Boston Marathon: Boston Marathon

Who shoveled the Marathon finish line?

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
In the midst of this week's blizzard, which shut down the entire region, someone took to Boylston Street to shove off a strip of sacred ground. Our winter cap's off to you, whoever you are:

Meb Keflezighi will defend Boston crown

January, 7, 2015
Jan 7
Keflezighi, Flanagan, boston marathonGetty ImagesMeb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan will lead the elite American field at the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Boston Marathon organizers announced the elite American lineup for the 2015 Boston Marathon on Tuesday, and defending men's champion Meb Keflezighi headlines the men's group. Shalane Flanagan, a native of nearby Marblehead, Massachusetts, leads the American women's field for the April 20 race.

"My win at the 2014 Boston Marathon will always be the most significant victory of my career," Keflezighi said in a news release. "But I still aspire to get the best out of myself, run personal bests, win races and inspire all people to get the best out of themselves in running and in life. There is no better platform for these goals than the Boston Marathon."

Desiree Linden and Amy Hastings will join Flanagan among the Olympians on the women's side.

Linden was the top American in Boston in 2011 with her 2:22:38 run on a very windy day. Hastings will be making her Boston debut after a strong performance in Chicago last fall, where she rebounded from a disappointing 2013 New York City Marathon by matching her personal best of 2:27:03 and rubbing shoulders with some of the top African runners at the 2014 Chicago Marathon.

Dathan Ritzenhein will join Keflezighi on the men's side after opening his 2015 racing season with a win at the 10K Campaccio Cross Country Meet near Milan.

Ritzenhein was slated to make his Boston debut in 2014, but withdrew due to a groin injury. He targeted a fall/winter marathon in late 2014 before the injury bug struck again, and will be racing the 26.2-mile distance for the first time since leaving coach Alberto Salazar and the Nike Oregon Project.

The men's field is rounded out by Jeffrey Eggleston and Nick Arciniaga, both of whom placed in the top 10 in last year's race. Fernando Cabada will also run after an 11th-place finish at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.

The U.S. field will be joined by a group of international elites expected to be announced later this month.

(Read full post)

Kenyans win Falmouth; Meb doesn't push it

August, 18, 2014
FALMOUTH, Mass. -- Kenyans Stephen Sambu and Betsy Saina won the 7-mile Falmouth Road Race on Sunday.

Sambu, making his Falmouth debut, pressed the pace from the start in Woods Hole and steadily pulled away from a group that included defending champion and two-time Falmouth winner Micah Kogo of Kenya.

Sambu finished in 31 minutes, 46 seconds -- 45 seconds ahead of Kogo in a field of 12,800 for the 42nd edition of the race. Sambu captured the B.A.A. 10K in Boston in June in 27:25, the fastest in the world this year.

Kenya's Emmanuel Bett was third, ahead of Ben Bruce of Flagstaff, Arizona, and Andrew Colley of Williamsburg, Virginia.

Meb Keflezigh, the 2014 Boston Marathon champion, decided to participate but not compete because of a tight hamstring, organizers said. He finished in 43:32, running much of the way with former Olympic marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson and race director Dave McGillivray.

Sembu, who trains in Arizona with countryman Bernard Lagat, set a torrid pace and had discussed the strategy with coach James Li.

"That was the plan," he said. "I knew the start was uphill so I was pushing a lot."

Sembu said he never felt he was in danger of getting caught.

"I was confident," he said. "I was feeling good the whole way."

Kogo was in a group of four runners early that included American Bruce and Kenyan Kennedy Dithuka. Bruce and Dithuka fell off the pace, and it was a two-man race until Sembu took off at about the 4-mile mark.

Kogo said the downhills in the race bothered him, and Sembu took advantage

"After five miles I started feeling my body was responding," he said.

Bruce said he and Colley raced with and against each other and were happy with their finish, given the quality of the field.

"To have both of us in the top five is great," he said.

Saina led a field in which four women finished within 21 seconds of each other. Saina was timed in 35:56, seven seconds ahead of Britain's Gemma Steel. Molly Huddle of Providence, Rhode Island, was third, followed by Diane Nukuri-Johnson of Burundi.

The first four finishers ran as a group for about 4 miles until Saina and Steel slowly drew away.

"We started really easy at the beginning," Saina said. "Molly is a very good athlete."

In November, Huddle became the fastest woman in history at 12K (37:50); in June, she broke the American record for a women-only 10K.

"Around four miles, Betsy and Gemma pulled away," Huddle said. "I felt pretty rough. They just kind of broke me there and I was trying to maintain third."

Two course records were set in the wheelchair division. James Senbeta of Champaign, Illinois, who has been racing for only a couple of years, won in 23:32. Tatyana McFadden of Clarksville, Maryland, was the top woman in 27:06.

