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THE SCENE AT THE FINISH LINE

Finishers grateful for better-than-expected conditions

They awoke dreading the worst, but received what some called ideal conditions.

After pounding the Boston area for 24 hours, the rain subsided enough Monday morning to allow for a somewhat dry 111th running of the Boston Marathon.

“It was windy in spots, but it wasn’t that bad,” said 40-year-old Sheila Mason of Hancock, who despite thinking out loud that she was getting too old for marathon running, had just a slight limp to show for her efforts as she joined hundreds of others who streamed across the Boylston St. finish line.

“It was good to stay in a pack, take turns taking the lead,” she said.

That was a feeling shared by 25-year-old Micah Middaugh, who shed his shirt upon crossing the finish line to show off the name of his band, “Breathe, Owl, Breathe,” etched across his chest in red marker.

“You got the feeling that we were all in it together,” he said. “Everyone just worked together but they knew what they had to do to make it.”

Like most of the runners, Mason said she prepared for the worst, with forecasts of rain predicted to mar the annual Boston tradition. Instead, the rain let up, replaced only by a wind that could be fierce at times along the course.

“The last 10 miles it really started to pick up,” 24-year-old Paul Donnelly of Minneapolis said. “Or maybe that’s because I was tired.”

Racers were greeted to temperatures in the 40s at the starting line in Hopkinton. A stiff wind blowing west was their reward upon arriving in the Back Bay. Still, it was preferable weather for most runners; certainly more welcome than the 86-degree heat that made the 2004 marathon a burden.

“It was very ideal, actually,” said 26-year-old Nate Fields of Essex, Vt., who finished the race 17 minutes faster than he managed last year, an accomplishment he partly attributed to the large number of runners who dropped out this morning in fear of the lingering rain. “There was still enough of a crowd here to hide behind the wind.”

In preparation for the weather, the Boston Athletic Association stressed to runners the importance of recognizing the warning signs of hypothermia. Race officials at the finish line said it was too early to understand whether more medical attention was needed this year as opposed to years past.

Despite what was a noticeably smaller crowd along the sidewalks, the athletes praised the efforts of the fans, who they said remain instrumental in their quest to finish.

“There were definitely a lot of folks out there. They’re hardcore,” Field said.

Twenty-seven-year-old Adam Ritter compared the crowd to the one he experienced while running the Chicago Marathon, in similar conditions.

“The way the people brave the elements makes me that much more inspired,” he said.

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