Police Throng In Boston

April 21, 2014 A record number of athletes are gathering under a crystalline sky and unprecedented security precautions for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon this morning.

“We’re comfortable,” said State Police Colonel Timothy Alben. “We think we’ve got the bases covered here today. We’re very confident about the safety. It’s going to be a great day.”

The start line in the quaint town of Hopkinton is flanked by hundreds of local, state and military police.

Event staff, which includes both retired U.S. Marshals and Secret Service agents, tell the Herald this is the first time in the marathon’s history that public access to Hopkinton Common has been restricted by a maze-like series of white metal gates that keep spectators walled off from the runners and the starting line.

Streets in and out of this village of less than 15,000 residents closed at 7 a.m., nearly two hours before the start of the 26.2-mile race - a feat of endurance this year not just for the record field of 36,000 runners and the law enforcement committed to protect them, but the survivors of last year’s deadly terrorist attack at the finish line in Copley Square.

The first race participants — the mobility impaired, hand cycle and wheelchair racers — arrived just before 7:30 at the starting line in vans escorted by dozens of state police motorcycle officers, and began racing at 8:50 a.m. The elite women racers started running at 9:32, led by Marblehead’s own Shalane Flanagan, and the elite men will start 10:25. Tens of thousands of others will start running in waves at 10:25, 11 and 11:25.

Gov. Deval Patrick officially kicked off the marathon by counting down the start for the mobile-impaired athletes.

“We’re back,” Patrick, wearing a Red Sox cap bearing the Boston Strong slogan, told reporters after the race began. “This will be the biggest block party we have and I think a really happy one,” He said organizers and police are prepared for today’s massive race, as the eyes of the world turn to Boston.

“We have prepared. We have done, I think, just about everything possible that can be done to be prepared to strike that balance ... between having adequate security, and indeed stepped-up security, but keeping the family feel of the day,” Patrick said. “And I think we’ve struck that balance.”

The day is full of emotions, Patrick said, recalling a conversation he had this morning with a woman who was injured by the blasts as she cheered on the runners as a spectator last year.

“She was herself hurt,” Patrick said. “She wanted to run today to acknowledge her own healing. And just before we set off the runners, she burst into tears. And I think there are going to be a lot of experiences and emotions like that today.”

Among the marathoners this year is Thomas Feller, 35 of Sterling, who is running in his second Boston Marathon in a full “Patriot’s Day” costume made of wool and tweed.

Last year, he was cheering runners on near the finish line when the explosions occurred.

He said today that he’ll carry two mini American Flags while he runs “to show my respect for the victims.”

Runner Karen Blagg, 41 of Westford, said she finished last year’s marathon five minutes before the finish-line explosions. She was in the medical tent because she “was hurting” after the grueling race, and had just been congratulated by her husband and three children when chaos ensued.

This year, she said, the run is special.

“It’s not about me, it’s about all these people who were hurt last year,”Blagg said. “To see all these people come out today ... It’s empowering. We’re going to take back the day and not let those horrible people determine the decisions we make.”

Near the finish line this morning, hours before the first runners were to arrive, some spectators began lining Boylston Street.

“We wanted to beat the crowds,” said Andria Rossi, 54, of North Attleboro, who stood outside Old South Church with her son, David. “We’ve never come to the finish.”

Rossi came prepared with a clear plastic purse. Security is tight along the course, especially at the finish line. Police have been clearing people off Boylston Street to do routine sweeps, using bomb-sniffing dogs.

Rossi said the police presence made her feel safe. This race, she said “is in honor of the people that got hurt and the people that passed. It’s just really, really special.”

Story from bostonherald.com