Endurance: Boston Marathon

By the numbers: Meb Keflezighi headlines NYC Half elite men's field

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
Meb KeflezighiAP Photo/Seth WenigMeb Keflezighi is back in New York after finishing fourth in last fall's NYC Marathon.
The New York Road Runners have announced the elite men’s fields for the 2015 NYC Half, headlined by 2014 Boston Marathon Champion Meb Keflezighi and three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein as they prepare for the 2015 Boston Marathon.

The overall for the March 15 race field includes a mix of talented runners who will run the full marathon distance in April and those using the bump in distance as endurance training for the 2015 track and field season.

“It is always a thrill and an honor to compete in New York City, and NYRR has been the most consistent supporter of my running career,” Keflezighi said in a press release. “As I train to defend my Boston Marathon title in April, there is no better race to prepare than the United Airlines NYC Half.”

Keflezighi opened his 2015 with a fourth place finish at the U.S. Half-Marathon Marathon Championships on Jan. 18, where he ran 62:18. Following up with the NYC Half Marathon puts him on the same race schedule he followed leading up to last year's Boston victory.

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Rita JeptooEssdras M Suarez/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesIt could be three months before Rita Jeptoo learns the outcome of her hearing with Athletics Kenya.
NAIROBI, Kenya -- Kenyan marathoner Rita Jeptoo will have to wait up to three more months to learn the outcome of the hearing into her positive doping test.

Athletics Kenya requested more time for further investigation after the three-time Boston Marathon champion and two-time Chicago Marathon winner appeared at a hearing Thursday. Jeptoo could face a ban of two or four years if found guilty of doping.

Jeptoo is the biggest name among several Kenyan athletes who have failed drug tests in recent years.

She tested positive for the blood-booster EPO in an out-of-competition test conducted last September before she went on to defend her Chicago title the following month. Both the "A" and "B" samples were positive.

Jeptoo's estranged partner, Noah Busiendich, Italian manager Federico Rosa and Italian coach Claudio Berardelli also appeared before the disciplinary commission.

"This is a confidential hearing so we may not be able to give a lot of information," Athletics Kenya chief executive Isaac Mwangi said. "We will be asking further direction from IAAF then we will communicate once we are through.

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Adidas unveils official 2015 Boston Marathon jacket

January, 9, 2015
Jan 9
The 2015 Boston Marathon jacket will feature a color pattern different from last year’s “Solar Zest” which combined a bright orange and light blue.

The new jacket colors are called “Night Flash”, a combination of purple, grey and orange, a source confirmed to ESPN.com. The color pattern may also be featured on elite athletes’ uniforms in 2015.

The jacket will hit the retail market for $110 and will be found all throughout the streets of Boston come marathon weekend.

Ryan Hall links up with legendary coach

September, 16, 2014
HallAP Photo/Steven SenneRyan Hall has been self-coached recently, but is now teaming up with legendary coach Jack Daniels.
Ryan Hall, the fastest American marathoner ever, is putting his trust in coach Jack Daniels after a phase of faith-based self-coaching.

“Jack has already played an influential role in my development as a runner as well as hundreds and thousands of others and I am confident he can help me get back to my full potential as a marathon runner,” Hall wrote on his official website.

“With the Olympic Trials just a year and a half away it’s time to start making progress towards my main goal as an athlete, to return to the Olympics and be at my very best there. This is something that has eluded me the last two Olympics but I am hopeful and expectant for the next years ahead with Jack’s guidance.”

Once named “World’s Best Coach” by Runner’s World Magazine, Daniels is has also advised running greats such as Jim Ryun and Joan Benoit Samuelson.

Hall finished 20th at the 2014 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:17:50. It was his first marathon finished since a second-place showing at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Hall dropped out of the 2012 Olympic marathon at the 11-mile mark due to a hamstring injury. Before its cancellation, Hall also withdrew from the 2012 New York City Marathon due to injury, and 2013 saw him scratched from the Boston and New York City marathons.

Hall was also previously coached by Terrence Mahon while with the Mammoth Track Club. Under Mahon, Hall set the American record for fastest debut marathon by running 2:08:24 at the 2007 London Marathon.

Months after leaving Mammoth, Hall ran his third consecutive Boston Marathon and finished fourth with the fastest marathon time ever by an American in 2:04:58, although American records are not recognized on the Boston course due to the point-to-point layout and overall elevation drop. A strong tailwind also contributed to the fast times in 2011.

Most recently, Hall finished 13th at the Suja Rock N’ Roll San Diego Half-Marathon in 62:53. The 31-year-old has not announced any plans for a fall marathon.

