Wheelchair racers depart Hopkinton to start the 128th Boston Marathon

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Men’s wheelchair athletes break from the line at the start of the Boston Marathon, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Hopkinton, Mass. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

BOSTON (AP) — Six-time champion Marcel Hug of Switzerland led the wheelchair field on its way to begin the 128th edition of the Boston Marathon on Monday as this otherwise sleepy New England town celebrated its 100th anniversary as the starting line.

Nearly 30,000 runners were scheduled to follow them from Hopkinton to Boston’s Back Bay, with forecasts of minimal wind, sunny skies and temperatures rising into the 60s along the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) course.

The festivities began around 6 a.m., when race director Dave McGillivray sent about 30 Massachusetts National Guard members off. Lt. Col. Paula Reichert Karsten, one of the marchers, said she wanted to be part of a “quintessential Massachusetts event.”

The start line was painted to say “100 years in Hopkinton,” commemorating the 1924 move from Ashland to Hopkinton to conform to the official Olympic Marathon distance. The announcer welcomed the gathering crowds to the “sleepy little town of Hopkinton, 364 days of the year.”

“Running from a setting like this into downtown makes for a more iconic course,” McGillivray said.

The annual race on Patriots’ Day, the state holiday that commemorates the start of the Revolutionary War, also fell on One Boston Day, when the city remembers the victims of the 2013 marathon bombings. At the finish line on Boylston Street, bagpipes accompanied Gov. Maura Healey, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and members of the victims’ families as they laid a pair of wreaths at the sites of the explosions that killed three and wounded hundreds more.

Race volunteer Hank Lopez, 63, stood at his post near the start line. Later Monday, he will don a bib and join the race, running his 100th marathon. He typically participates in marathons with far fewer runners. It’s his first Boston Marathon.

“It’s the 100th anniversary of Hopkinton and the Boston Marathon and 100 marathons for me,” said Lopez, who ran multiple marathons this year to ensure Boston would be his 100th. “The marathon is world renowned. It’s go big or go home.”

The town located about 26.2 miles west of Boston was the gathering place again on Monday morning for a field of almost 30,000 runners preparing for the trek to Copley Square.

Two-time defending champion Evans Chebet hopes to be the first runner to win three in a row since 2008. Women’s winner Hellen Obiri also was in the field a year after Kenyans swept the elite races for the third year in a row.

Top Americans included Emma Bates, who finished fifth last year. The 31-year-old former Boston resident stepped in a pothole midway through the Chicago Marathon last fall, tearing a tissue in her foot.

The injury led to a setback that kept her from competing in the Olympic marathon trials in February. So she’s back in Boston, a year after she led the pack through Brookline with the crowd chanting her name.

“That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my career, that’s for sure,” she said last week. “Being in the lead and setting myself up for the most success that I could have on that day, it was just really special to know that as long as I trust myself, as long as I go after it, that I can do pretty big things.”

Obiri, a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 5,000 meters, is among the favorites in Monday’s race. Sara Hall, who has reached the podium in two major marathons, joins Bates in a strong American contingent.

A victory for Chebet would be the first Boston three-peat since Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot won three in a row from 2006 to 2008. He also hopes a victory will earn him a spot in this year’s Paris Olympics.

Despite winning six of his last seven races, including major victories in Boston and New York, Chebet was left off the provisional roster for the Kenyan marathon team. He said last week he hopes a strong finish will rekindle his candidacy.

Kenya swept the marathon gold medals in Tokyo three years ago, with Eliud Kipchoge winning his second straight Olympic title and Peres Jepchirchir taking the women’s race. For the three spots per gender in 2024, the country produced a provisional short list of five men and six women.

Kenyans have won the last four men’s races in Boston and three straight in the women’s division.

McGillivray usually runs the course at night after the race is over. This year he’ll jump in with the second wave of athletes and run with his two children for the first time.

“It’s special in a lot of ways,” he said. “I’m running it during the day for the first time in so long, and then being with my children. There are a lot of special elements in this year’s race.”



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