Undaunted by tight security and gray skies that opened up to dump chilly rain, spectators lined the route of the 119th Boston Marathon Monday, cheering themselves hoarse as legions of runners sped by, led by the fleet-footed elite.
More than 30,000 people are expected to participate in the 26.2-mile race, which runs from the town of Hopkinton west into the heart of the city. About a million spectators were expected.
It’s the second time the storied race has been run since the 2013 Marathon terror attack so security has been tight.
Rain, wind, and cool temperatures were in Monday’s forecast. A cold drizzle that was falling in Hopkinton earlier Monday morning abated, but rain was expected to return. The elite runners, who finished way ahead of the pack, ran on mostly dry streets, but by about 1:30 p.m., the streets were shiny with rain.
In Boston, near the finish line on Boylston Street, there was a visibly heavy police presence, with bomb-sniffing dogs, dump trucks blocking side streets, and police checking bags at several checkpoints. Spectators said they the security wasn’t too onerous and they appreciated it.
There were no arrests or any major incidents throughout the day, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said in an early evening press conference.
“It was not the best day, weather wise. But security wise, and event wise, it went off well,” Evans said.
Emily Ojala of Pownal, Maine, followed the suggestion of marathon organizers, and carried only a clear plastic bag. Inside: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain, an apple and an orange.
“I only had a quick bag check, as we entered the finish line area,” said Ojala, 55. “I’ve seen some [bomb-sniffing] dogs around. But it’s very comfortable. I’m just enjoying the energy of today.”
Ojala was waiting at the finish lie to cheer on her husband, Peter Barrett, 55, an Andover, Mass., native running in his first Boston Marathon.
Barrett, who wore number 6848, was clocking 7 minute and 16 second miles as he entered the final leg of the race.
“You can hear people in the crowd talking about the bombing, but it’s not overwhelming. I think people are more focused on the fact that this is just a great day,” Ojala said.
Kate Stewart, 64, of San Francisco, had just finished running the Marathon in 2013 when the bombs went off. This year she went back to watch fellow runners, and was wearing a 2013 Marathon jacket.
“I feel perfectly safe this year,” Stewart said. “It was a little bit nervous-making to walk onto Boylston Street today. But I feel perfectly secure, thanks to the policemen for checking my bag. No fears being here, just a little taste of deja vu.”
She couldn’t imagine being anywhere else this weekend.
“It’s total solidarity: love of the people, love of the Marathon. It’s just the way to affirm life,” she said.
Judy Foley, a spectator from Atkinson, N.H., said she was grateful to law enforcement, despite having to wait a long line to have her bag checked. “What’s 10 minutes?”
Nicholas Martini, 18, of Attleboro sat on his friends’ shoulders as he waved an American flag.
“It’s such an American event, we wanted to cheer on our runners, especially [runners from] the military” said Martini, a high school senior, who was attending for the first time.
Martini and his friends arrived at the finish line at about 8 a.m. Soon after, police with bomb-sniffing dogs came along to perform a security check.
“Our bags got searched,” Martini said. “But we didn’t mind. We know why they have to do it.”
The race began at 8:50 a.m. with mobility-impaired participants starting out. Next came the wheelchair racers who started off at 9:17 and the elite women at 9:32. At 10 a.m., the elite men and first wave of runners started out. National Guard members walking the course were first off the starting line
Race director Dave McGillivray projected both urgency and calm as he issued directions and solved problems at Hopkinton Common before the race. “We have the most experienced team on the planet, people who’ve been doing this for 20, 30, 40 years,” McGillivray said. “I’m just sort of the conductor. They’re the ones who are all the musicians who are making it all work.”
In the last two years, McGillivray said, the Marathon has become more of a spectacle than ever. “Without a doubt, we’re under a microscope, and everyone watches every move we make and every decision we make. It adds a layer of pressure.” But he added, “I’ve always said pressure is a privilege.”
On the eve of the race, defending men’s champion Meb Keflezighi sent a message to his fellow competitors via Twitter.
Lauren Hudak, a resident of East Boston, said she was running her first Marathon.
“Most of all, I’m excited,” Hudak said. “You’re chasing a dream.
“Boston means so much to me because I live here. I work in the city; I have my education from UMass Boston. In many senses, I grew up here. I came to Boston when I was in my early 20s and really found myself in this city. I think there is something special running a race of this caliber in your home city.”
Hudak qualified for Boston in September at the Lehigh Valley Network Via Marathon in Pennsylvania, finishing in 3 hours, 26 minutes, which earned her second-wave status for Boston.
A month later, she ran the Chicago Marathon in a time of 3:30:00, which qualified her for next year’s Boston Marathon.
“There’s no pressure,” Hudak said. “I already have a qualifying time for next year that’s valid from Chicago, so that takes a lot of pressure off of me for my first Boston. I think what’s going to carry me through [Monday] is gratitude, above all, so grateful to be apart of this. This was a goal to run Boston for a very long time.”
The field includes 24,139 Americans and 6,166 runners from other countries, and there are 97 countries represented in the field.
Back on Boylston, the Shurtz family of Perkins, Okla. — nine members strong — sat in two rows of lawn chairs on the sidewalk outside the Hynes Convention Center.
“We knew to get here early to stake our claim on an area,” said Linda Shurtz, 58, who sat behind a metal barrier.
Her daughter, Kristen Shurtz, 31, of Austin, Texas, first ran the marathon three years ago, she said.
Visiting Boston on the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bindings, which was Sunday, was poignant, said Darla Shurtz, 82, Kristen’s grandmother.
“I worked just one mile from where the bomb went off,” said Darla, who said she was retired from an Oklahoma dental school. “My heart ached for Boston when it happened here.”
Barbara Matson, Matt Pepin and Chris Frangolini