On the morning after the Boston Marathon became a symbol of renaissance, its caretakers reflected upon Monday’s 118th running with a mixture of gratitude, relief and joy. “Yesterday here in Boston it was a mighty day,” Boston Athletic Association executive director Tom Grilk observed during the traditional concluding news conference at the Copley Plaza. “For us at the BAA it was a privilege beyond our reckoning to be at the center of it.”
A year after the Patriots Day race was halted in the wake of two deadly terrorist bombs near the finish line, its organizers were delighted to report that the Hopkinton-to-Boston jaunt went off even better than they might have hoped with record crowds, an exceptionally high percentage of finishers, an American men’s champion (Meb Keflezighi) for the first time in 31 years, a women’s course record (2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds by Kenyan defending titlist Rita Jeptoo) and a festive mood that was in stark and welcome contrast to last year’s horror.
“The memory of those who lost their lives will never be forgotten,” said Grilk, “but everyone wanted to move forward and we felt it all weekend. There has never been a day like it before and there will never be one like it again.”
Of the 32,408 runners who answered the starting gun, 32,144 crossed the line in Copley Square — a 99 percent completion rate. “The people were determined to finish this thing and they did,” said race director Dave McGillivray, who said that only 15 runners without numbers turned up at the start, after organizers feared that many more would.
The one drawback to the day was the number of competitors who required medical assistance after the temperature, which was in the 40s in the morning, rose into the 70s during the afternoon. “It fooled a lot of people,” said McGillivray.
BAA medical director Chris Troyanos said 3,762 runners were treated at some point along the course, that 1,836 were taken to one of the three tents beyond the finish line, and that 192 were taken to area hospitals, 20 kept overnight.
On a day that featured the most entrants (36,000) since the 38,708 who signed on for the 100th race in 1996, nobody wanted to quit. “The one word I have to describe it is epic,” said McGillivray. “This was a race for the ages, for sure.”
Now the question is whether the 119th edition will revert to its customary size, which had been fewer than 27,000 for the previous five years. “There was an understanding going in that this was an extraordinary year,” said McGillivray. “Generally speaking, people think that it’s going to go back to 2013 in terms of field size but I think it’s open for discussion, especially after how it went this year.
“The interesting question is, what do we want it to be? I’ve always said quality vs. quantity. That’s what this race is all about — quality. You don’t have to have everyone show up but is there more room? And if there is more room, what’s the composition of the additional people? We knew what it would be this year because of what happened last year, but what do you do for next year? Let’s say it’s 36,000 next year. What’s the extra 9,000? Are they all qualifiers? I don’t know.”John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.