in the bombing, along with MIT Officer Sean Collier, who was slain days later during

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