• A group of Massachusetts National Guard members kicked off the 128th edition of the Boston Marathon, starting from the historic town of Hopkinton.
  • Hopkinton commemorated its 100th anniversary as the starting point of the marathon, with the start line displaying "100 years in Hopkinton."
  • Nearly 30,000 runners gathered in Hopkinton, with favorable weather conditions expected for the race.

A group of Massachusetts National Guard members early Monday crossed the Boston Marathon start line painted in honor of the town that has hosted the marathon for the past century, launching the 128th edition of the world’s oldest and most prestigious annual marathon.

Race Director Dave McGillivray sent the group of about 30 people off shortly after 6 a.m. He thanked them for their service and told them to have a great time. Lt. Col. Paula Reichert Karsten, one of the marchers, said she wanted to be part of a "quintessential Massachusetts event."

Hopkinton is celebrating its 100th anniversary as the starting line of the Boston Marathon. The start was moved from Ashland to Hopkinton in 1924 to make the race the official Olympic Marathon distance of 26.2 miles. The start line says "100 years in Hopkinton." The announcer welcomed the gathering crowds to the "sleepy little town of Hopkinton, 364 days of the year."

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"Running from a setting like this into downtown makes for a more iconic course," McGillivray said.

Boston Marathon

Members of the U.S. military cross the starting line as they participate in the Boston Marathon, on April 15, 2024, in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

Race volunteer Hank Lopez, 63, stood at his post near the start line. Later Monday, he will don a bib and join the race, running his 100th marathon. He typically participates in marathons with far fewer runners. It's his first Boston Marathon.

"It's the 100th anniversary of Hopkinton and the Boston Marathon and 100 marathons for me," said Lopez, who ran multiple marathons this year to ensure Boston would be his 100th. "The marathon is world renowned. It's go big or go home."

The town located about 26.2 miles west of Boston was the gathering place again on Monday morning for a field of almost 30,000 runners preparing for the trek to Copley Square. Forecasts called for sunshine and temperatures in the mid-50s, rising into the mid- to high-60s for the stragglers who make it to Back Bay in late afternoon.

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Two-time defending champion Evans Chebet hopes to be the first runner to win three in a row since 2008. Women's winner Hellen Obiri also was in the field a year after Kenyans swept the elite races for the third year in a row.

Top Americans included Emma Bates, who finished fifth last year. The 31-year-old former Boston resident stepped in a pothole midway through the Chicago Marathon last fall, tearing a tissue in her foot.

The injury led to a setback that kept her from competing in the Olympic marathon trials in February. So she's back in Boston, a year after she led the pack through Brookline with the crowd chanting her name.

"That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my career, that’s for sure," she said last week. "Being in the lead and setting myself up for the most success that I could have on that day, it was just really special to know that as long as I trust myself, as long as I go after it, that I can do pretty big things."

Obiri, a two-time Olympic medalist, is among the favorites in Monday’s race, the 128th edition of the world’s oldest and most prestigious annual marathon. Sara Hall, who has reached the podium in two major marathons, joins Bates in a strong American contingent.

A victory for Chebet would be the first Boston three-peat since Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot won three in a row from 2006 to 2008. He also hopes a victory will earn him a spot in the Olympics.

Despite winning six of his last seven races, including major victories in Boston and New York, Chebet was left off the provisional roster for the Kenyan marathon team. He said last week he hopes a strong finish will rekindle his candidacy.

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Kenya swept the marathon gold medals in Tokyo three years ago, with Eliud Kipchoge winning his second straight Olympic title and Peres Jepchirchir taking the women’s race. For the three spots per gender in 2024, the country produced a provisional short list of five men and six women.

Kenyans have won the last four men’s races in Boston and three straight in the distaff division.

McGillivray usually runs the course at night after the race is over. This year he'll jump in with the second wave of athletes and run with his two children for the first time.

"It’s special in a lot of ways," he said. "I'm running it during the day for the first time in so long, and then being with my children. There are a lot of special elements in this year's race."

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