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Boston Marathon Course section

Runners say they're ready for the big race

By Christopher Szechenyi, Staff (7:30 a.m.)

BOSTON -- Forget Heartbreak Hill. It's the wind and weather runners were worried about this morning as they prepared for the 104th running of the Boston Marathon.

As workers began preparing the finish line on Boylston Street for today's race, the runners who hope to cross that line this afternoon gathered at Copley Square and on Boston Common to warm up for the event.

Thousands of race participants emerged from Boston hotels just after dawn to face a chill wind they said would make today's run more challenging than usual.

"It's a little cooler than expected," said Brent Stewart, 44, of Aurora, Ontario, Canada. "I usually train indoors in the winter."

Stewart and other runners said they expect to face a headwind as they run the 26.2-mile course from Hopkinton.

Forecasters predicted 15 to 20 mile-per-hour winds out of the northeast, which could slow the field of nearly 18,000 runners.

Nonetheless, Stewart hopes to run the course in 3:10. Wearing No. 7043, this will be Stewart's fourth running of the Boston Marathon.

Stewart said his strategy is to run at a constant speed because in previous races, he started out too fast. As for how he feels about the race: "It's the Super Bowl of marathons."

"It's not good," said Bess (Pooch) Puccinelli of San Francisco. She said she has run in even colder weather, including one New York Marathon when the temperature was just 18 degrees. (In contrast, today's forecast called for temperatures in the mid-40s.)

Puccinelli, who's wearing No. 11,630, said this will be her first Boston Marathon -- and her last. "I just turned 30,' she said, "and I'm sticking to triathalons."

Puccinelli is running with two friends from the West Coast, Karen Hamill and Denise Henry.

Hamill seemed less concerned about the weather than other runners. "It's exciting, motivating, and there's great support along the course," said Hamill of Palo Alto, Calif. She's wearing No. 8614.

The trio joined other runners who jumped aboard yellow school buses for the journey out to the Hopkinton starting line.

In contrast with other runners, Steve Richey of Augusta, Georgia, said he is fond of the cool weather. "This is perfect weather for a marathon. I was worrying it would be too warm." But, he added, "We could do without the wind."

Richey said he has been awake since 3 a.m. because he flew into Boston on Saturday from England, where he is working on temporary assignment.

"I've been training in the hills of northern England," he said. "There's a tough bunch of runners there. They've trained me pretty hard."

Richey, who's 44, said he began running in 1997 when he was 50 pounds overweight and going through what he called a personal crisis.

"To my surprise, I was competitive," Richey said. "It turned into a sport for me. I've never been an athlete before at any time in my life."

He expressed confidence in his newfound athletic abilities and explained that his decision to take up running has a personal meaning for him: He began after his 15-year-old daughter was kidnapped and killed in Georgia.

This morning, however, he preferred to focus on the run ahead.

"I know I can finish the distance," Richey said. "I'm going to go at a much faster pace than my first marathon."

No, he said, he's never seen the course before, although he did check it out online.

Even so, Richey remained undaunted. "I haven't actually been on the course, (but) I'm sure I'll recognize the finsh line when I get there."

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