Under a gray sky and through intermittent rain, thousands of exuberant spectators shouted and cheered for hours Monday along the Boston Marathon route, from suburban Hopkinton to the Back Bay, encouraging runners to complete the grueling 26.2-mile course.
Despite the conditions — and the indelible memory of the Marathon bombing of 10 years ago — the mood at the finish line was jubilant.
Nearby, on the steps of the Boston Public Library, fans who flew in from Tanzania waved their country’s flag to honor a compatriot, Gabriel Geay, who would go on to finish second. When the winner of the women’s race, Hellen Obiri, crossed the finish line, she embraced her beaming daughter, and the crowd in the bleachers erupted in cheers.
Fadumo Osman, an MIT student who moved to Boston in September, was near the finish line on Boylston Street, taking it all in. It was her first Marathon.
“I’m so happy to have witnessed this,” she said. “Literally, I love this town now.”
Amid the celebration, there were also poignant acknowledgments of the 2013 attack that killed three people and injured 260, 17 of whom lost limbs.
Late in the afternoon, two teenagers, Nolan Cleary and Jack Burke, crossed the finish line side by side after a 5-hour run. It was an athletic achievement for two young men, but also much more. Cleary, Burke, and Ava O’Brien — who followed not far behind them — were childhood friends of Martin Richard, who was 8 when he was killed on Boylston Street by one of the terrorists’ bombs.
A decade later, his friends, now 18, were finally eligible to run the Marathon, which they did to honor his memory and raise money for a foundation created in his honor.
At the finish line, Richard’s older brother, Henry, who also ran, said, “It’s a very emotional race for my family. I thought of [Martin] the whole way.”
Throughout the day, memories of the tragedy could be found interspersed with carefree celebrations of Boston’s most distinctive event.
At practically every mile of the course, a spectator could be found holding a sign that said “Boston Strong,” an homage to the city’s recovery from the attack. But right beside them were others who were happy just to be there: offering high fives to exhausted amateurs, holding up punny signs, or scanning the throngs of runners for friends or celebrities.
At least one of the notables was not hard to find. Former Bruins star Zdeno Chara — who stands 6 feet, 9 inches tall — was unmissable as he bobbed along the course, with his shoulders at the height of his fellow runners’ heads.
The weather at the start was gray, cool, and wet. Great conditions for runners, perhaps, but less optimal for fans.
In Hopkinton, where runners begin the route to Boston, the mood was subdued.
In previous years, the neighborhood around the starting line has had a party atmosphere. Spectators typically line the barricades, and house parties spill onto front lawns — a Fourth of July mood at 8 a.m. in April. Not this year. On Monday morning, with fog in the air and drizzle falling, the lawns were empty (and soggy) and the barricades were unmanned.
The few spectators who did show up kept their hoods over their heads and their hands in their pockets. After the applause for a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner quickly died out, a race official implored the crowd: “Don’t be sad.”
One spectator, unimpressed with his compatriots, muttered, “Wake up, Boston.”
“They’re out to lunch,” said another.
The elite wheelchair racers went off first, followed by the professional runners, and then the thousands of amateurs.
For many, running Boston is a lifelong aspiration.
Wendy McMaster came from Michigan to watch her brother Jerry Mullins and sister-in-law Julie Mullins run their first Boston Marathon together. “Today they’re literally living their dream,” she said. The Mullinses had previously tried to qualify, but never made the cut. This year they finally did it.
McMaster waited on Boylston Street for hours to see them finish. “It gives me goosebumps,” she said.
Others ran to honor loved ones or to call attention to urgent causes.
Cristian Alorcan traveled from Mexico City to see his wife, Fernanda Romo, run Boston for the first time — at a difficult moment in her life.
”She lost her mother in January, so she’s dedicating it to her,” Alorcan said. “I just want her to have a great time, enjoying the city, enjoying the environment, and dedicating it to her mother.”
Marichka Padalko, a Ukrainian journalist, trained for the race on the streets of Kyiv, as war raged around her and her husband fought on the front lines. “I love to daydream when I run,” she told the Globe last week, “imagining happy days, when my husband comes back.”
On other parts of the course, light-hearted celebration was the order of the day.
At mile 15 in Wellesley, Andrew Gates threw a house party. The festivities spilled onto Washington Street, where Gates and his guests set up a balloon archway. Runners veered off-course to pass through the arch while spectators cheered.
“Living on this route, it feels like our responsibility” to host a party, Gates said.
A few miles up the course, Wellesley College students lined the street to create the “Scream Tunnel,” an annual tradition. This year, members of the college’s cross-country and track teams had turned out to support their coach, Phil Jennings, who was running the Marathon for the first time.
One student held a sign reminding her coach of the stakes: “Phil, I put money on this, so you better win.”
Nearby, Bob Chicoski, stood at the top of the hill — the same spot he stakes out every year. He likes to encourage the handcycle racers there.
“There’s not usually a lot of people here to cheer them on and walk with them,” he said.
This year he did more than cheer. When racer number 32 passed by, his chain popped off. Chicoski hopped the fence and helped him put it back on. The racer, in distress, told Chicoski that he felt like he was falling apart.
”I was like, ‘You’re doing great, keep it up,’ ” Chicoski said. “He’s just an inspiration.”
On Monday morning, Heartbreak Hill was the site of a decisive moment in the men’s elite race. Evans Chebet, who would go on to win, pushed the pace there, just after mile 20, and distanced many of his rivals.
By late afternoon, though, the tenor of the race was notably different.
The runners had become mostly walkers. They stopped by the side of the road for selfies. Spectators shouted encouragement and held signs saying the finish line was near.
One of the signs, held aloft by a spectator near the hill’s crest said, “Heartbreak is behind you now.”
Globe correspondent Hannah Nguyen and Brittany Bowker, John Hilliard, Christopher Huffaker, Billy Baker, and Yvonne Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Read more about the Boston Marathon
- Ten years after terror, Marathon Monday is still Boston’s pageant
- Amid the throngs of participants on Monday were some notable names. Here’s how the celebrities did in the Marathon.
- Family and friends of Martin Richard run the race in his memory
- Zdeno Chara couldn’t decide if running the Boston Marathon was harder than playing an NHL game
- ‘Run like there’s Taylor tickets on sale!!’: The best signs from the Boston Marathon route
- These two women ran the Boston Marathon, but their husbands missed it. There was a good reason.
- Doug Flutie missed six weeks of training. He still finished the Boston Marathon — and raised thousands for charity.
- Dan Shaughnessy: Two of sport’s best — Eliud Kipchoge and Shohei Ohtani — were in town, but rain fell on their parade
- A grad student and a Greater Boston Track Club member won the ‘Fastest Bostonian’ awards at the 2023 Boston Marathon
Mike Damiano can be reached at email@example.com.