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Organizers Predict Huge Crowd For Boston Marathon


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. In Massachusetts, nearly 36,000 runners are preparing for tomorrow's Boston Marathon. This year's race is a tribute to the three people who died in the bombing that happened shortly before 3 p.m. last year near the finish line. At least 260 other people were injured in the attack. Tomorrow, Boston city streets will again be lined with hundreds of thousands of spectators there to cheer on the runners, intent on reclaiming this year's race as a symbol of the city's resilience. And yes, security at the marathon will be tighter than ever. NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Last year, Phil Dervin (ph) of Stratham, N.H. was almost finished running the 26.2-mile course when police stopped the race. At first, he was annoyed, but then learned about the attack near the finish line and that people were injured. As runners piled up behind him, one question came to mind.

PHIL DERVIN: You know, what's going to happen now? I mean, there's thousands and thousands of people congregating. In fact, I remember looking around thinking, well, there could be a bomb here.

BRADY: Dervin says he grew up in England were there were attacks like this because of the dispute over Northern Ireland. The security changes in Boston this year are familiar to him or anyone who remembers the September 11 attacks. More officers, more cameras and more restrictions on what you can bring to a public place. Dervin says those precautions are necessary now, but he never considered staying home this year.

DERVIN: Not for one second did it stop me from, you know, wanting to run this year - the events of last year, not for one second.

BRADY: Authorities spent months developing a new security plan. And they believe that tomorrow, the entire marathon route and the finish line near Copley Square will be safe. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans was among those reinforcing that message this past week.

COMMISIONER WILLIAM EVANS: No one should be afraid to come to Copley Square, and nobody should be afraid to run the 118th Boston Marathon.

BRADY: The Boston Athletic Association organizes the marathon. And this year, the group says there are nearly 36,000 runners, 9,000 more than last year. The group predicts there will be a million spectators, twice the usual number. A temporary structure that marks the finish line bridges Boylston Street. It's covered in blue, and all week, people have been stopping by to admire it and pull out their phones.

DENA GIGGY: I was just going to take some pictures of the finish line, just probably send it to some of my family that won't be around here.

BRADY: Dena Giggy (ph) lives in nearby Cambridge. And she says the extra security is comforting. Asked if she'll be here tomorrow, Giggy says she's not sure yet, but not because of any potential danger.

GIGGY: It's kind of weather dependent. I'd like to come by, though, and, you know, pay my respects and also enjoy the yearly tradition of being over at the finish line.

BRADY: So far, the weather forecast looks good - a mostly sunny sky and temperatures in the 60's. Since Friday, runners like Mary Shien of Lenox Dale, Mass. have been showing up at a nearby convention center to pick up a clear plastic bag.

MARY SHIEN: Well, it's our race bag. It has our number, it has our T-shirt, it has some free goodies.

BRADY: This will be Shien's first marathon. She says she was inspired to run by people who were injured last year and then shared their recovery stories.

SHIEN: They've overcome everything they have in past year, and it's the least I can do is go out and attempt to run 26.2 miles 'cause they've persevered. And they've accomplished a lot more than I will.

BRADY: Nearby, Jerry Hester (ph) of Conway, Ark. says this is his third Boston Marathon. Though, he missed last year, he says, once a person runs in this race, it means something to them.

JERRY HESTER: Anytime it's threatened like it was, I think it just brings a very strong bond among runners. And they want to show that they're not going to be intimidated by something like what happened last year.

BRADY: Today, Hester will prepare for the big race tomorrow. He says the plan is rest, lots of pasta and plenty of water. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers the mid-Atlantic region and energy issues. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
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