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“I decided that’s what would be meaningful for me,” said Gupta, who was a medical student in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks and has since studied disaster preparedness. “Running the Boston Marathon this year - not next year, not New York, not Chicago: Boston. I just thought it would be meaningful for me.”

A competitive swimmer in high school, the now 37-year-old Gupta had no experience in distance running until he began to train for Monday’s race. “We’re on the second floor,” he said in a recent interview at his office. “I took the elevator.”

Googling “How long does it take to train for a marathon,” Gupta got an answer of 18 weeks.

Patriots’ Day was 18 ½ weeks away.

He applied and received bib No. 35542.

Alan Hagyard ran Boston for the first time in 2012 and was back in the field last year, coming down Boylston when the first bomb went off about 30 feet away.

“The memories often bring tears to my eyes,” he wrote in his application.

The explosion left him deaf in his left ear.

But he never considered sitting this one out.

“The next day, that night, I was ready to go again,” said Hagyard, 67, of Hamden, Conn. “Partly to say, ‘You can’t stop us.’”

Having missed the qualifying time by 13 seconds, Hagyard wrote the B.A.A. to ask for a waiver. When organizers created the special invitation, he asked for a chance to rewrite the ending to last year’s race.

“I want my current memory of Boston to be the perfect marathon,” said Hagyard, bib No. 24812. “To run it again is to say, ‘We’re going to make it perfect this year, better than ever.’”

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So many of those contacted for this story had the same request: Please don’t make it about me.

The B.A.A. declined to make available those who read the applications, saying they wanted the attention to be on the runners. After sharing her story by telephone, finish line volunteer Adrienne Wald called back the next morning to express regret; after all, the victims had it much worse.

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