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Runners, friends eat up atmosphere at Marathon pasta dinner

Regean Paravis of Quebec City took a video of 1964 Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills after Mills served him pasta salad at City Hall Plaza Sunday.Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

It’s certainly not a normal pasta dinner when the guest list includes more than 10,000 people from around the world and the grocery list includes 3,000 pounds of pasta, 2,800 quarts of tomato sauce, and 3,700 pounds of vegetables.

But the annual Boston Marathon prerace dinner is not just any old meal.

Runners, their family members, and friends flocked to City Hall Sunday evening to enjoy baked ziti, penne marinara, and chicken sausages during the traditional gathering.

Representing various countries and levels of experience, participants dined and laughed together — their race jackets forming a sea of teal, purple, orange, and blue.


The dinner is a time-honored tradition for Jim Miller. The 63-year-old from Orlando plans to run the Boston Marathon Monday for the 15th time.

“The dinner just puts you in the right frame of mind,” he said. “It gives you energy. There’s nothing but smiling faces.”

It’s all part of the Boston atmosphere, Miller said. Even though he has run more than 100 marathons, Miller said Boston is always his favorite — he hit the century mark here in 2014.

Every year Miller is here, he wears a sign with his name on the front of his shirt.

“Boston spectators know if you’re struggling, and they’ll call out your name and give you a lift,” he said.

Other attendees were new to the pasta dinner. They focused on soaking up every moment of the experience.

“I got so caught up in the hype of the Boston Marathon that I almost forgot I have to run 26.2 miles tomorrow,” said Kris Pearson, 37, who is participating in the Marathon for the first time Monday.

Pearson, who is from Minnesota, started running three years ago. She said she can’t wait to get on the course Monday and see her two sons — one in third grade and another in kindergarten — cheering her on.


“I love the feel, the adversity of the marathon, and all the challenges that come with it,” she said. “And then the euphoria you feel when you accomplish it. It’s especially strong when it’s Boston.”

Several city officials, including Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Police Commissioner William B. Evans came to greet the runners. Walsh said the dinner is part of “one of the greatest weekends in our city.”

Native American runner Billy Mills, who won a gold medal in the 10,000-meter race at the 1964 Olympics, also spoke, commending the city and the runners for their resolve against hate in the face of terror.

“I have taken an antihate position, and the Boston community has taken a stand against hate too,” Mills said. “I am honored to be here with you.”

Runner Derek Johnson, a 27-year-old from Madison, Wis., had finished the 2013 race before the bombs went off on Boylston Street, but he said they left an impression.

“It was emotional when I came back in 2015. It was tough to see the finish line again for the first time,” Johnson said. “This year feels like a little more normal, but you never forget about it.”

Johnson said he likes attending the pasta dinner because it brings runners from all over the world together in one place before the competition.

“You can get dinner lots of other places downtown, but this is an atmosphere you can’t get anywhere else,” he said.


Aneri Pattani can be reached at aneri.pattani@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @apattani95.