Runners, from the world’s elite racers to first-timers, are getting ready to step to the Boston Marathon starting line on Monday for the first running of the world-renowned race since last year’s deadly bombing attack.
Some 36,000 people, the second-largest field in the race’s 118-year history, will set out from Hopkinton, a town west of Boston, for the 26.2-mile race that finishes on Boston’s Boylston Street, where two homemade pressure-cooker bombs last year killed three people and injured 264.
Hundreds of thousands of fans are expected to line the course, which will feature added security measures, including a higher than usual police presence.
Security dotted the finish line on Sunday as runners and fans flocked to take photos and walk along the route. A small makeshift memorial was set up just feet away.
— Hugh Burrill (@SNhughburrill) April 20, 2014
As part of the increased security measures, racers and supporters will face new restrictions this year including a ban on backpacks, which the ethnic Chechen brothers accused in the April 15, 2013 attack were believed to have used to carry the bombs.
While the memory of the attacks has hung heavy over Boston through the week of events leading up to the race, excitement fills the air on Boylston Street ahead of the race.
For many who raced last year like Bostonian Gael Henville, this year’s race could bring a sense of closure concerning the attack.
“When the event happened last year I was really angry at the fact that the whole love affair the image of what Boston meant to me was ruined. But as I speak to my friends and there are probably about 15 of my running mates who live in the state and in the city that are running this race and for us it’s all about renewal … reclaiming our rightful place at the finish. The excitement is just so heart palpitating – I just – there is no way to encapsulate it,” Henville said.
Canadian Mark Rush is back this year and plans to finish the race too.
“The bad guys aren’t gonna take this race away from us and all the people that get involved in it. It’s good to be back doing it again,” he said.
Canadian Mario Ramirez is also giving the race another try. Asked about the atmosphere, he said “people are really looking forward to the run for tomorrow and happy to be here and not scared or anything. I see people really happy that we are able to come to do the marathon.”
Race organizers, the Boston Athletic Association, admitted an additional 9,000 runners this year, in part to ensure that the roughly 5,000 people on the course when the blasts occurred get a chance to cross this finish line.
Many runners train for years to achieve the fast, age-graded qualifying times needed to secure a spot, while others commit to raising thousands of dollars for charity.
Denise O’Hanian said she was reluctant to come back, but fear that she might not qualify again meant she couldn’t miss the opportunity.
“I thought I can’t not come, because I may not requalify and I may never get the chance again and it’ll be very emotional and exciting. And it’s been fantastic, the whole weekend up to now anyway. It’s just phenomenal,” O’Hanian said.
This marathon will be the 86th for longtime runner Claire Carder.
“It is very exciting and it’s very cathartic in many ways. Last year we were stunned. Those of us that didn’t get to finish and actually all of the participants, about the events. So this is a way to process that last year event and make it a better ending, a new ending,” she said.
Runners and marathon workers who attended Easter Mass at the cathedral on Sunday were invited to the front to be blessed by Boston cardinal Sean O’Malley.