Keflezighi returns for Falmouth 7-miler

July, 25, 2014
FALMOUTH, Mass. -- Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi is returning to the area to run in the Falmouth Road Race.

In April, Keflezighi became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon since 1983. His victory came a year after two bombs exploded at the finish line, killing three people and wounding more than 260 others.

The 2004 Olympic silver medalist has finished second in the Falmouth race two times and fifth once. Each time, he was the top American. Keflezighi says that to return as the Boston champion will make the race even more special.

“I am so happy to be coming back to Falmouth,” said Keflezighi, who will be running the race for the first time since 2009. “The Falmouth Road Race is run on one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever seen, and the people there have embraced me as if I’ve lived on-Cape all of my life."

The 42nd running of the 7-mile Falmouth Road Race is Aug. 17.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Record $38.4M raised for charities

July, 1, 2014
Participants running for charities in this year’s Boston Marathon raised a record $38.4 million, the Boston Athletic Association announced Tuesday, an amount that nearly doubles the $20 million netted in 2013.

More than 300 non-profit organizations benefited from the record proceeds, the majority of which was raised by runners who gained entry into the race with charity bibs. Many qualified runners and deferred runners who did not finish the 2013 race due to the bombings also raised money.

April’s 118th Boston Marathon featured an expanded field of 36,000 runners in its first running since the event was marred by bombings in 2013.

B.A.A. announces 2015 registration dates

June, 17, 2014
The Boston Athletic Association announced that registration for the 2015 Boston Marathon will open on Monday, September 8, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. ET. Just as in past years, the fastest qualifiers in their gender and age group will be able to register first online at

The B.A.A. will announce the field size later in the summer.

Here are the dates for registration from the B.A.A. press release, based on qualifying time and space remaining in the field:

-- Monday, September 8 - Qualifiers who have met the qualifying standard by 20 minutes, 00 seconds or faster.

-- Wednesday, September 10 - Qualifiers who have met the qualifying standard by 10 minutes, 00 seconds or faster (if space remains).

-- Friday, September 12 - Qualifiers who have met the qualifying standard by 5 minutes, 00 seconds or faster (if space remains).

-- Monday, September 15 - All qualifiers who have met the qualifying standard (if space remains) may submit an entry.

-- Wednesday, September 17 - Registration closes at 5:00 p.m. ET. Registration from September 15-17 will not be first-come, first-served and the fastest qualifiers in their gender and age group among these submissions will be given entry as space allows.

-- If space remains after this initial period, then on Monday, September 22 registration will re-open to anyone who meets the qualifying standards on a first come, first served basis. Registration will remain open until the maximum field size is reached.

“The B.A.A. worked for a year to organize what we knew would be an historic event this past April, and we appreciate all who cooperated with us to take back the finish line this year,” said Tom Grilk, B.A.A. Executive Director. “Now, as we look towards 2015 and beyond, we will work to further demonstrate the unique and inspirational aspects of the Boston Marathon. Our qualifying standards are among the features which make the Boston Marathon special, and our registration process recognizes the perseverance needed to gain entry. Our rolling admission schedule will provide runners with the fastest qualifying times in their age and gender group the ability to have their entry accepted in an orderly and systematic manner.”

McGillivray: 2014 marathon was 'epic'

April, 22, 2014
BOSTON -- There was a loud bang in the Athletes Village in Hopkinton before the start of Monday’s Boston Marathon. And for a moment, everyone in the mass of runners was on edge.

“Everyone’s first reaction was evacuate, evacuate the area,” longtime race director Dave McGillivray said in the postrace wrap-up news conference Tuesday morning. “And then we investigated right away and it was a tire that blew on a bus. But everybody was on edge because we didn’t know. But we were safe, everything was fine and it got dealt with right way and we carried on.”

A year and a week after two bombs killed three, injured more than 260 and prevented the 117th Boston Marathon from finishing, the 118th edition of the race came and went without any major hitches -- something McGillivray said he thought was “unfathomable” because of all the people and moving parts involved.

“The one word I have to describe it all, to be honest, is epic,” McGillivray said. “Epic. … We will never see this again. This was a race for the ages, for sure.

“After last year’s race we got so many emails and phone calls [because of the bombings]. Interestingly, we’re getting the same amount right now, this year, but for a whole different reason.”

BAA officials said all the preparation -- which was far more extensive and began far earlier than it had in previous years -- paid off for 2014, but it’s too early to say whether the 2015 marathon will follow the same blueprint as far as field size or security plan.

“As great as this was [Monday], all the extra manpower, all the law enforcement, all the equipment, I just don’t see how all that could continue at that level,” McGillivray said. “But it remains to be seen.

