Sports

Fast field gathers for start of 127th Boston Marathon

About 30,000 athletes are running 26.2 miles in Boston. For the first time, the race includes a new division for nonbinary athletes.

Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray sends out a group of about 20 from the Massachusetts National Guard
Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray sends out a group of about 20 from the Massachusetts National Guard.
Jennifer McDermott / AP
SMS

The fastest and most-decorated elite field ever to assemble in Hopkinton is getting ready to cross the start line for the 127th Boston Marathon on Monday.

The group includes world record holders, Olympic and Paralympic medalists, winners of major marathons from 27 countries and a dozen Boston Marathon champions, according to the Boston Athletic Association, which administers the prestigious race. World record-holder Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya is making his Boston Marathon debut.

On Saturday, the city marked the 10-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. The 2013 race was interrupted when two backpack bombs exploded on Boylston Street, steps from the finish line.

At the start line on Monday was a robotic dog named Stompy belonging to the the Department of Homeland Security. It was trailed by photographers, capturing the peculiar sight.

About 30,000 athletes will run 26.2 miles to Copley Square in Boston. A light drizzle has made for wet roads at the start and runners could be facing a headwind. The temperature is expected to be in the low 50s.

This year the race includes a new division for nonbinary athletes.

At 6 a.m. in Hopkinton, race director Dave McGillivray sent out a group of about 20 from the Massachusetts National Guard, which walks the course annually, announcing the start of the marathon. He thanked them for their service and wished them well on the course.

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McGillivray said in an interview that on paper the field is the fastest, but Boston is all about strategy, not breaking a world record. It's very different from other major marathon courses because of the topography, the undulating nature of the course, he added.

"How you run it is as important, if not more important, than how fast you run it," he said. "Of course you need a fast time in order to win, but at the same time, you don't necessarily want to take it out and try to run the whole race all by yourself. Some might. Who knows? We'll see today."

The wheelchair divisions were to start shortly after 9 a.m., followed by the elite fields. Kipchoge set the world record of 2 hours, 1 minute, 9 seconds in Berlin in 2019 and also broke 2 hours in an exhibition in a Vienna park that year. His personal best is almost 2 minutes better than the next-fastest runners in the field, defending champion Evans Chebet, also of Kenya, and Gabriel Geay of Tanzania.

The women's field is also among Boston's fastest. Amane Beriso of Ethiopia is one of three women ever to break 2:15:00.

This year's race includes members of the One Fund community — survivors of the 2013 attack, along with friends and family of the victims and those raising money for related causes.

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Some of the Guard members marching the course said they would be thinking about those who were killed, and their families. Staff Sgt. Brenda Santana, 30, of Saugus, Massachusetts, said she will likely cry at the finish.

"I think it's going to be emotional, remembering the tragedy, the lives that were lost," she said. "I will keep them in my mind as I'm crossing the finish line."

Capt. Kanwar Singh, 33, of Malden, Massachusetts, said it's a special day.

"Ten years ago, the city came to a halt. It's an incredibly strong comeback, as a group together," he said. "I tell people, never bet against Bostonians."

Mardi Ung, 56, of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, said she was inspired to become a marathoner and qualify for Boston after the 2013 bombing. She said she loves running because it's a feeling of empowerment and freedom and the attack violated that. This year is her 10th Boston Marathon.

"I'm nervous and excited; I plan my whole year around this," she said. "I have to keep my emotion at bay and stick with the plan. The energy in Boston is just amazing."

Byron Mundy, 75, of Collingdale, Pennsylvania, was by the start line, too, taking a photo by a Boston Marathon sign. Mundy recalls running his first Boston Marathon in 1970, when he paid $2 to enter. He said he has come back to race roughly a dozen times.

"The tradition of Boston is just so alluring," he said. "It's a badge of honor to qualify."