Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

April 18, 2014

Boston Marathon makes room for more runners

(Continued)

Grilk said the expansion was discussed with the eight cities and towns along the route, and all agreed that a smaller race this year was not an option.

"Anything that looked like a reaction that showed fear or in any way giving in to the acts of cowardly terrorists would have been very unfavorably received," he said. "And while there will be pressure and challenge for everybody, everybody welcomes the opportunity to rise to that challenge."

For decades, the field size of the Boston Marathon was limited by the sheer challenge of the distance. What started in Boston in 1897 with 18 men — and they were all men — grew slowly at first, still going off with fewer than 200 runners as late as 1960. But the milestones fell quickly after that: more than 1,000 in 1968 and nearly 8,000 by 1979.

For the 100th edition of the race, in 1996, there were 38,708 entrants — at the time, the largest marathon in history.

And with the crowds came new problems.

The motto for Hopkinton is "It all starts here," but the fact that the town of less than 15,000 happened to be about 26 miles from Boston has not always been considered good luck. As the marathon grew through the years, residents griped about the runners relieving themselves on their lawns or leaving behind piles of granola bar wrappers and empty water bottles when they departed for the Back Bay.

Now, instead of 18 men hitching rides to the start, a fleet of buses shuttles runners to Hopkinton. Portable toilets are trucked in and stationed along the route. Hundreds of volunteers are needed to hand out water, warming blankets and medals. Security, which for a century remained in the background, became a bigger issue after the Sept. 11 attacks and a primary concern in 2014.

And, to squeeze all those runners over a 39-foot starting line — in the 100th race it took 31 minutes for the field to cross — the field was broken up into sections: two waves in 2006, and three starting in '11.

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