Rock 'n' Roll Philly boasts stacked field

September, 3, 2014
Dathan RitzenheinAP Photo/Charlie RiedelDathan Ritzenhein has run for the U.S. on the world stage and will take on the world's best in Philly.
Race organizers for the 2014 Rock N’ Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon have assembled one of the deepest fields of the fall, including several marathon champions and Olympians.

“Philadelphia is one of the most famous half-marathons in the U.S. and we have a world-class field to match a world-class event,” Elite athlete coordinator Matthew Turnbull said.

Dathan Ritzenhein headlines the American field. The three-time Olympian makes a return to the roads after an injury forced him to withdraw from April’s Boston Marathon. Ritzenhein did not race on the track this summer, and in Philadelphia he will be challenged by 2014 Boston Marathon surprise Jeffrey Eggleston.

Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai will also use this race as a tuneup with his sights are set on a three-peat in the New York City Marathon in November.

Kara Goucher, also returning from injury, leads the field of American women. This will be her first long-distance race since leaving her Nike training group and inking a deal with Oiselle and Sketchers. Goucher's toughest challenger will Deena Kastor, the fastest American woman ever over 13.1 miles, who is looking to extend her road-racing career.

Here’s a look at the field by the numbers:

(Read full post)

Marathon legend Alberto Salazar turns 56

August, 7, 2014
Three-time New York City Marathon champion and 1982 Boston Marathon winner Alberto Salazar turns 52 today.

Now retired from competitive running, the former Oregon Duck is based in Portland, Ore. as the head coach of the Nike Oregon Project. His training group saw success at the 2012 Summer Olympics Games in London as Mo Farah (Great Britain) and Galen Rupp (United States) captured gold and silver medals, respectively, in the men's 10,000-meter run.

In honor of Salazar's birthday and #ThrowbackThursday, here is a quick flashback to his 1982 Boston Marathon win over Dick Beardsley.

Keflezighi returns to New York Marathon

July, 31, 2014
Meb KeflezighiAP Photo/Charles KrupaMeb Keflezighi will attempt to get the rare Boston/NYC double victory this year.
Reigning Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi will run the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon on Nov. 2 as an ambassador for the Team for Kids Charity Program, the New York Road Runners announced on Thursday. The 2004 Olympic silver medalist is the first elite runner announced by NYRR for the 2014 edition of the race.

Keflezighi in April became the first American man since 1983 to win Boston, and his 2009 victory in the NYC Marathon was the first for an American man there since 1982.

"I am excited to be running the TCS New York City Marathon for the ninth time. This is a very special race and city for me,” Keflezighi said. "Additionally, I am honored to be a Team for Kids Ambassador and raise funds for the MEB Foundation."

The NYRR also announced that tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki, formerly the WTA's No. 1-ranked player, will be running in New York.

"I can’t wait to trade my tennis racquet for a pair of running shoes and take part in the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon as a New York Road Runners Team for Kids Ambassador," said Wozniacki.

As for Keflezighi, his return to New York offers up some interesting notes.

Meb by the numbers

6 – Only five men have doubled as the Boston Marathon and New York City Marathon champion in the same year. Bill Rodgers accomplished the feat twice, in 1978 and 1979. Alberto Salazar was the last American to do so, in 1982. Kenyans Joseph Chebet (1999), Rodgers Rop (2002) and Geoffrey Mutai (2011) are the most recent.

6 – Keflezighi has finished in the top 10 of the New York City Marathon six times in his career.

9 – 2014 will mark the ninth time that Keflezighi has raced 26.2 miles through the streets of New York.

14 – Since its inaugural race in 1970, there have only been 14 American winners of the New York City Marathon. There has been only one since Alberto Salazar’s third consecutive crown from 1980 to 1982: Keflezighi in 2009.

23 – Just four years removed from his victory, Keflezighi placed 23rd in last year’s NYC marathon. Calf cramping slowed him down to the point where he walked for a few minutes, yet he was determined to cross the finish line.

39 – Keflezighi turned 39 years old on May 5. He was the oldest winner of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012, when he was 36. Geoffrey Mutai was 30 and 32 when he won the NYC Marathon in 2011 and 2013.
Meb KeflezighiAP Photo/Charles KrupaMeb Keflezighi is following his Boston Marathon win with a new job off the roads.
Editor’s Note: Competitor Group is a content provider for ESPN’s Endurance section

Running promotion company Competitor Group Inc. is set to name 2014 Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi its first vice president of running.

The role is a part-time commitment that will allow training for elite races to remain the top priority for Keflezighi, who Competitor CEO David Abeles calls "one of our sport's great ambassadors".

In April, the 39-year-old San Diego resident became the first American man since 1983 to win the Boston Marathon. Keflezighi led for much of the race as the city celebrated its healing from the terrorist bombings near the finish line that marred the 2013 race.

