AP

Full field returns for Boston Marathon coming-out party

Apr 19, 2022, 3:46 AM | Updated: 3:49 pm

A man carrying a picture of actor Will Smith runs behind Peres Jepchirchir, of Kenya, left, and Aba...

A man carrying a picture of actor Will Smith runs behind Peres Jepchirchir, of Kenya, left, and Ababel Yeshaneh, of Ethiopia, during the 126th Boston Marathon in Natick, Mass, Monday, April 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Jennifer McDermott)

(AP Photo/Jennifer McDermott)

BOSTON (AP) — Fans dressed as unicorns. Bands playing music. Kids jumping on trampolines.

And the loudest Wellesley scream tunnel anyone can remember.

The Boston Marathon was back to a full field and back in the spring for the first time since 2019, and fans along the course threw a coming-out party for a region recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were so glad that we were able to do it,” Boston Athletic Association President Tom Grilk said Tuesday, a day after Evans Chebet and Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir broke the tape on Boylston Street. “It was Boston at its finest.”

Six months after its delayed, then canceled, then delayed again 125th edition, the world’s oldest and most prestigious annual 26.2-mile race returned to its traditional Patriots’ Day spot in the schedule — and the atmosphere was back as well.

Thick crowds lined the course through the eight cities and towns from Hopkinton to Boston’s Back Bay.

One boy got a high-five from 2017 winner Edna Kiplagat. Other children blew bubbles and sat on their parents’ shoulders to get the best view. There was music, dancing and drummers.

One man egged on the women’s leaders by chasing them with a giant cutout of Will Smith’s head. Near the midway point at Wellesley College, the students kept up the “scream tunnel” tradition that had been muted six months ago by masks.

“It was loud out there,” Manuela Schar, who also won the smaller and socially distanced race in October, said on Tuesday. “It was a little bit louder and a little bit bigger. I needed it.”

The weekend, which coincided with the Boston Red Sox home opener, also included the regular 5K fun run and high school and professional miles, as it had been before the pandemic.

But the most welcome sight was the full, 28,000-runner field, led across the finish line by Chebet and then a back-and-forth women’s duel over the last mile between Jepchirchir and Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh.

“Does everyone now believe we’re back?” race director Dave McGillivray said Tuesday. “In October we were sort of back, and now we’re really back. That performance yesterday was for the ages. It really was.”

BAA officials said on Tuesday that 25,314 participants crossed the start line in Hopkinton and 24,918 of them finished by the time the clocks were turned off at 5:35 p.m., a 98.4% finish rate.

There were 1,580 people who received medical assistance, 1,033 at the finish and 547 on the course. Fifty-five were admitted to emergency rooms at an area hospital.

McGillivray, who annually returns to the starting line and runs the course after the elite runners finish, finished in the dark — his 50th straight year running the race. Valerie Rogosheske, one of the eight runners in the first official women’s division in 1972, celebrated the 50th anniversary of her pioneering run and finished in 6:38:57.

Chris Nikic, the first athlete with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman, finished in 5:38:51. Para athlete and advocate Adrianne Haslet, who was injured in the 2013 bombing, finished in 5:18:41.

Guinness World Record holder Jocelyn Rivas finished her 112th marathon in 4:40:47. Jacky Hunt-Broersma finished in 5:05:13, her 102nd marathon in 102 days.

Other notable finishers:

NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth (3:01:40); soccer player and “Survivor” contestant Ethan Zohn (5:02:44); “The Bachelor” star Matt James (3:49:38); “The Bachelorette” contestant Zac Clark (3:43:46); NCAA football and soccer player Sarah Fuller (5:50:59); former U.S. soccer player Kristine Lilly (3:54:42); Native Women Running founder and activist Verna Volker (5:49:47); and Paralympic medalist Melissa Stockwell (3:58:36).

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Full field returns for Boston Marathon coming-out party