BOSTON: Tens of thousands of runners, including some of the world’s best, crowded into Boston on a cold, lightly rainy Monday for the 119th running of the Boston Marathon.
Security was high near the start line in Hopkinton, along the 26.2 mile (42.16 km) course and around the finish line in Boston, in recognition of the bombing of the 2013 race, which killed three people and injured 264 in the one of the most visible attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
Police urged spectators not to bring large bags or coolers, saying that such packages would be subject to search. They also banned the use of drones along the course.
The race goes on during a pause in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old ethnic Chechen who was convicted earlier this month of the bombing. His trial will move into a second phase beginning on Tuesday, with prosecutors arguing that he should be sentenced to death for his crimes.
Sentiment is mixed in Boston over federal prosecutors’ plan to seek a death sentence for Tsarnaev, with a rising number of victims saying they would prefer to a see a deal in which he was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, which could eliminate four more weeks of emotionally grueling testimony.
“If there is anyone who deserves the ultimate punishment, it is the defendant. However, we must overcome the impulse for vengeance,” said Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, who both lost legs in the attack, in a statement. “We believe that the best way to move forward and achieve our goals is a life sentence in prison without the opportunity for parole.”
The field includes Meb Keflezighi of San Diego, who in 2014 became the first U.S. male to win the race in three decades, with a time of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 37 seconds, as well as top Kenya and Ethiopian contenders including Patrick Makau, Abel Kirui and Wilson Chebet.
The women’s race will be wide open, with three-time winner and reigning champion Rita Jeptoo of Kenya excluded from the race this year while she serves a two-year ban from the sport after failing a drug test.
Top women’s contenders include Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia, 2012 Boston winner Sharon Cherop of Kenya, as well as Shalane Flanagan, who originally hails from the Boston suburb of Marblehead, Massachusetts, who finished fourth in 2013.
In addition to attracting elite runners competing for the $830,500 in prize money, the world’s oldest annual marathon is a mecca for dedicated amateurs who work for years to meet the strict, age-graded time cutoffs to earn a coveted spot in the field.
Crowds of dedicated amateurs huddled in light rain and 43 degree Fahrenheit (6 C) weather as they awaited the start of the race.
Runner Shannon McGinn, a 39-year-old therapist, said she was not too worried about the temperatures, and was more focused on her memories of the bombing, having run in 2013.
“Being back here is emotional for me,” McGinn said. “It’s very stressful, but I find it important to run anyway. I want to be here.”