Competitor Group owns and operates the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series, a 28-race roster that along with the group's TriRock Triathlons and Women's Running Series draws more than 700,000 athletes annually. Most participants are recreational runners, but appearance fees are paid to encourage professionals to take part.

Keflezighi turned down an offer to join CGI in 2000 in order to focus on his training, and in his new role will make event appearances on behalf of the company, run in some CGI events and help create training content for runners.

"My dream has been realized," Keflezighi told USA TODAY Sports. "Boston was the capping. Now I want to inspire others to get the best out of themselves, inspire others just getting started. It's a huge honor."

Keflezighi is looking toward the New York City Marathon -- where in 2009 he became the first American winner in 27 years -- this fall, and has made qualifying for the 2014 Olympics in Rio de Janiero one of his main goals moving forward.

“Running is still a priority, but you can do much with social media, with interviews, with appearances,” Keflezighi told Sports Business Journal.

The next Rock 'n' Roll Marathon is scheduled for Aug. 4 in Dublin, Ireland, with the series returning to the United States on Aug. 31 in Virginia Beach.
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.

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 ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

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 ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. 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 ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Boston buzzing with energy and emotion

April, 20, 2014
Words simply cannot describe what it’s like to be a part of the Boston Marathon in any given year, but 2014 is different.

Along with the increased security, there are more people and more news reporters. There are also more hugs, more tears and more energy. Random strangers see my 2010 marathon jacket and the race bag hanging from my shoulder and wish me luck in the race.

Stepping off the Green Line train and making my way to Boylston Street, I was met with throngs of people, runners and spectators alike. The 2014 Boston Marathon jacket is neon orange, and jackets dotted the gray landscape like buoys on the ocean.

An ambulance drove by and I stopped in my tracks.

A sense of anxiety overtook me for a brief moment as I remembered the seemingly endless line of ambulances (we stopped counting after 50) on Columbus Avenue when we finally ventured out from our safe haven following last year’s bombings. The ambulances were stopped on the side of the road, waiting. Waiting for what? More tragedy? I tried not to think about it.

The Boston Marathon Expo this year was bustling with activity, with some few noticeable differences. For one, there was heightened security upon entering the John Hancock Convention Center. All bags were searched before entering the building.

[+] EnlargeCourtney Marum
Courtesy Courtney MarumThe author finished last year's Boston Marathon and is ready for this year's emotional race.
Most of the official Boston Marathon merchandise was sold out by the time I arrived at 4:00 pm, and I ended up ordering my neon orange jacket online at the Expo. Everyone wants a piece of Boston 2014, including me.

I ran into my friend Megan, who was working at one of the Expo booths. She wished me luck and asked how I felt. I didn’t know how to answer her and just kind of stood there, unable to put into words how I felt. What I wanted to say was that I feel wonderful, scared, overwhelmed, confident and excited all at the same time. A mix of emotions were bottled up inside me.

Leaving the convention center, my boyfriend and I crossed the street and made our way to the same restaurant we ate dinner at last year, less than a block away from the finish line. We didn’t have reservations, but as luck would have it we got a table in the bar right away and ate the requisite pre-race pasta dinner.

After our dinner, we ambled over to the finish line. There were a lot of people milling about, but it was eerily quiet. A makeshift memorial was set up near the finish line, close to where the first bomb detonated. Some people took pictures of the memorial while other people hung their heads in silent prayer. I thought again about how lucky I was a year ago, and how so many others were not.

Now, safe and sound in my aunt’s apartment, I am preparing for race day.

I have packed my small bag, gathered my water and granola bars and lined up my running clothes. The weather reports are favorable and I know the crowd support will be amazing. I am as physically prepared for this race as as I could possibly be.

I can only hope my mental fitness will carry me across the finish line on a day filled with emotion.

1 Day: More Boston history in the making

April, 20, 2014
Boston Marathon signAndrew Burton/Getty ImagesA sign on Boylston Street conveys the spirit surrounding this year's Boston Marathon.
In the 26 days leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 21, ESPNBoston.com will share inspiring stories, detail important logistics and go inside the planning for what promises to be an event like no other in the wake of last year's bombings. There is one day until the race.

BOSTON -- This is a unique American city.

Boston can be a wonderfully frustrating place to live. Both provincial and worldly, it was founded on a tiny peninsula then literally filled in as it grew (Back Bay isn’t just a catchy nickname).

For a city its size, Boston has always wielded a disproportionate influence on history. This was the seat of revolution, as you’ll learn just as soon as you visit. Paul Revere’s house, Faneuil Hall, the Old State House and the Bunker Hill Monument, these are the sights tourists come to see.