“I think the new normal is more of a hybrid of 2013, in terms of what went on before 2:50 [p.m.], and 2014. I think it’s gonna settle somewhere in the middle, is my gut sense.”

Of the 32,408 runners to start the 2014 race, 32,144 officially finished, a 99 percent finishing rate.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people who toed the line in Hopkinton crossed the finish line in Boston. That’s amazing,” McGillivray said. “That’s amazing when you think about it. People were determined to finish this thing, and they did.”

With a blazing 2:08:37 finish, Meb Keflezighi became the first American man to win Boston since 1983. And Rita Jeptoo returned to Boston and successfully defended her title, winning the race for the third time with a 2:18:57 finish -- a new course record.

“It was just a joyous moment yesterday, to have the opportunity to run freely and express yourself,” Keflezighi said. “As Nelson Mandela before said, sports unites. If that didn’t happen yesterday, I don’t know when else it would happen. Sports does unite everybody, not only in Boston but in America and in the world.

“And for me, that was my goal for [the past] 365 days. I just wanted to get that opportunity, and there are checkmarks sometimes. The Boston Red Sox did it, can I do it? And I’ve been visualizing that, and to make that happen and to wake up the next morning it’s like, ‘Wow. Did that really happen?’”

Women’s wheelchair champion Tatyana McFadden spoke about being inspired by meeting little Jane Richard -- sister of Martin Richard -- in the days before the race.

“Just talking with her, she just had this spark in her eye,” McFadden said. “And the last words that the family said was, ‘Please run for Martin and for the community.’ And I said I promise that I will.

“I knew it was gonna be a great morning when I woke up with jitters in my stomach.”

Monday was McFadden’s 25th birthday, and the Boston title was her second consecutive.

As the officials and champions spoke, traffic bustled down Boylston Street and workers took down the tents in front of the Boston Public Library, continuing the steps to return Copley Square to normal after the race.

Security was obviously a big concern in the lead-up to this year’s marathon, and though they appeared to be successful officials said it’s too soon to say if the new procedures -- which included no bags and increased scrutiny at checkpoints along the course -- will remain in place long term.

“I think you can expect to see just exactly the right amount of security, just the proper blend of security and celebration going forward, as we had yesterday,” Grilk said. “Precisely how that will play out, time will tell.”

Coming into 2014, medical coordinator Chris Troyanos was worried about the emotions that his team would feel returning to the scene of last year’s attacks. But he said the medical volunteers were “superb.”

“Was there a little bit of an anxiety level? Sure, no question about it,” Troyanos said. “But as soon as those runners started to come into that medical tent, that anxiety went away and they did exactly what they needed to do.”

Troyanos said because of the combination of the warm weather and the expanded field there were 3,762 total course and finish line medical encounters, including 192 runners who were taken to hospitals either along the course or in Boston. Medical Tent A treated 1,137 runners, Medical Tent B treated 645 and the Boston Common tent treated 54.

And though the last of the equipment was still in Copley Square from this year’s race as he spoke, McGillivray, always the planner, was already looking ahead to 2015.

“I know we’re here and the dust hasn’t settled yet,” he said. “But next year, what’s it gonna be? Well this year was recovery, healing, processing and then conceptualization of 2014 would be and the planning and execution. Next year, at least we don’t have to recover, we don’t necessarily have to heal, we don’t necessarily have to process. We can get right at it, get right at what 2015 will be.

“And we’ll do that about noontime today.”

Three amputee friends have inspiring run

April, 22, 2014
BOSTON -- The marathon complete, finisher’s medal hanging around his strong neck, Andre Slay walked toward the family meeting area, carrying a clear plastic bag with his belongings in it in one hand and his leg in another.

“How many of those do you have?” an inquisitive volunteer asked.

“Huh?” Slay responded.

The woman repeated the question.

“How many what?” Slay asked her back.

“How many of these,” she said, tapping the carbon-fiber running leg the 32-year-old amputee was carrying.

[+] EnlargeAmputees
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaJeff Glasbrenner, Andre Slay and Chris Madison cross the finish line. Glasbrenner ran Boston in 2013 but didn't get to finish because of the bombings.
The Little Rock, Ark., native had just completed his first Boston Marathon and his third marathon overall since he lost his right leg in a 2006 motorcycle accident.

Slay was one of three amputees from Little Rock to run Boston on Monday, along with friends Chris Madison and Jeff Glasbrenner. Glasbrenner, 41, ran Boston last year and was stopped just shy of the finish line when the bombs went off.

He then recruited Madison and Slay to join him for 2014.

But first, he had to get them running. Which, for amputees, is no easy proposition.

