The Boston Marathon — and perhaps Boston itself — roared back to life on Monday after a two-and-a-half year hiatus caused by the COVID pandemic. From Hopkinton to Boylston Street, runners and their supporters reveled in the city’s annual race, not seeming to care much that it was smaller than usual or that it was taking place in October instead of April. The overall scene was one of jubilation.
“It’s the best, it’s Boston!” said Lina Vadlamani, 27, cheering on her fiancé at the starting line in Hopkinton Monday morning.
Nearby, Lynn Dubinsky, 64, was volunteering as a marshal for the 20th time, her hat covered in blue and yellow pins. Farther along, Boston College students lined the route wearing golden capes, Dr. Seuss pajamas, and even a green Care Bear onesie, holding up cardboard cutouts of their classmates’ faces. At the midway point, Wellesley students leapt and cheered in the so-called “Scream Tunnel,” but refrained from kissing strangers, at the explicit request of the Boston Athletic Association.
“I had a voice this morning,” said Ali Kwiecien, 20, after spending hours leaning as far as she could over the metal barrier by the tunnel, slapping hands and blowing kisses. Students juggled handmade signs reading “Halfway Vibes” and “Why do all the cute ones run away?” (Another particularly Boston sign read: “Run like you’ve just robbed the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.”)
In the elite divisions, Diana Kipyokei of Kenya won the women’s race at 2:24:45 in her major marathon debut, while Benson Kipruto, also of Kenya, won the men’s race at 2:09:51. Colin Bennie, a Princeton, Mass. native, was the top American man, in seventh place; Nell Rojas was the top American woman in sixth.
Marcel Hug, of Switzerland, won the men’s wheelchair division for the fifth time, coming in at 1:18:11, and Manuela Schär, also of Switzerland, handily won the women’s wheelchair division for the third time.
At the finish line, triumphant runners rejoiced in divergent ways: by collapsing on the curb, stripping off shoes and socks and whatever else they could, FaceTiming family, massaging sore muscles, grinning and grimacing and comparing notes. An acapella group serenaded the crowd as runners repurposed their foil blankets into skirts and capes.
“I enjoyed every hard mile of this race,” one runner declared as he drifted down Clarendon Street.
The energy was infectious, for marathoners and onlookers alike.
“When I see her, I’m just going to yell, ‘Beth! Beth! You made it!’” said Carrie Peace, who was at the finish line to support her neighbor, a runner with cystic fibrosis.
Of course, not everything went entirely smoothly. Several buses shuttling runners from Boston to Hopkinton did not make it to the designated drop-off spot, instead stranding marathoners at a cross street where they faced a mile and half uphill climb before their races even began.
“[Expletive] keeps going wrong,” said one runner among dozens making the trek.
“Now I’m really warmed up,” said another.
Now in its 125th year, the in-person Marathon brought 20,000 runners to the starting line; another 27,707 are running a virtual race. The last Marathon was in April 2019. For the only time in its history, the Marathon took place on Oct. 11, which is increasingly recognized as Indigenous Peoples Day.
This spring, some indigenous activists criticized the Boston Athletic Association saying they had not been consulted about the rescheduled date and asking the association to change it. The organization declined to do so, but apologized last month and offered to make a land acknowledgment, a practice to name and recognize the Indigenous Peoples who were the original stewards of the land, before the start of the race. The B.A.A. also said it would contribute $20,000 to fund the Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration in Newton, as well as $10,000 to WINGS of America, a national organization focused on Native youth running.
A score of former champions and other notable figures ran in Monday’s race, including US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland; Troy Hoyt, grandson of the late Boston Marathon icon Dick Hoyt; and champion marathoner Shalane Flanagan, who took to the course after she finished the Chicago Marathon 24 hours earlier.
On Instagram, Flanagan noted the significance of competing in her hometown, saying she was returning to the “very place that raised me.”
Also running was 38-year-old Desiree Linden, the 2018 winner who became the first American woman to break the tape in 33 years.
“I’m not fast any more,” she said in an interview with the Globe. “But I’m tough.”
Linden, who is planning to run New York City next month, has run the bumpy Boston course eight times.
“It’s so gritty,” she said. “26.2 is supposed to be difficult and that’s what Boston is. It mimics the original marathon course where legend has it the guy dies at the end.”
On the way down from Heartbreak Hill, Anna Hansard and a friend donned taco suits — complete with plastic cheese and fabric tortillas — to encourage runners after the most difficult stretch of the race.
“We’re all cheering on people doing something that’s not easy to do,” Hansard said. “It’s so exciting to see the entire city come alive for this.”
Katie McInerney, Tonya Alanez, Taylor Dolven, Amanda Kaufman of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Andrew Brinker, Diti Kohli and John Powers contributed to this report.