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With anticipation in the air, Hopkinton was hoppin'

By Paul Harber, Globe Staff, 4/17/2001

OPKINTON - Before the sun rose, workers arrived at the makeshift Athletes' Village here. Shortly thereafter, the first of an endless line of school buses arrived to drop off more than 15,000 runners.

For 364 days a year, these grounds serve as Hopkinton High School's athletic fields. But on Marathon Monday, it is a staging area for a world-class road race.

After a stop-and-go early-morning ride from Boston, runners burst out of the crammed buses and down to the balloon-canopied entrance to the village.

''Welcome runners,'' a local woman blurted out on the public address system. ''Welcome to Hopkinton. All the training is over. It's time for the greatest race in the world. Enjoy it.''

There are two mammoth tents in the village. Six wide-screen televisions are strategically stationed at the football field side of the camp. Runners claim their territory inside, spreading out newspapers and plastic to mark their area while they wait for the start at noon.

At the other end of the village, on the baseball diamond, is another massive shelter. This one offers lines where runners can grab bottles of water and free bagels.

At 8 o'clock, the entertainment begins. Al Tucci and Laurel Crossing greet the runners with song. One of their first selections is, appropriately, ''Lonesome Highway.'' Laurel Crossing is followed by the Clipper Skippers, a group of rope-jumping youths from Newburyport.

''This is better than I expected,'' said Kent Guymon, 48, of Orem, Utah, who is running his first Boston Marathon. ''I had to run the St. George Marathon six times before I finally qualified for this race.''

Guymon needed to run better than 3 hours 24 minutes 59 seconds to qualify. His time at St. George: 3:24.06. He is here with his wife Janet, brother Paul, and sister-in-law Paula.

''Boston's a bit of a culture shock for us,'' said Guymon. ''There are so many tall buildings, and what really shocks us is that they are so close to each other, like glued together.''

He has never before seen so many trees, either.

By 9 o'clock the population of the Athletes' Village has swelled to more than 10,000 despite it being three hours before race time. The biggest lines are in front of the portable bathrooms that surround the village like sentries. Laurel Crossing's numbers are punctuated by the continuous slamming of fiberglass doors.

Every square foot of land inside the massive tents is taken up by runners, many trying to nap despite the constant clatter of conversation that makes the tent sound like a chicken coop.

Old friends are found and new ones are made as runners of every size, shape, and color prepare for the 26-mile, 385-yard celebration of their sport.

Main Street, where the race begins, is well-marked with warnings, informing motorists not to park along the race route. However, there are always those who ignore the warnings, so tow trucks must be employed to clear the route. The price of getting towed is $95.

But even city officials have a heart on Marathon Day. As a late model SUV is about to be towed, the owner rushes up and pleads her case. Hopkinton police officer Gregg Deboer lets her drive away.

''It's difficult finding parking on Marathon Monday,'' said Deboer. ''My mother was looking for a spot near the police station and I couldn't help her out.''

If the Athletes' Village is the soul of the Marathon, the town green is its heart, and Route 135 its main artery.

There are plenty of celebrities strolling around the green. Sen. John Kerry is there. So is ''Survivor'' winner Richard Hatch, happily signing autographs. But the star attraction is the Stanley Cup, which is on hand as part of a promotion. Everyone wants to have a picture taken next to hockey's Holy Grail.

''You have to take my picture with this,'' runner Terry Mack, 52, of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, tells his wife, who knew less than he did about hockey but realized this was something important. ''That's the Stanley Cup. It's something special. I think it's been around for more than 100 years. It goes to the best hockey team. Did Boston College win it? Is that why it's here?''

Former Bruin Lyndon Byers, working for a local radio station, does an on-air spot and jokingly tries to grab the Cup.

Someone nearby who had to be a Boston-bred runner chirps, ''It's the only way we'll see it in Boston.''

This story ran on page G08 of the Boston Globe on 4/17/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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