Hotels are selling out of rooms for the Boston Marathon faster than ever before as a flood of enthusiasts descends on the city, including some 4,500 runners prevented from finishing last year.
Boston and Cambridge hotels are completely booked for the race, according to the state’s lodging trade group, and rooms outside those two cities are going fast. The eight Marriott hotels in Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, and Peabody — a total of more than 3,700 rooms — are already almost full on the night of the Marathon and the Sunday before, said spokeswoman Lucy Slosser.
Interest in this year’s April 21 event is intense following last year’s bombings at the finish line, which left three dead and more than 260 injured. About 36,000 runners are expected to compete in the Marathon, an increase of 9,000 over last year, and their supporters, media, and fans of the storied Marathon are also flocking to Boston from far and wide.
“It’s probably the biggest consumption of rooms related to the Marathon that we’ve experienced,” said Paul Sacco, president of the Massachusetts Lodging Association.
Marathon Tours and Travel of Charlestown has sold out its blocks of discounted rooms at 45 area hotels. The agency is still hearing from runners seeking rooms but finding it harder to help, since fewer people are calling with injury-related cancellations. “People just want to be here,” said Kelly McClay, who handles reservations for the company.
Ginger Cross was seconds away from crossing the finish line last year when the first bomb exploded. The Tucson resident wheeled around to run the other way, only to have the second bomb go off beside her.
Michelle Walker, an Indiana mother of six, finished the race 15 minutes before the attacks and spent the rest of the day watching the horror from her Copley Square hotel room.
Shane Wheeler, a Denver radiologist who ran in the 2008 Boston Marathon while doing a fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where many of the victims were treated, watched last year’s Marathon coverage on TV feeling helpless, and inexorably connected. This year, “I’m running it,” he said, “because I need to.”
All three runners are coming this year, and their reservations are locked in — Cross at the Hilton in the Back Bay, Walker at the Marriott in Copley Square, and Wheeler at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. About three-quarters of the runners come from outside New England, according to the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the Marathon.
The Lenox Hotel, near the finish line on Boylston Street, always sells out almost a year in advance, largely with regulars who return year after year, said managing director Daniel Donahue. Despite the bloody scene that unfolded just steps from the hotel last April, this year is no exception.
“I haven’t heard yet, ‘Oh, I’m not coming,’ ” Donahue said.
Some runners said they were drawn to this year’s race to show their support for the city and become a part of the healing process. Cedric King, an Army veteran who lost both of his legs after stepping on an explosive device in Afghanistan, was just learning how to run on prosthetics when the bombs exploded in Boston, leaving 16 people without legs.
King is running his first Marathon here for the Scott Rigsby Foundation, a Marietta, Ga., nonprofit dedicated to people who have lost limbs. The group, which is also bringing two other military amputees to run their first marathons, has raised nearly $300,000 for victims of the bombings.
The best chapter of any book is the one after the tragedy takes place, King said. The bombing, he wants to show the victims and the city, “doesn’t have to be the end of the story.”
Kenneth Williams, a 72-year-old from Mississippi who has run 58 marathons, is also heading to Boston. Williams, slowed by a knee injury last year, was stopped on Commonwealth Avenue when the bombs went off in Copley Square, and other runners piled up behind him. They were held there for an hour, teeth chattering, said Williams, choking up as he recalled the residents who came out of their houses with coats and water for the stranded runners.
Williams, who will be in town with a group of about 50 runners and their families, is staying at the Back Bay Sheraton, where he has stayed for the past 10 years. After last year’s events, he started a blog, bostonlog.com , to give Boston Marathon participants a place to record their stories.
“It’s Mecca,” he said of the race. “It’s the Master’s. It’s the Indianapolis 500. It’s the Super Bowl, and you’re getting to play in it.”