Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS - As one of the first major races since Monday's Boston Marathon, the New Orleans Ironman was, in many ways, a tribute to those affected by the Boston bombings.

Their feet may have been pounding the pavement in New Orleans, but for hundreds of Ironman runners, there hearts were in Boston.

'It makes you realize what you're feeling out here is like nothing compared to what happened out there, and you just really want to work hard and be proud to be an American, and represent,' said Jin Fleming, a triathlete from Athens, GA.

It's a sentiment that carried many triathletes through a grueling 70.3 mile course of swimming, biking, and finally, running through the finish line.

'I raced pretty hard today because I think we're all just a little upset about what happened,' said Jamie Strain, a triathlete from Boston.

The race began after a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Several spectators and triathletes sported Boston gear.

One Louisiana native, donning a Red Sox cap, carried an American flag through the final 13.1 miles of the New Orleans Ironman.

'It's been such an emotional week, everything that's happened in Boston, it's just a flood of emotion that's overtaken the country, and it feels like it's the least I can do,' said Lenny Samuel, a triathlete from Gonzales, LA.

Organizers said security along the route is tighter than ever before in light of the Boston Marathon bombings.

'Outside of your Mardi Gras parades, your major events like Bacchus and Endymion, this is the largest police presence for any event in the city. You've got 70 miles you've got to cover,' said Bill Burke, Ironman race director.

With a ramped up police presence and an added command center at the finish line, Ironman organizers believe the bombings in Boston have forever changed the way security at major events is run.

'There isn't an event organizer that doesn't put on an iconic event like this and can't look at himself and go, what if this happens?' said Burke.

'It does make you think, but I didn't want to let that stop me. I didn't want to give them the satisfaction of what happened in Boston taking away from this race,' said Fleming.

And six days after the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon, the New Orleans Ironman went off smoothly, helping to show that athletes will continue to race and that tragedy won't overcome triumph.

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