After a three-year hiatus, the return of Marathon Monday – and the first proper Patriots Day in the COVID era – did not disappoint.
Throngs of race spectators lined Beacon Street in Brookline and Boston all day. Red Sox fans crowded into Fenway Park for the morning’s game. Thirty thousand runners – from the world’s best to weekend warriors – made the long journey on foot from Hopkinton to the Back Bay. Meanwhile, in Lexington, actors in Colonial military dress celebrated Patriots Day by reenacting the Battle of Lexington to mark its 247th anniversary.
“People are energized. It’s a wonderful atmosphere,” said Bob Becker, 59, from Indianapolis, while waiting on the Massachusetts Avenue bridge over Commonwealth Avenue for his son, Aaron, who was running his eighth Boston Marathon.
It was a day of renewal in more ways than one. Nine years after the Boston Marathon bombing, one woman, Adrianne Haslet, who lost a leg in the attack, ran the race. Henry Richard ran, as well, to honor the memory of his younger brother, Martin, who was killed.
Following the difficult COVID years and with the memory of the 2013 attack still lingering, Monday seemed like the day the city needed — and deserved. The sky was clear, a crisp breeze blew, and the temperature was 50 degrees, although it felt even warmer in the sun.
In Kenmore Square, an MIT fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, with its stereo system blaring, threw a party that spilled onto the sidewalk. “This is the day to live for,” said one fraternity brother. Nearby, spectators cheered as runners streamed by, with the roar of the crowd at Fenway at times forming a raucous counterpoint.
All along the route, the atmosphere was, once more, festive.
In Hopkinton, even before the starting gun sounded, the party was in full swing at Todd and Laura Wauters’s house on Grove Street, near the Athlete’s Village. By 9 a.m., around 25 friends had gathered in the front yard to cheer on the hundreds of runners heading to the start.
“It’s a great time,” Todd said as speakers blasted “More Than A Feeling” by Boston and the party guests offered runners coffee and the use of the bathroom.
Just past mile 12, in Wellesley, college students lined Central Street to form the “Scream Tunnel.” The scene lived up to the name with dozens of students yelling at the tops of their lungs and cheering on runners by their first names, which they read off their race bibs.
Olivia Fennell, a senior at Wellesley College, said that both of her mothers went to Wellesley and told her stories of cheering on Marathon runners.
”It feels like carrying on a tradition,” Fennell said. “And I think this year especially, people are really excited to be out, having fun after not having it for years. There’s definitely a real sense of community and enthusiasm for being a part of it.”
As always, spectators got creative with their poster boards and Sharpies. The signs ranged from inspiring – “Beat this Hill,” at the base of Heartbreak Hill – to comical – “Kissing Me > Runner’s High” near Wellesley College.
The strangest sign, if one can even call it that, was a giant printout of Will Smith’s face, held aloft by a spectator running alongside the race in Natick. Runners slapped the face as they ran by for a laugh or adrenaline boost.
In Boston, spectators lining Commonwealth Avenue near the finishing lineroared as the elite runners approached. Evans Chebet of Kenya – who clocked the fastest marathon time of 2020 at the Valencia Marathon – reached the Back Bay with a substantial lead and held on to win the men’s race by 30 seconds.
Not long after, the two leading women, Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya and Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia, rocketed down Commonwealth Avenue, matching each other’s pace stride for stride. Jepchirchir, the Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo, distanced Yeshaneh after a dramatic duel down the stretch to win by four seconds.
The women’s and men’s wheelchair races were won by Manuela Schär, her fourth victory in Boston, and Daniel Romanchuk, his second.
The 2022 Marathon marked the 50th anniversary of a historic milestone: the first Boston Marathon, in 1972, in which the Boston Athletic Associationallowed women to compete.
Val Rogosheske, 25 at the time, was one of the eight runners in that first sanctioned women’s field. On Monday, she was back, toeing the starting line in Hopkinton again (and wearing bib number 1972). Six and a half hours later, she crossed the finish line, alongside her daughters, Abigail and Allie, and her cousin Kris Swanson.
“It’s pretty crazy to start with eight women and then to see all these women on the streets,” she said. (Approximately 14,000 women ran the Marathon this year.) “I’ve never seen that many women on a marathon course with me before,” she said.
The Marathon has always been a source for inspiring stories and feats. Monday was no different.
Among the competitors was Chris Nikic. In 2020, Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon, an improbable feat for someone who was unable to walk until he was 4 years old and, who has struggled with balance issues throughout his life. On Monday, he finished the Marathon, averaging just faster than 13-minute miles for more than five and a half hours. He wore bib number 321 – representing trisomy-21, the chromosomal abnormality that causes Down syndrome.
On Beacon Street in Brookline, Ann Marie Russell, 49, and her daughter Kaitlin, 18, who has Down syndrome, waited for Nikic to run by. “It’s truly remarkable,” Russell said.
“It gives a lot of hope for parents,” added her friend, Kaitlin Conneely, who is also the mother of a child with Down syndrome.
Henry Richard, 20 and a student at Pace University, had watched the Marathon at the finish line many times since his brother was killed in 2013. He decided that 2022 was the year he would finally do it himself. After finishing the race in just over four hours, he embraced his parents with tears in his eyes.
“I know if [Martin] was here, either this year or the next coming years, he would have been doing it with me,” Richard said. “That’s all I could think about.”
For Adrianne Haslet, crossing the finish line marked the completion of multiple arduous journeys. A ballroom dancer, Haslet, now 41, lost a leg in the 2013 attack. After running the Marathon in 2016, she was struck by a car in 2019 and severely injured. On Monday, she rang alongside Shalane Flanagan, her guide and an Olympic medalist in distance running.
Choking up at the finish line, Haslet told WBZ, “It was the best day of my life.”
Before the race, officials from the Massachusetts State Police said that they were aware of no credible threats, but that officers, both uniformed and in plain clothes, lined the course to ensure security. Military police in battle fatigues and holding rifles also stood by.
At the finish line, there seemed not to be a care in the world. Around noon, former Boston acting mayor Kim Janey held up a smartphone to take a smiling selfie alongside current Mayor Michelle Wu and former mayor and current US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
Not everyone was smiling, though. Tracey Lloyd, 55 of the United Kingdom, kept her remarks short and to the point after finishing at a respectable time of 4:18. “I absolutely hated every minute of it,” she said.
Still, she said there was a silver lining.
”What I have done is I’ve met some fab people,” Lloyd said. “You meet them on the bus. You meet them in line. The running community is so supportive and so extraordinary.”
Taylor Dolven and Tonya Alanez of the Globe staff, plus correspondents Grace Gilson and Sarah Barber, contributed to this report.
Mike Damiano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.