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Boston Marathon: Runners, spectators brave anticipated record-breaking heat (UPDATED)

Defending champ drops out mid-race as runners have started to fall to the heat.

Recreational runners in the 2012 Boston Marathon are now starting to cross the finish line in droves as temperatures continue to climb.

The ones who don’t need immediate medical attention limp down Boylston Street

Some, like Paul Jacobs, 33, of Washington, D.C. use the metal barricades to support themselves after having just run 26.2 miles.

“It takes all of your effort,” said Jacobs, who has run multiple marathons. “No one jogs in a sauna.”

He said it took all of his “grit and determination” to make it to Boston in the heat.

As of 1:45 p.m. Boston EMS had transported five runners to local hospitals with unknown conditions.

As temperatures closed in on 90 degrees, even spectators began to sweat just standing and cheering on the runners.

Emmanuel College students Hillary Carr and Kerry Drapcho, took breaks in the shade to stay cool and carried Dunkin’ Donuts cups of pink lemonade.

“Even we’re dying and sweating,” said Drapcho in between high-fiving runners crossing the finish line.

Added Carr, “For them to be doing this is such an accomplishment.”

Today's record-breaking heat also took a toll on this year's elite runners.

Defending champion Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya dropped out just past the 18-mile mark due to cramping, according to marathon officials.

Natick police have reported at least six runners down within the last hour as runners approach Boston.

Natick police tweeted that one person was "heading for the train station."

The Boston Athletic Association said that only 22,426 runners started the race this morning compared to 26,716

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entrants. It appeared some people listened to the warnings to skip this year's race due to the heat.

Meanwhile, men’s wheelchair competitor Josh Cassidy of Canada finished with a time of 1 hour 18 minutes 25 seconds, breaking the world record set in 2004 by just two seconds.

“It definitely got hot. My head was blowing up,” Cassidy said during an interview with WBZ-TV. “My vision was getting narrow. It’s just don’t think about it.”

The women’s wheelchair winner Shirley Reilly of Tucson, Ariz., beat her personal best by about nine minutes, marathon officials said.

That’s not the only record expected to be broken today.

Temperatures were expected to climb as high as 88 degrees. The record for April 16 was set in 2003 at 84 degrees. The heat reached the starting line early as the temperature at the starting line in Hopkinton passed 70 degrees by 10 a.m.

Emergency officials spent much of the weekend and this morning preparing for overheated runners.

More than 100 Boston EMS personnel were on hand and had a final staff briefing this morning.

They are patrolling on bicycles and in strategically placed ambulances.

The Boston Fire Department has also deployed resources today.

“Meetings throughout the year and 116 years of plans now in play. Medical staff will be especially busy with the high temps,” the department tweeted this morning.