“It was excruciating,” Madison, 39, said of learning to run and then training for a marathon. “At first I had to get a running leg, a leg designed for running. Then I had to get the fit right. And then as I ran, I lost weight, so the fit would change and I had to get that changed. I wanted to get to the point where I was working on my cardio and my endurance, not fighting with my leg.”

Madison lost his right leg in a boating accident when he was 10, but he never felt excluded from the sports he loved and even played baseball throughout high school. That was just about the polar opposite of Glasbrenner’s experience.

After losing his leg in a farming accident when he was 8, Glasbrenner was told he couldn’t play sports. He didn’t find out that wasn’t true until college, when he discovered wheelchair basketball. All he did after that was become a three-time U.S. Paralympian, a marathoner and an Ironman competitor.

The three runners, who have to stop every three miles during a marathon, sit down on the side of the road, remove their running leg and dry it and their stump in order to prevent injury, have forged a great bond.

“When I passed the point where I got stopped [last year], it was really hard for me,” Glasbrenner said. “I was like, ‘I made it here, now I’m going to keep going.’ And so it was really cool to have my buddies there with me to be able to get to that finish line together.”

And though they’d heard a lot about Boston, and understood the special circumstances surrounding the 2014 race, Madison and Slay said they still weren’t prepared for the experience.

“At first, I didn’t really anticipate the magnitude of it, the awesomeness of it,” Madison said. “There’s not enough adjectives to describe it. As we were running today and hearing the crowd from start to finish just hooping and hollering the whole way, I mean it just kept building and building and building. It really hadn’t set in until I got to the finish line, that I’m really here and I’m a part of this. Nobody can ever take that away from me.”

While they were in town for the race, the trio had a chance to meet some of the survivors of the bombing.

“We actually met them and traded stories,” Slay said. “We told them, ‘We’re running for y’all. This is why we’re running.’ Jeff had unfinished business, but at the same time we’re running for them. To show them that there’s people there for them. And if they want to run one day, they can.”

“I had the opportunity to engage in sports and do those things,” Madison said. “What I want people to know, I don’t want anybody to be in Jeff’s position where they tell them that they can’t do anything.”

“These Boston victims will not be in that position,” Glasbrenner said. “They’re going to have people like us, they’re going to have other people that inspire them to try to go after their dreams. Whether it’s running or whether it’s dancing, whatever it is, they can do it.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Healing happens at Heartbreak Hill

April, 21, 2014
NEWTON, Mass. -- Justin Burdon let out a sigh, and cracked a smile, from inside his shop on the historic corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Centre Street. The crowd outside had just roared to life for its hometown hero, Marblehead-bred Olympian Shalane Flanagan, as she began her ascent of the Boston Marathon’s most unforgiving climb.

“You run from such a high on the day to such a low -- nice to see the high again, right?” he said with a laugh.

[+] EnlargeMeb Keflezighi
AP Photo/Steven SenneMen's winner Meb Keflezighi gets some support as he crests Heartbreak Hill.
For more than a century, the incline covering parts of miles 20 and 21, nicknamed “Heartbreak Hill”, was where the lions separated themselves from the cubs. This final rise in the 26.2-mile course is where countless runners hit a wall, their pace slowing to a crawl.

For Burdon, a Niagara Falls, Ontario native and former distance runner at Boston College, this is his favorite day of the year. He has seen every marathon since 1997 from either the summit of Heartbreak Hill at the entryway of the Boston College campus; or at the base of the hill on the corner of Comm and Centre, where the shop he took co-ownership of two years ago, Heartbreak Hill Running Company, greets hundreds of customers each Marathon Monday.

One of Burdon’s employees, BC assistant track coach Tim Ritchie, made his Boston debut last year, acknowledging a gang of friends yelling “Run Ritchie Run” as he began the climb up Heartbreak Hill (Ritchie finished 25th).

Two hours later, two bombs went off near the finish line, killing three, injuring more than 260, bringing the race to a screeching halt and shattering the city’s sense of security. Burdon’s store in the South End became a spot for folks looking to connect with missing friends and family to congregate.

Still hours later, the runners long gone, a suspicious item was found in the vicinity of Burdon’s shop, and the area had to be cleared. Burdon was left in disbelief.

“To try and ruin such a great day in the city of Boston, for me, I just couldn’t believe it,” he said.

What started as such a high on that day turned so low. But on Monday, just more than a year after the tragedy, it was all highs from the moment the first spectators lined up at 8 a.m.

In terms of fan support, Heartbreak Hill is routinely among the rowdiest crowds along the marathon route, the neighborhood’s blend of young professionals and college students putting their creative flow to work. Monday saw more of the same.

