HOPKINTON — Growing up in this town of just under 15,000, Matt Ellam said the Boston Marathon represented a “carefree, best day ever” when he ate fried dough on the town common and cheered thousands of runners at the starting line.
This Marathon Monday, however, the 26-year-old Ellam joined throngs of racers and set about running the course for the first time, fulfilling a vow he made the day after the finish line was bombed a year ago.
“Now, it takes on a certain gravity to honor the victims that are all here,” said Ellam, who now lives in Cambridge. “I’m not here to have a good time as much as to show my support.”
Ellam was one of the nearly 36,000 runners who gathered in Hopkinton this morning to participate in the 118th running of the storied race.
This was the first time the race has been held since three people were killed and more 260 were injured in the bombings a year ago. Several days later, MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was allgedly murdered by the bombing suspects.
Police fortified the starting line with security checkpoints, police dogs, and hand-held metal detectors. Officers kept watch over the scene from the roof of a Middlesex Savings Bank on Main Street.
By the time Amy Nauman got past the new security measures at the starting point, she had a yellow band on her wrist, a pink ribbon on her bag, and had been checked with a metal detector three times.
“Every time you went through a corral, you were checked again,” said Nauman, a 25-year-old Hopkinton resident. “I expected one or two, but nothing like this. This is crazy.”
But to Debi Bentley, who also lives in Hopkinton, the extra security was the “right thing to do.”
“I feel absolutely safe,” she said. “I think it’s exciting to see people continuing to fill in here and support these runners, so many of them who didn’t get to finish the race last year that want to finish it this year.”
Despite the intense security, the mood in Hopkinton center was festive as runners wore colorful gear for the long journey, music blared from loud speakers, vendors sold Boston Strong T-shirts, and spectators patiently waited at checkpoints to get to the race route.
“It truly has been a long, hard 12 months since April 15,” race director Dave McGillivray told the crowd over a loud speaker. “We’re taking back our race today. We’re taking back the finish line.”
There are new security rules in place for runners, too, including one frowning on one of the quirkier Marathon activities — wearing a costume.
But Neil Bernstein was still wearing his miniature version of Fenway Park’s Pesky Pole on his head for this year’s race. He said this was his ninth year running what he calls the Pesky Pole Marathon to raise money for the Jimmy Fund.
Bernstein said he had no problems passing through security checkpoints.
“It’s not so much authorized. It hasn’t been forbidden,” he said.
The 61-year-old Swampscott resident said it was important to participate in this year’s race.
“You don’t let bad actors prevent you from living and doing things you want to do, and Boston is such an example of that,” Bernstein said.
A team of 12 runners raced to raise money in the name of Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother and daughter from Lowell who were injured in the bombings. They were at the finish line last year to watch Celeste Corcoran’s sister, Carmen Acabbo, compete.
When Acabbo and members of the Corcoran Strong team reach Exeter and Boylston streets on Monday, they planned to meet up with Sydney and Celeste, said Donna Crowley, one of the runners.
The runners are wearing peach shirts that read Corcoran Strong with striped blue athletic skirts.
The money they raise is going to Prosthetic & Orthotic Associates in Orlando, Fla., where Celeste Corcoran goes for her care, Crowley said.
Kaitlin Coughlin said she was stopped last year at the Kenmore Square bridge when the race was halted.
“Last year was a very tough year,” Coughlin said.
The 35-year-old North Attleborough resident said she is running to raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital in honor of Grady Doxsley, 4, who was treated for seizures there.
“I’m really excited to be back this year and finish what I started,” Coughlin said.
While race organizers asked unregistered runners to stay home, a few of these competitors known as bandits managed to make it onto the course.
After the last runners crossed the start line, police took up position there and the process of returning the center of town to normal began.
On the common, residents lingered to enjoy the sunshine and warmth in the open air.
Diana Lopez and her daughters Isabella, 4, and Savannah, 18 months, enjoyed lunch in the park after cheering on the runners.
“It’s so nice. The winter was so long this year. So it’s nice to just sit. Even when the sun is beating on you, you don’t mind it, because there was all this cold weather,” Lopez said. “It’s gorgeous out.”
More from the 2014 Boston Marathon — Cullen: Just like the days we used to know | Gasper: Boston reclaims its Marathon | Photos: Marathon scenes | The ‘Scream Tunnel’ and Heartbreak Hill | The elite runners | Boylston Street | Videos from the Marathon | Full coverage