HOPKINTON — Despite a frigid downpour, hundreds of spectators crowded the town common and surrounding area Monday to send off the waves of Boston Marathon runners with big cheers as they began their long slog to Boylston Street.
Colleen Allen brought her whole family, as she has for years.
“This is a part of my life,” she said. “A little rain isn’t going to stop us.”
Allen said she and her family preferred to watch the Marathon from the starting line, because it’s a chance to cheer runners from the first moments of the race.
But things have been different in the wake of the bombings in 2013, she and her relatives said.
“Freedom is lost,” said Betty McLellan, Allen’s mother. “It’s much harder to get here. It’s just different.”
State Police Colonel Timothy P. Alben, who spoke to reporters earlier Monday morning, said there were hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes troopers along the course. He said he was not aware of any specific threats against the race, but he said his staff was taking all precautions.
Police helicopters hovered overhead as heavily armed special operations officers and National Guard soldiers kept watch throughout the area.
While some found the security disturbing, Hannah Misiuk, 27, of Hopkinton, said she found it reassuring.
“It’s necessary now,” she said.
Others who have long made a tradition of coming to the starting line said they avoided last year’s race out of concerns of a copycat attack.
Lauren Campbell, 18, of Upton, skipped last year because she didn’t want to be near large crowds. She decided this year to confront her fears.
“I felt better about it, because they checked our bags and required us to go through metal detectors to get here,” Campbell said. “I was nervous, but it felt under control.”
Debby Frohbieter, 64, of Hopkinton, said the race finally feels like it’s getting back to normal. For years, she has been coming to the starting line to cheer on runners. She said she’s still having a hard time seeing all the barricades, armed officials, and police dogs.
But she has come to accept that it’s part of the race now.
“It’s sad it has to be this way, but this is the way it’s going to be,” Frohbieter said. “I’m just glad it’s not stopping people from coming out.”
Unlike last year, when announcers made frequent references to the attacks, there were few mentions of the horror of 2013 at the starting line. The announcers focused more on the weather and advised runners to toss their extra layers to volunteers on the sidelines.
Many runners shivered as they waiting for the starting gun to launch, and when they passed, the course was littered with sweatshirts and discarded clothing.
But the cold didn’t dampen the excitement for many spectators.
Debra Todisco, 61, of Hopkinton, has been coming to the starting line for 30 years.
She danced as “Sweet Caroline” played in the distance and her grandkids gorged on fried foods for breakfast.
“I wouldn’t miss this,” she said. “The attacks made me more determined than ever to come back. There’s too much inspiration not to be here.”