Signs of encouragement along the challenging stretch ranged from pseudo-mocking (“Think this is tough? Try growing out bangs”) to playing on words (“I thought they said ‘rum’”) to just plain goofy (“Go random stranger!”).

Often spectators will hand out water, Gatorade or fruit to runners. But at the Boston Hash House Harriers tent, a girl in a makeshift Easter Bunny costume was seen holding a sign that simply said “Beer,” as a handful of people behind her held out small cups of beer to any runner willing to take one.

[+] EnlargeHeartbreak Hill
John Blanding/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesLauren Hefferon and her son, Luca Rugiero, draw a heart in chalk on the pavement on Heartbreak Hill.
Near the bottom of the hill, a group of high school students belted out “The Final Countdown” on brass instruments. Near the top, a man in a kilt and running shoes bellowed away on bagpipes.

The roars rained down for Flanagan, then again for Meb Keflezighi as he blew by the men’s field, then arguably loudest for Dick Hoyt as he pushed his son Rick along in a wheelchair in Team Hoyt’s 32nd and final Boston Marathon run.

“Everyone has shown sort of a steely resolve and resilience to make this,” said Sam Figler, watching from the porch of his house on the corner of Commonwealth Ave. and Sumner Street, where he’s lived for the last nine years. “I think people are actually more excited about this race than the centennial [race]. It’s very exciting here today. It’s electric.”

In a way, last year’s tragedy reignited the sense of community and pride in the marathon, leading to larger turnouts throughout.

“We want to show the nation, you can have acts of terror, but we’re going to come back even stronger,” said Jamie Simon, lead guitarist and vocalist of Boston-based alt-rock band Skinny Cleveland, which played on the corner of Commonwealth and Nobscot Road.

“No matter what you do, you’ve got to have resilience -- in your spirit, in your soul. I think today shows that. The amount of turnout, the amount of energy, the amount of buzz leading up to it has really been awesome. It’s been a very exciting thing to be a part of.”

At the summit of the hill stood a woman with a large pink sign reading, “Say goodbye to heartbreak.” A few hundred feet further up, an inflatable arch at the edge of BC’s campus sat nestled at mile 21 with similar words: “The heartbreak is over.”

The symbolism was not lost on the thousands watching along that stretch.

Corcoran family finally crosses finish line

April, 21, 2014
BOSTON -- Though their lives haven't been remotely the same since that fateful day just more than a year ago, Sydney and Celeste Corcoran won't let their new realities slow them down.

They choose to live.

So though Sydney -- who has that phrase tattooed on her right arm -- was gravely injured and Celeste lost both legs in one of the blasts, the mother-daughter duo returned to Boylston Street on Monday for the 2014 Boston Marathon. And as the runners streamed down the blacktop, sun shining down long after the elites were in, Celeste took a seat on a folding chair volunteers set up for her just behind the barriers at the intersection of Boylston and Exeter.

With help from her daughter, Celeste took off her walking prostheses and put on her running blades. And when the person the Corcorans were at the 2013 marathon to see -- Celeste's sister, Carmen Acabbo -- came running down the homestretch, they joined her on the course.

[+] EnlargeBoston Marathon
Jack McCluskey/ESPNBoston.comCarmen Acabbo, Sydney Corcoran and Celeste Corcoran receive their marathon medals.
Hand-in-hand-in-hand, Carmen on Celeste's right and Sydney on her left, the trio ran the final block and crossed the finish line.

"We choose to live. We got hurt, we got hurt really bad but ... everybody's got something," Celeste said.

"The whole thing is unbelievable. The Boston Marathon is unbelievable," Acabbo said of what it felt like to run the final stretch with her sister. "When I wake up tomorrow, nobody is gonna cheer for me for 26.2 miles. The support out there was unbelievable. I had some time by myself and I thought about a lot of what we've been through this year, and it was a nice closure."

When she was at her lowest during Monday's race, Acabbo said she had an easy source of inspiration.

"When it got tough for me, I thought of these guys, to be honest," she said. "I thought of the first time Ces wore her prosthetics. I thought of seeing her run for the first time. I thought of all the stuff that Sydney's gone through over the year. I mean, we've been through so much."

For Sydney and Celeste, crossing that blue-and-yellow line gave them a sense of completion.

"We got closure from that day, because that's what we missed last year," Sydney said. "We finally got to do it this year."

Though it doesn't erase the terrible memories of last year, or fix the uncertain and incredibly complicated future, Monday helped.

"I was just kinda concentrating on walking on my legs, and not falling," Celeste said with a laugh of her day at the marathon. "I just couldn't wait to get to be where I could meet up with [Acabbo], and my daughter and I could do this together. It was a good step for the three of us.

