'This is the greatest foot race in the world'
Sujung Cheong, 55, of Korea, stood in front of the Korean Presbyterian Church in Hopkinton, where she had just received blessings. She surveyed the runners and spectators who were making their way to the starting line.
“A lot of people said, ‘One day, try Boston,’ ” Cheong said. This year, the eight-year veteran runner decided to follow their advice.
“I pray everybody enjoys it,” she said.
Families gathered on the Hopkinson Common clutching signs and balloons. The sound of clanging cowbells and the smell of fried dough filled the air. Runners stretched in the grass and ran practice sprints.
“This is the greatest foot race in the world,” said Brian Fagan, 39, who traveled with his friends from Austin, Texas, to participate in the Boston Marathon. “The atmosphere, the people, the energy . . . it’s recognized worldwide.”
Still, the memories of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing remain in the minds of most runners.
“I think about it as a runner,” said Fagan. “It magnifies how big of an event this is for everybody who does it. I come here to run my best race.”
For many families in Hopkinton, watching the marathon is an annual tradition.
“My grandparents live across the street,” said Brittany Hill, 23, who along with her cousins had been a spectator every year for years. But this year Hill decided to run, and her cousin, Lisa Hindes, 36, will cheer her on.
“Every year we would come,” said Hill. “It’s inspiring to see so many people support each other, and all of the people who are here as spectators who don’t have to be here.”
Hill, who is a Boston nurse, is running for the Milford Police Department’s efforts to raise money to stop sudden infant death syndrome. This is her first marathon.
“Go long or go home,” she said with a smile as she stretched.
Four years ago when bombs exploded at the finish line, Hill had just left her post where she had been cheering on runners.
“The city as a whole was shaken up,” she recalled. “I think it was a time of great sorrow. As a nation everyone has made it Boston Strong and Boston One.”
“You run for your family, friends and charities, and for Boston as a whole and everyone affected [by the bombings],” she said.
Uniformed officers and servicemen filled the area. Officers with long guns stood along the sidelines and on top of buildings near the starting line, watching the crowd with binoculars.
Officers with dogs surveyed the area in the early morning hours before the marathon including around the John Warren Masonic Lodge, where runners for Boston Children Hospital gathered throughout the day.
“Look at the guys on the roof,” said Hon. Rev. Dennis Robinson, head of the lodge. “They’re marksman looking for any suspicious activity. The biggest thing is what you call a visual deterrent . . . it deters some people.”
— Jan Ransom, Globe Staff