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AT THE START

Occupying oneself the first challenge

By Paul Harber, Globe Staff, 4/16/2002

   
 TOP FINISHERS

Men  |  Women  |  Wheelchairs  |

 COVERAGE

Women: Okayo KOs course in debut
Men: Rop puts Kenyans back on top
Runner-up: Ndereba is still first-rate
Ryan: Their absence didn't last long
US runners: Support not there
Beardsley: He returns for more fun
Masters: At 43, Kipkemboi in prime
Wheelchairs: VanDyk wins again
Notebook: Runners kept their cool
The start: Meeting first challenge
First-person: To end, the hard way
Heartbreak Hill: Over the top
SporTView: Coverage lagged
Faces in pack: Miles of smiles

 PHOTO GALLERIES

Memorable moments
During the race
Before the race
Sunday pasta party
Sports & Fitness Expo

HOPKINTON - Nearly 15,000 official entrants converged on this old New England town dominated by clapboard homes and front-porch piazzas yesterday morning for the 106th running of the Boston Marathon.

Busload after busload, carrying citizens of 79 countries and others who seemed to have jogged in from distant solar systems, began arriving at the fog-shrouded athletes' village behind Hopkinton High School before dawn.

By 8 a.m., a mammoth tent, approximately 250 feet by 150 feet, began filling with runners brandishing team colors and toting official yellow bags stuffed with personal items. Each staked out an area in the tent, huddling on makeshift beds made out of newspaper or plastic, trying to save energy for the grueling run.

Six huge televisions entertained the huddled masses. However, the rhythmic chatter of a thousand conversations that resembled the cackle of a chicken coop muted the sound from the TVs.

Many of the runners spent more time here than they did pounding the road from Hopkinton to Boston. By 9, runners began staking out space outside the tent, avoiding the occasional raindrops. A contingent of Asians had their own space. So did a huge group from Chicago. Other groups hung together as well.

Many of the runners formed a line that stretched across the village that lead to a tent for food and beverages. There they could pick up free bottled water, fruit juice, bagels, and energy bars.

Before long, there were lines 25 deep in front of the 250 portable bathrooms that lined the outside of the athletes' village. Male runners, unable to wait their turn, broke through the plastic netting beyond the bathrooms and urinated in plain site against trees, bushes, and shrubs.

On an outdoor stage, local music groups entertained the runners. Some runners simply read in an effort to fight the boredom. Not far away, at the information booth, many used magic markers to write their names, or names of their loved ones, on their arms and legs. Others inscribed words of encouragement and still others illustrated their pro-Red Sox (and anti-Yankees) biases for their trip to Boston.

However, some who were there could not take in the entire spectacle, such as Dave Jakuboviez, who was running with fellow Israelite Daniel Azari. Jakuboviez lost his sight in 1968 during the Arab-Israeli war. He and Azari have been running as a team for the last four years. Tethered together with a belt, Jakuboviez follows Azari's lead.

''We've ran a 3:20 marathon together in Israel last January,'' said Azari.

''But this is a lot colder than we are used to,'' said Jakuboviez.

For Bruce Revman, 44, of Fairfield, Conn., no inconvenience was too much to overcome. He was thrilled to be running in his first Boston. ''I grew up in the Boston area and watched about 30 of them, and I always wanted to run one.''

He didn't know he would be here until four days ago.

''A friend hurt his back and couldn't run,'' said Revman. ''He asked me to take his place because he was running for a charity. I jumped at the chance.''

Revman began running seven years ago because of a knee injury.

''I tore my ACL, and my doctor said that I should strengthen it before I had surgery,'' said Revman. ''I started running and I never stopped. Although I never had the surgery, I kept on running.''

Revman says his torn ACL doesn't bother him when he runs, ''only when I stop.'' Yesterday was his fifth marathon. He ran in Philadelphia once and New York three times. ''New York is full of craziness. This seems to be more serious,'' he said.

Not everyone was so serious. Plenty of runners move to a different beat, including one runner who identified himself as Robert Alexander, 48, an attorney from Houston. Alexander was using the race to direct media attention to a Web site intent on sinking Houston's chances of hosting the Olympics in 2012. The 6-foot-3-inch Alexander stood out in his Howard Stern wig, pink miniskirt, and black tights.

''I don't know if it's a dress,'' said Alexander. ''I bought it at K Mart for $5.99. I think it's a nightgown. My life partner helped me sew in the sides so it wouldn't bunch up when I run.''

He said he is a veteran runner, competing in races around the United States and promising to finish Boston in less than four hours. ''I'm 48 and I'm in the best shape of my life,'' he said.

He wasn't the only male runner wearing a dress and wig. Others painted themselves blue. Many carried American flags. There were all sorts of remarkable sights during the 19 minutes it took for all of the runners to hit the red-white-and-blue starting line.

Those at the tail end of the race had no chance of catching the leaders, who passed the 5-kilometer checkpoint minutes before they took their first step on the official course.

But they didn't care. They were there for the celebration.

This story ran on page D8 of the Boston Globe on 4/16/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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