"Our family's been through a lot. And to think last year where we, I would never, ever, ever have thought that we'd be where we're standing today."

"It's unbelievable," Acabbo added.

As they stood on Boylston Street, just past the Central Library, a Boston Athletic Association official gave them their hard-earned reward: a finisher's medal for each of them.

"The negative power is officially, in my mind, gone from this spot," Celeste said. "Everybody, everybody, that participated today, that was here today, it's all so positive. Those people -- terrorists, people that hate -- never, ever, ever win."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Marathon volunteers reflect on experiences

April, 21, 2014
BOSTON -- As the runners pounded down the course from Hopkinton to Boston, there were more than a few nervous volunteers waiting at their posts by the finish line.

They were some of the closest to the chaos that occurred on Boylston Street last April, and they haven't forgotten what they saw, heard and felt that day.

But just like the runners who pushed themselves to the limits again to conquer the 26.2-mile course, the Boston Marathon volunteers were back in force Monday.

[+] EnlargeCarol Gough (L) and Arlene Moore
Jack McCluskey/ESPNLongtime Boston Marathon volunteers Carol Gough and Arlene Moore decided it was especially important to help out again in 2014.
Carol Gough and Arlene Moore have been volunteering at the marathon for the past two decades.

After being just across the street from the bombings last year, the women discussed giving up their gigs as finish line volunteers.

"That didn't last long, though," Moore said. "Because we're like, 'We can't finish on a bad note. We have to come back and retire on a good note.'"

"You can't not come back," Gough said. "You have to come back. That's the only way you're gonna get closure."

After getting herself to safety, Gough, a Halifax, Mass., native, said she stood and watched the first responders rush to help the wounded.

"When I would have a bad day, that's where I'd focus," she said. "I would focus on seeing everybody rushing in and helping. A lot of our teammates went over and helped tear down all the barriers."

Moore, from Abington, Mass., ran the marathon three times years ago and says after all her experience working at the finish line she can tell who the first-timers are. As the day kicked into gear, she was looking forward to seeing those exultant faces again.

"I feel great being back," she said. "I feel like I want to see it go on like it used to go on. People going over the finish line, being happy, kissing the ground, doing high-fives and whatever."

[+] EnlargeEmily McDivitt
Jack McCluskey/ESPNBoston.comEmily McDivitt helped hand out finishers' medals, a task she called "the best job in the world."
The Boston Marathon is a family affair for Emily McDivitt, whose parents were longtime volunteers. She ran the race three times and has been volunteering for 19 years.

On Monday, she was stationed at the head of the long row of tables piled high with finishers' medals.

"I started doing medals recently," the Melrose, Mass., native said. "It's the best job in the world, I think."

McDivitt was handing out medals when the bombs went off last year.

"I didn't think twice, I just ran," she said. "And it was just so many emotions going through my mind and everything. I couldn't believe it. ... To have this happen, there were no words to describe it."

She admitted to being a bit jittery Monday -- "It's a little scary, I have to admit," she said -- but she never considered not coming back.

"I'm not gonna let something like this dictate something that's a part of me. I'm coming back stronger than ever."

Although Aaron Smith has lived in Boston his whole life -- graduating from Boston College High School and enrolling at Northeastern, where he's in his fourth year of a five-year program -- he'd never been to the Boston Marathon before.

But after what happened last year, the criminal justice major and aspiring Massachusetts state trooper felt the need to do something.

"Especially having lived here, it's weird that I've never seen it," he said. "But I'm really glad we came out this year, especially ... after last year."

[+] EnlargeAaron Smith (L) Nicholas Laneville (C) and Matthew Murphy
Jack McCluskey/ESPNNortheastern rugby players Aaron Smith, Nicholas Laneville and Matthew Murphy were stationed past the finish line, helping to keep medical lanes clear.
Smith and 13 of his Northeastern rugby club teammates decided to volunteer in 2014, getting assigned to the wheelchair lanes just past the finish line. They reported at 8:30 Monday morning for their prerace meeting and took to their posts, where they would remain until around 6 p.m.

"We're helping keep the medical lanes clear and making sure the wheelchairs can get through," Nicholas Laneville, a Northeastern senior and president of the Huskies rugby club, said. "It's been great. Everyone is super pumped. Boston strong is still holding strong."

Smith did a co-op at the Dover, Mass., police department last year, serving as a dispatcher.

"All those police officers got called in and helped out with everything in the aftermath [of the bombing]," he said. "Seeing the response of the city and just the state in general ... I really wanted to come down this year and help out and do my part."

The 118th Boston Marathon was Cheryl Parcellin's 12th as a volunteer, most of them spent handing out medals to finishers.

