There is no doubt the bombings of last year are casting a long shadow on the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.
It is an inevitable backdrop: The signs on the buildings that line the course near the finish are usually covered in witty, encouraging posters. This year, they encourage a greater kind of perseverance.
“Boston Strong,” they exhort.
At the finish line on Boyslton Street, a small makeshift memorial has been erected: Four crosses with the names of the four people who died because of last year’s attack.
But at the same time, there is also a feeling of celebration in the city. This is New England’s biggest sporting event, after all, and the world’s oldest and most prestigious 26.2-mile road race.
There’s music and laughter, and mother nature — with its daffodils and tulips and glorious yellow willows — seems willing to join in.
As historian Tom Derderian told us, after the bombings, the Boston Marathon has become about runners and spectators “putting themselves at risk in defiance” of terrorism.
Throughout the day, we’ll be fanned across the Boston area, bringing you vignettes from key points on the course: Hopkinton, Wellesley, Heartbreak Hill and the finish line. We’ll update this post as the action unfolds, so make sure to refresh the page.
The morning started with a moment of silence.
Most of the 36,000 athletes who will run the Boston Marathon this year gathered at the field of a high school in Hopkinton, Mass. They put out blankets and sat in the sun to warm themselves. In their countenances, you could see a mix of nerves and excitement that translated into the hum of a village.
But when the race emcee began to recite the names of the four people who died because of the attacks on Boston last year over the speakers, everything settled.
“Martin W. Richard, Krystle M. Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Officer Sean A. Collier,” the emcee said.
By the time he finished, the shuffling had stopped and all you could hear was the low buzz of helicopters flying high above.
Much like last year, the day started off perfect for a marathon — chilly with high, thin clouds shielding some of the sun.
But unlike last year, security was more intense. Uniformed officers and National Guard troops were stationed on every street. Runners were screened before they boarded buses. Every bag was checked and state police officers boarded buses to take a second look.
Like last year, however, the small community poured out onto the streets.
Bob and Liz Burke moved to Hopkinton just after they got married more than 20 years ago. Their kids are now in high school and they’ve come to see the beginning of the world’s oldest marathon pretty much every year.
Today, the Burkes were on a hill overlooking the starting line. They could see the elite runners — sinewy and wearing single digits on their race bibs — trotting up and down the race course to warm up.
This year, said Bob, it’s a little different.
“There’s a little bit of everything going on,” he said. There’s sadness and joy and celebration.
“I think people very much want to reclaim that sense of normalcy, yet at the same time [the bombing] is the elephant in the room,” he said.
As we talked, the sound of the starting pistol pierced the morning air. The fastest women in the world were off for their 26.2 mile sprint. The men would follow. And after every blast from the pistol, the crowd roared.
— Eyder Peralta
We’ll update at around 11 a.m. ET.
This is probably the loudest part of the marathon course, because for years, the women of Wellesley College have lined up along the road to scream encouragement to the runners.
It’s been described as “a tunnel of sound” at the race’s midway point.
We’ll update around Noon ET.
The United States has its best chance at a winner in many years, yet that chance is still a slim one. No American has finished first in the men’s division since Gregory Meyer won in 1983. The last American woman to win was Lisa Larsen Weidenbach in 1985.
This year, Ryan Hall and Desiree Davila Linden are both coming off injuries. Linden came in second in 2011 when she set the American course record with a time of 2:22:38.
Hall holds the American men’s course record at Boston with a time of 2:04:58. Meb Keflezighi, a U.S. Olympic silver medalist, is also competing.
Last year’s men’s winner, Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa, is still ranked No. 1 by Track & Field News.
We’ll update at around 2 p.m. ET.
This is the cruel part of the Boston Marathon. It’s the last of a series of hills in Newton, Mass., that comes a little after mile 20, when runners have depleted their easily accessible fuel and their bodies have to turn to burning fat.
This stretch of road got its name from a Boston Globe reporter covering the 1936 race in which the defending champion — Johnny A. Kelley — lost his race on the hill.
We’ll update at around 4 p.m. ET.
After Heartbreak Hill, this is no doubt the most iconic part of the marathon. The runners descend upon the city flanked by big high-rises. They arrive at Boylston Street, where they’re greeted by throngs of spectators and the majestic bells of the Old South Church.
For other tips on following today’s race, see our brief guide.