Just one day to go now before the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, and the race promises to be one of the biggest ever. A festive mood is prevailing in Boston, despite the tragedy that took place at last year's event.
The Hynes Convention Center is the central gathering place for runners in a variety of athletic events that began Saturday.
Cambridge resident Kasey Phillips was waiting for a bus nearby after running Saturday morning's 5K race.
"It was great and there were so many people out and a lot of energy, and people were really screaming and high-fiving and that part was really great," said Phillips.
The route for the 5K includes a stretch across the finish line for Monday's marathon: a somber reminder of the suffering — and courage — of just over a year ago.
"Yeah it was pretty touching trying to think about running but sort of realizing that I was on hallowed ground, of all the previous runners and what happened last year," said Phillips.
Last year is on the minds of many. And even as people enjoy the excitement about this year's race, the way they think about it is changed: It's an occasion to show resolve and support for Boston — but it's also the cause of some unwanted anxiety.
"There wasn't a question that I wasn't going to be here. This is going to be a special one."Thomas Regan, marathon participant
At the convention center, a steady stream of runners and their families moves up the double escalators to the third-floor number pickup. The visible security presence is light, although a police K-9 unit weaves through the crowd. As he picks up his number, Thomas Regan of Rochester, N.Y., says he's run the Boston Marathon six times — and this time the event is more important to him than ever.
"There wasn't a question that I wasn't going to be here," he said. "This is going to be a special one."
But Regan also says it's not certain sure where, exactly, his wife and kids will go to watch him run. But it probably won't be near the Boylston Street finish line.
"I think we're going to be a little bit farther down, just to be safe," Regan said. "You got to balance out the safety and the vantage point, which is going to be tough. We have not figured it out yet."
Still, it's become commonplace to hear people say Boston will probably be the safest place in America on Marathon day - given the boosted police presence, surveillance and emergency planning - not to mention heightened public awareness. And for runners such as Milton Moreno of Laredo, Texas, this is simply a can't-miss event.
"The Boston Marathon is one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. And I qualified for it a couple years ago and it's kind of like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come up here," said Moreno. "I mean after what happened last year it's the greatest feeling in the world to come up here and just to take part in it."
There aren't any warm-up races Sunday, which is Easter Sunday and still a part of Passover week. Race organizers say the hiatus is a welcome chance to rest and recharge for Monday's big day.