Wearing a pair of earrings that featured the familiar "B Strong" design -- red lettering on a blue background -- Parcellin said she was "a little bit apprehensive" about being back on Boylston initially.

"Things are starting to feel better now but just coming out here at first it's a little bit scary," she said. "A lot of emotions coming through."

Parcellin usually spends the day with her best friend, Dianne Massa, but she said Massa had to miss the race this year because she's sick.

"It's kind of emotional, but it's a good feeling. It's good to be back here," Parcellin said. "She'll be back next year. We've gotta do it. We're not gonna let anyone stop us."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

National Guardsmen take boots to course

April, 21, 2014
BOSTON -- If you think running 26.2 miles is hard, try doing it in boots.

“It was painful with these boots on,” Roy Silva said in the chute after finishing the Boston Marathon on Monday. “I usually keep in shape and I run, but not with boots. I’m amazed that I don’t have any blisters. It’s sore, but I don’t have any blisters. So overall it was a good run.”

A specialist with the Massachusetts National Guard, based out of Methuen, Mass., Silva was decked out for the marathon in standard issue boots, fatigues and a black National Guard T-shirt. His finisher’s medal hung around his neck.

[+] EnlargeBoston
Jack McCluskey/ESPNBoston.comCaptain Peter Kurek of the National Guard said he ran this year because he was unable to help in the aftermath of the bombings.
“When I was running, I was saying ‘I’ll never do this again,’” he said with a laugh. “But I was committed to finishing it.”

Security measures put in place for 2014 after the bombings last year -- specifically, no bags and no unregistered runners -- meant an end to the traditional National Guard rucksack march, in which soldiers march the marathon course carrying 40-pound packs.

An unintended consequence, the ban created a minor uproar among some who saw it as the military personnel being unfairly punished. As a compromise, the Boston Athletic Association gave the Guard around 100 numbers for this year’s race -- but the packs still weren’t allowed.

“I was OK with it,” Silva, a carpentry teacher at Minuteman Regional High School in Lexington, Mass., said of the new security measures. “I think 26 miles is hard enough just running without any weight on your back. I’m just sad that because of what happened, sometimes for the safety of everyone we have to give [up] a little bit. It’s understandable.”

Captain Peter Kurek, who works in communications at Hanscom Air Force Base, said he decided to run Boston for the first time because he wasn’t able to help with the events of last year.

“I was on duty for that,” he said. “I wasn’t here, I was at headquarters [at Hanscom]. But for several days I wished I had been able to come down here.

“This was my opportunity to come out and show my support for the athletes. They’re as much a hero as we are. They come out here regardless of what the risk is.”

A native of Pittsfield, Mass., who now lives in Nashua, N.H., Kurek said the voices of the strangers lining the route helped him push through the burning he felt in his quads and calves -- which, he said, was worse in the boots than it would have been in sneakers.

“The crowds were very supportive of us,” he said. “Lots of chanting of ‘U-S-A, U-S-A,’ and so I want to thank the public for the support they showed me and the others from the National Guard who were out there today.”

When all was said and done, Kurek said he was feeling pretty good, all things considered. And he’s not planning on stopping with Boston.

“My legs are a little heavy, my feet are a little heavy,” he said. “I’m doing another half marathon in about two weeks up in New Hampshire, so hopefully my feet will heal by then. But I’m looking forward to doing that too.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.
Hopkinton Andrew Burton/Getty Images
HOPKINTON, Mass. -- The “No Stopping” signs are there every April to discourage motorists from parking near the course of the Boston Marathon. The advisory simply seemed more poignant for the 118th running on Monday.

Under the rallying cry of taking back the region's race, a total of 35,755 registered runners streamed through the sun-kissed center of Hopkinton, the swarm pouring from the Athletes Village at the town's middle school down Grove St. seemingly having no end.

At the starting line, race organizers suggested that nearly 70 percent of this year’s field would be made up of first-time runners. Each of them seemed to have their own story about why they were running, but they all shared a single goal: to finish the race.

One doctor running for Mass General Hospital and the patients he treated approached the starting line with a hand-scrawled message on the back of his race shirt that read simply, “Taking back the finish line.”

And that same message was echoed by Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray, who addressed the runners before the start of the men’s elite race.

"We're taking back our race," said McGillivray. "We're taking back the finish line.”

Before the mobility-impaired racers opened the day with the first of eight starts, there was a moment of silence held in memory of those lost or injured during last year’s marathon bombings.

But cheers soon erupted to break the somber mood. Booths on the common sold shirts that read, “Boston Stronger” in the familiar blue and yellow colors that dominated Monday’s crowd and there was a pride among runners who endured a tough year (and bitterly cold winter) in preparation for this moment.

