Boston Marathon underway in ideal 48-degree weather

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BOSTON — A total field of 24,662 streamed across the starting line in Hopkinton on Monday morning for the 117th edition of the Boston Marathon, heading for Boston’s Back Bay in cool temperatures that were a relief to competitors and organizers alike.

A year after temperatures approaching 90 degrees sent record numbers of participants in search of medical help, it was 48 degrees at the start. The temperature was expected to climb to the mid-50s by the time the field reached Copley Square, 26.2-miles away.

A group of nine East African men broke away from the pack in the first half of the race, extending a quarter-century of dominance at the world’s oldest annual marathon. Kenyans and Ethiopans have won the men’s race 23 times in the past 25 years, and on the women’s side they have won 14 of the last 16 titles.

Wesley Korir and Sharon Cherop won last year as Kenya swept the men’s and women’s podiums. This year’s race has two American contenders in the women’s field: Shalane Flanagan of nearby Marblehead and fellow Olympian Kara Goucher.

Jason Hartmann, who was fourth last year, is the top American contender on the men’s side after Olympians Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall withdrew because of injuries.

They’re hoping to be the first U.S. winner at the world’s oldest annual marathon since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985. Greg Meyer, who won in 1983, was the last American man to win.

Japan’s Hiroyuki Yamamoto was the first winner of the day, cruising to victory in the men’s wheelchair race by 39 seconds over nine-time champion Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa. Tatyana McFadden, a Russian orphan who attends the University of Illinois, won the women’s race.

Race day got started with 26 seconds of silence in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. A little more than 2 hours later, the lead runners will go past the Mile 26 marker, which has been decorated with the Newtown, Conn., seal and dedicated to the memory of those killed there.

The 53 wheelchair competitors left Hopkinton at 9:17 a.m., followed 15 minutes later by the 51 elite women. The men were under way at 10 a.m., followed by three waves that over the next 40 minutes would send the entire field of 27,000 on its way to Copley Square.

A group of four women broke away early, with Goucher and Flanagan in the pack about 50 yards behind as they passed from Ashland into Framingham around Mile 4.

Last year’s race came under the hottest sustained temperatures on record. About 2,300 runners took organizers up on the offer to sit that one out and run this year instead.

For waiting a year, they got perfect running weather: Temperatures expected to rise into the mid-50s with not much of a wind near the Back Bay finish line.

“We got a bye,” race director Dave McGillivray said this week. “And that’s good, because we need this year to regroup.”

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