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Marathon prep steps up a notch

As law enforcement plans for extra security, groups and towns along the route plan special events to make this year a celebration

A memorial to Meg Menzies, a Virginia mother who was killed while training for this year’s race, was created by Hopkinton resident  Kel Kelly from 400 pairs of running shoes.

A memorial to Meg Menzies, a Virginia mother who was killed while training for this year’s race, was created by Hopkinton resident Kel Kelly from 400 pairs of running shoes.

A year after two bombs exploded at the finish line, groups all along the Boston Marathon route are planning special events and working around tightened security to turn the course into a celebration of the region’s strength, determination, and courage.

As people from Hopkinton to Brookline emphasized in interviews, “This isn’t just another marathon.”

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There will be large ribbons affixed to fences along the route with handwritten reflections, gathered by sophomore Presidential Scholars at Boston College.

And there should be a sea of yellow daffodils, more than 100,000 newly planted bulbs along the entire course that are expected to bloom in time for the race April 21.

In Brookline, a group of 120 residents, staff from the town’s Parks and Open Space Division, and Brookline police officers planted 10,000 daffodil bulbs over one fall weekend along both sides of Beacon Street, according to Erin Chute Gallentine, the Parks and Open Space director.

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“It was so inspiring that I decided to run the Marathon myself, and am doing so for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Globe.

As much as things will be different, police in the suburban towns along the 26.2-mile route say while there will be enhanced security, there will not be formal checkpoints or other security measures that veteran Marathon watchers will notice.

“Our goal is to keep it the same fan- and family-friendly event that it has always been,” said Wellesley Deputy Chief of Police F. Jack Pilecki.

But make no mistake, there will be an added police presence and security, whether noticed or not for the 118th running.

“No one has the day off unless they’re running the race,” said Natick police Lieutenant Brian Grassey.

In Framingham, Lieutenant Stephen Cronin said everyone who is not needed to cover for other emergencies will be at the Marathon, including retired officers stepping back for the day to help with traffic and auxiliary police who will be brought in to assist.

A letter to residents from the Brookline Police Department asks all who plan to attend the race to “be especially vigilant and report any suspicious items or activity.”

Brookline police are also asking that spectators leave at home backpacks, bulky items, handbags or packages, blankets, sleeping bags, costumes, bulky outfits, and containers with more than 1 liter of liquid.

In Newton, police say all bags and coolers will be subject to searches.

The race route on Washington Street in that city will be closed starting at 7 a.m. from Beacon Street to Commonwealth Avenue, and an hour later for the remaining part of the route.

In addition, parking in Newton will be restricted on race day from all “feeder streets” along the route, back 60 feet. Parking along the carriage road of Commonwealth Avenue will also be prohibited.

State and local security agencies, including police and fire officials, emergency medical personnel, and private ambulance services have been meeting since last fall to coordinate plans, several months earlier than meetings had begun in past years.

As officials plan for security, many others are planning to honor the three people who died at last year’s finish line, the MIT police officer murdered later that week, and the hundreds who were injured.

In Hopkinton, Pastor Michael Laurence of the Faith Community Church, located roughly a mile from the starting line, said his congregation was deeply affected by last year’s events.

“We had a number of people who were running,” he said. “We were hit pretty hard.”

So this year, instead of hiding behind their anger or fear, they decided to become a presence on the course by “praying for the runners from the start of the race to the finish.”

More than 120 people have already purchased $10 T-shirts, made by the church and sold at cost, to wear as they stand as one to cheer the runners.

Also at the 1-mile mark, there is a memorial dedicated to Meg Menzies, a Virginia mother of three who was struck and killed in January by a car driven by an alleged drunk driver as she trained to run Boston.

The “Meg Soles of Love” tower, built with the nearly 400 pairs of used running shoes sent to Hopkinton resident Kel Kelly from athletes all over the world, is situated next to the landmark “Spirit of the Marathon” statue, which honors 1946 winner Stylianos Kyriakies of Greece for his inspiring finish.

“I think this is a memorial for Meg, who was training for the Boston Marathon and can’t be here, and also a reminder to be safe out on the roads,” said Kelly, who was so moved by Menzies’ story that she created the structure in her honor.

Kelly said she had thought her marathon running days were behind her, but within two days of last year’s race she and her partner decided to start training.

“We have to run this, how could we not? This is about the city rising up,” she said.

In Ashland, at an outdoor cookout hosted by TJ’s Food and Spirits, brewer Samuel Adams will set up a tent to sell its special 26.2 Brew; according to the company’s founder, Jim Koch, 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Greg Hill Foundation, helping those injured in last year’s bombings with their ongoing needs.

“Following the events of last year, I think this year will be the biggest and most meaningful marathon the city of Boston has ever seen,” Koch wrote.

At the 6-mile mark, Framingham Downtown Renaissance, along with the town and a number of sponsors, is planning live music, restaurant specials, and entertainment from 9 in the morning until 1:30 p.m.

This year, the celebration was done with security in mind.

“They have coordinated all their plans with the police department,” Framingham Police Lieutenant Cronin said.

Down Route 135 in Natick, the First Congregational Church will again be selling hot foods and homemade baked goods. Proceeds from this event will help pay for a church mission trip to an Appalachian town in West Virginia to rebuild homes for people who otherwise couldn’t afford the repairs, according to Stephen Williams, who is again taking part in the effort.

At the race’s halfway point, the women of Wellesley College promise a ramped-up “scream tunnel,” to rival others that past runners have said can be heard a mile away.

The time-honored Wellesley College tradition of supporting the runners by trying to cajole kisses from the course will also continue.

“This is something that is so important to us,” said Molly Tyler, a Wellesley College senior and house president of Munger Hall, which is charged with helping to organize the signs they hold.

“We’re trying to make this as big and special as possible,” she said. Tyler expects 350 signs to line the barricades.

Pilecki, of the Wellesley Police Department, said the added volume and congestion shouldn’t be a problem.

“If they want to continue their traditions, we support that 100 percent,” he said.

At Mile 21 the Boston College Presidential Scholars will have their thoughtful ribbons on display. Also, they have written a book as a part of their sophomore social justice project chronicling the city’s response to last year’s bombings. It will be published April 15 to coincide with the anniversary of last year’s Boston Marathon.

The BC Alumni and Catching Joy, founded by alumna Loy Olaes Suprenant to promote volunteerism, partnered to make cards and posters dedicated to bombing survivors and first responders.

The cards and posters, created by alumni, their children, and friends, are being delivered to Spaulding Rehabilitation Center and the Newton police and fire departments on April 12, BC’s National Day of Service.

The city of Newton is also planning events to “honor and remember last year’s victims and support those who were injured,” Mayor Setti Warren said.

On the Friday afternoon before the race at 5:15, Warren will gather city officials, clergy, and members of the community to plant daffodils by the Johnny Kelley statue on Commonwealth Avenue at the intersection of Walnut Street across from Newton City Hall.

The following day, April 19, the city will again hold its annual Newton Heartbreak Hill Race and Walk, a 1-mile race up and down Heartbreak Hill. The race, for children and adults, is from noon to 3:30, rain or shine.

This year, the group Reverse Order will perform their song, “Our City,” a tribute to the bombing victims and to the city of Boston. The performance will take place at 11:30 a.m. in front of City Hall.

“This race means so much to this city, we’re not only on the route, but so many in our community participate in it. We felt it was important to spend a few minutes to remember,” Warren said.

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at eishkanian@gmail.com.
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