Security was tight along the course and organizers apologized to runners and spectators as they queued up. A change in policy prohibited most bags, but few seemed to mind. As temperatures soared to 57 degrees in Hopkinton before the men’s elite race, runners gleefully shed their layers before heading out (those clothes were scooped up by volunteers with the clothing set to be donated via the Big Brothers Big Sisters charity).

Hugs and high-5 were available throughout the starting area. Neighborhood children hung signs in their windows (One cleverly wrote, “Run like you stole something!”) Other locals handed out bananas, water, and first aid supplies; another lighter-hearted house had a sign up for “Beer Donuts [and] Cigarettes.”).

Runners overflowed with energy approaching the starting line and craned towards the TV cameras stationed overhead as they set out on their 26.2-mile voyage.

All with the goal of finishing what got interrupted last year.

"I can't imagine the number of emotions that are going to be there," said Katie O'Donnell, who was stopped less than a mile from the end last year. "I think I'm going to start crying at the starting line, and I'm not sure I'll stop until I cross the finish line."

The two pressure-cooker bombs that went off near the finish line killed three people and wounded more than 260.

Police were deployed in force along the course, with helicopters circling above and bomb-sniffing dogs checking through trash cans. Officers were posted on roofs.

Buses bearing the message "Boston Strong" dropped off runners at the starting line in the town of Hopkinton. A banner on one building read: "You are Boston Strong. You Earned This."

The most obvious change for the 118th running of the world's oldest annual marathon was the heavy security. Nevertheless, many found the atmosphere to be calm and friendly.

"I think everybody is being very pleasant," said Jean Bertschman, a Hopkinton resident who comes to watch the start of the marathon most years and had never seen anything close to this level of security.

Spectators went through tight security checkpoints before being allowed near Hopkinton Common.

Runners had to use clear plastic bags for their belongings, and fans hoping to watch near the finish line were encouraged to leave strollers and backpacks behind.

More than 100 cameras were installed along the route in Boston, and race organizers said 50 or so observation points would be set up around the finish line to monitor the crowd.

Runner Scott Weisberg, 44, from Birmingham, Ala., said he had trouble sleeping the night before.

"With everything that happened last year, I can't stop worrying about it happening again. I know the chances are slim to none, but I can't help having a nervous pit in my stomach," Weisberg said.

Race organizers expanded the field from its recent cap of 27,000 to make room for more than 5,000 runners who were still on the course last year at the time of the explosions, for friends and relatives of the victims, and for those who made the case that they were "profoundly impacted" by the attack.

Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Kenya's Rita Jeptoo, who crossed the finish line on Boylston Street about three hours before the explosions, returned to defend their championships. Desisa came to Boston last fall to donate his first-place medal to the city as a gesture of support.

Jeptoo, who also won the race in 2006, said she is hoping for a third victory -- and one she can enjoy.

"It was very difficult to be happy. People were injured and children died," she said of last year's marathon. "If I'm going to win again, I hope I can be happier and to show people, like I was supposed to last year."

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is awaiting trial in the April 15, 2013, attack and could get the death penalty. Prosecutors said he and his older brother -- ethnic Chechens who came to the U.S. from Russia more than a decade ago -- carried out the attack in retaliation for U.S. wars in Muslim lands.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a shootout with police days after the bombings.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Spectators settle in early

April, 21, 2014
BOSTON -- Though the race hadn’t even started yet, Joe Medwetz and Anthony Tom were already in position.

Settled into lawn chairs just beyond the barricade, bags of takeout at their feet, the pair settled in to wait for Jennifer Tom, Anthony’s daughter and Joe’s girlfriend, at the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth just past the finish line.

“We got here a little bit early, just to play it safe,” said Medwetz, a native of Lahaina, Hawaii. “We didn’t want to miss this race this year.”

This is Jennifer Tom’s sixth consecutive Boston. She was able to finish last year, and Medwetz and Anthony Tom were there to see her cross the finish line. But in the scrum after the line, the trio had trouble reuniting. So this year, the men set up past the finish line.

They were a little worried about getting their chairs through the increased security, but Anthony Tom said they had no issue.

Neither man was worried about their safety in the crowds on Boylston Street today.

“Not at all,” said Anthony Tom, a retired government worker who lives in Maryland.

And despite the ending last year, Jennifer Tom never doubted she wanted to be back.

“She was immediately like, ‘I’m definitely coming back,’ ” Medwetz said.

Hours to go yet, her men will be there to see her 26.2 miles later.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Marathon: Raceday updates and photos

April, 20, 2014
Starting around 7:30 a.m. in Hopkinton and until the last finishers cross the line in Boylston Street, our staff will give you Boston Marathon raceday updates and photos from a number of locations along the route. Check back early and often!