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HEARTBREAK HILL

They climbed to the top, then took the plunge

At a location known through the years for breaking hearts, Aaron Russell and Pattiann McAdams found wedded bliss. (JOHN BLANDING/GLOBE STAFF)

NEWTON -- The intersection of Hammond Street and Commonwealth Avenue.

A setting of plush real estate and manicured lawns. A tranquil neighborhood awakened from its residential slumber every third Monday in April.

As the notorious location of the peak of Heartbreak Hill, it is a test for the brave and the resilient, but a nightmare for the Boston Marathon's surplus of tired legs.

And, as of 2:02 p.m. yesterday, a destination for newlyweds.

A strategically placed Patriots Day sign just past the intersection warned of "No Stopping." More than four hours into the race, however, two runners stopped, for a very special reason.

Aaron Russell, a soon-to-be lawyer, and Pattiann McAdams, an employee of Avon's internet division, both 34, were married at the 20-mile mark of the 111th Boston Marathon. Engaged at the conclusion of last fall's New York City Marathon, the couple was met by family and friends, a house band, and a wedding archway after they climbed Heartbreak Hill together.

"Every time they run a marathon now," said an emotional father of the bride, Bill McAdams, "they can say they got married over here at Heartbreak Hill."

The decision was a simple one for the groom. A longtime marathoner (yesterday was his 29th), Russell perceived the setting as one for a "dream wedding," according to Tracey Smith, a friend of the bride.

As friends and family waited anxiously, Russell appeared in a black running suit with a tuxedo imprint on his T-shirt. McAdams was dressed in an all-white suit for the short ceremony for the New York natives.

Russell's mother quickly coordinated the vows amid a throng of cameras before the couple took part in a champagne toast.

"See you at the finish line," the bride shouted to the crowd.

"They're both strong people, they persevere," said best man Andy McDonald. "I think this is a symbol of both of their personalities and their dedication to each other.

"If they make it up Heartbreak Hill together, what challenges can't they face?"

The northeaster conditions gradually subsided as the day went on, and sunshine occasionally peeked through the gloomy sky. The blustery conditions early on, though, prompted longtime marathon fan John Kerrigan to reminisce.

"Weather conditions are irrelevant as to whether I'll show up or not," said Kerrigan, a Raynham resident who last ran in the 1996 Marathon. "People need the most encouragement here. They're a little slower coming up here, too, so it's easier to see people.

"I've got a gallon of hot chocolate in my car that I'll put out. When somebody gets it, it's like gold."

Kerrigan compared the conditions to 1979, when as a runner he experienced symptoms of hypothermia.

"I was seeing double," he said. "At Cleveland Circle, there was numbness in my fingers and I was shivering uncontrollably by 7 at night. I had blankets on me the whole car ride home."

Lori Muhr, a coach for 10 years in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training Program, said there's no better location for a marathon supporter than Heartbreak Hill.

"It's a grueling spot," Muhr said as she set up a water station for her 150 competing runners. "People can really use a bit more support up here. It's a goal, not to just get up the hill but to get to our water spot."

Noosheen Alaverdi, another fan, had no idea the weather would start off as brutal as it did. A San Diego resident, she's still trying to figure out Boston.

"The city seems very nice, and obviously the marathon is the best marathon you can be in," Alaverdi said. "The weather this year is amazing. I guess you just take it as it comes. Some of the runners at the pasta dinner said the one problem would be the wind. Well, today they have the cold, the rain, and the wind."

Hours into the race, runners were left with just the cold. But as they passed Heartbreak Hill, they caught sight of a decorated archway, a wedding crowd, and the sounds of Johnny Cash from a reception tent.

"They thought it would be exciting and momentous to have something like this to look back on," Bill McAdams said of his daughter and new son-in-law. "Today is one of the most exciting days of my life."

It was also the strangest of Cliff Singleton's 18-year run as a Chestnut Hill mailman. As he peered at the decorations hours before the race, Singleton couldn't hide his amusement.

"I love this route and I've seen it all," he said. "But I've never seen a wedding here. I can't believe it."

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