But while it always will be known for its role in the revolution, the Boston area also has a robust, if less renowned, recent history. The birthplace of John F. Kennedy, Massachusetts was one of the first states to institute sweeping health care reform and legalize gay marriage.

And until recently, it was home to those famously fatalistic fans whose love for their (historically) floundering sports teams knew no bounds, epitomized in those oft-uttered four words: “Wait 'til next year.”

The history of the Boston Marathon is no different. We remember New England’s own Bill Rodgers breaking the tape, Kathrine Switzer breaking the gender barrier in 1967 and opening up the marathon to generations of women to come, and Rosie Ruiz nearly pulling off her ruse in 1980.

But the world’s most famous road race has a more recent history. After two pressure-cooker bombs planted by the finish line on Boylston Street killed three and injured more than 260, the 117th running was halted prematurely.

[+] EnlargeJessica Boucher, Boston Marathon
AP Photo/Robert F. BukatyJessica Boucher, of Arlington, Va., places flowers at a memorial on the site of the first explosion.
In the year that has followed, the focus understandably has been on the unspeakable tragedy -- the lost lives of Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Martin Richard and Sean Collier and the lost limbs and changed lives of the many survivors -- and the chaos that followed in the city. The manhunt in Watertown capped a week seemingly crafted for Hollywood, not the 26.2 miles between Hopkinton and Copley Square. The weeks leading up to this year’s race have served as a kind of collective counseling session.

Like many close to the race, Rodgers, now 66, was moved by the attacks of April 15, 2013.

“After the bombing last year, I wanted to run Boston this year,” the four-time Boston winner and Hartford, Conn., native said Friday. “And I was in pretty good shape for an old-timer, 66 years old.”

He was running well, but in January he strained his hamstring. Just when he thought he had recovered enough to consider Boston in 2014, he had another setback. So he’ll have to settle for providing moral support on the 35th anniversary of his 1979 Boston win.

“Runners, you have to come back,” Rodgers said. “You have to come back when you get knocked down. That’s what happened there with the bombing -- and Boston, you can’t keep [the city] down. You can’t keep marathoners down.”

As a native New Englander and a former Boston winner herself, Joan Benoit Samuelson knows what Patriots Day means to the region.

“I think Patriots Day exudes strength, pride, perseverance and belief,” she said. “Everything that emanates from the Boston Marathon and our sport.”

The marathon legend, a two-time Boston winner and a U.S. Olympic gold medalist, said she expects the 118th running to reflect that marathon spirit.

“It will be bigger and stronger and more celebrated than any other Boston before,” Benoit Samuelson said. “At the same time, we’re all mindful of what happened last year and we’ll never forget that. So many of the survivors have been so inspiring in their quest to reclaim their lives.”

Benoit Samuelson said the marathon always will bear a mark from 2013, but an event that’s always demanded, and celebrated, the triumph of will over weakness will only be changed for the better.

“It will always be part of the fabric of the Boston Marathon,” she said, “but I think as the years pass there will be some good that comes from something terrible.”

On Monday, the world’s oldest annually run race will get a little older, the history becoming that much richer and the meaning of the day and the event ever fuller.

As the signs adorning streetlights up and down Boylston Street say, on Monday, “We run together.”

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

Marathon Scarf Project bestowing gifts

April, 20, 2014
Boston MarathonAP Photo/Robert F. BukatyMarathon runner Joe Warfield received one of the thousands of scarves being handed out in Boston.
In addition to race jackets, hats, shirts and every make and model of running shoe imaginable, many 2014 Boston Marathon runners are sporting a new accessory: handmade scarves.

It’s not that it’s unusually cold in Boston. More than warmth, the scarves provide comfort, unity and remembrance. And these priceless mementos are free.

In February, the Old South Knitters Club of the Old South Church on Boylston Street hatched the idea for the Marathon Scarf Project. The thought was to wrap runners in marathon blue and yellow scarves knitted with love and courage.

The group’s goal was to knit a few hundred, but the project went viral, and by race weekend they had more than 7,000 scarves from knitters across the country and around the world.

Some pieces are knitted, some are sewn and some have images. There are as many patterns as artists, but they are all crafted by hand and come with a tag including with the name of the artist and where they were made.

Since Friday, church volunteers laden with scarves have been standing in front of Old South Church, just past the finish line, and one by one bestowing racers with the scarf of their choice and a blessing.

Much as the project went viral with knitters, it has done the same with runners. People have offered to pay and have shown their race bibs for proof that they are running, but those doing the gifting take it on faith that the scarves are going to the right people.

Some recipients are silent and reverent when they receive their scarf, others give a hug of thanks, and many share tearful stories about the personal impact of the events of 2013.

All leave holding the unifying threads and knowing that Boston runs strong and runs together.