The hours before the 8 a.m. start of Monday’s Boston Marathon saw meticulous attention to detail – security and otherwise – as more than 30,000 running enthusiasts readied for the 26.2-mile route.
The streets were scrubbed, anti-terror cops were in place, and the glorious finish line was adorned with flowers.
Among the 30,000 will be Rebekah Gregory of Houston, who was a spectator near the finish line in 2013 when two terrorist bombs detonated, killing three people and injuring 264.
“I'm very, very fortunate to be able to be a part of this," said Gregory, who lost her fight to keep one of legs five months ago when it finally had to be amputated. "I'm so humbled and honored and so excited."
Gregory’s prosthetic leg has been on for just three months. Still, she is determined to cross the finish line.“I want to do everything I can with my legs now," Gregory said.
The race goes on during a pause in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old ethnic Chechen who was convicted earlier this month of the bombing. His trial will move into a second phase beginning on Tuesday, with prosecutors arguing that he should be sentenced to death for his crimes.
Police urged spectators not to bring large bags or coolers, saying that such packages would be subject to search. They also banned the use of drones along the course.
“We have significant resources and personnel out there to protect our public,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “It won't change our atmosphere. The city will be the same positive environment that people are used to enjoying during the Boston Marathon.”
The field will include Meb Keflezighi of San Diego, who in 2014 became the first U.S. male to win the race in three decades, with a time of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 37 seconds, as well as top Kenyan and Ethiopian contenders including Patrick Makau, Abel Kirui and Wilson Chebet.
The women's race will be wide open with three-time winner and reigning champion Rita Jeptoo of Kenya excluded from the race this year while she serves a two-year ban from the sport after failing a drug test.
Top women's contenders include Buzunesh Deba of Ethiopia, 2012 Boston winner Sharon Cherop of Kenya, as well as Shalane Flanagan, who originally hails from the Boston suburb of Marblehead, who finished fourth in 2013.
In addition to attracting elite runners competing for the $830,500 in prize money, the world's oldest annual marathon is a mecca for dedicated amateurs who work for years to meet the strict, age-graded time cutoffs they must pass to earn a coveted spot in the field.
One group that will not be present at the race is the 12 jurors and six alternates in the Tsarnaev trial. U.S. District Judge George O'Toole ordered them to stay away from the race.