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The Boston Marathon is back to its Patriot's Day date after 3 years of COVID issues


The Boston Marathon is underway with about 30,000 people participating. For the first time in three years, the race is happening on the traditional Patriot's Day. From GBH in Boston, Esteban Bustillos has more.

ESTEBAN BUSTILLOS, BYLINE: There are a few days that mean more to Boston than Patriot's Day, the third Monday of each April, when Massachusetts commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord. It's also the day when hundreds of thousands of spectators and runners descend upon the city and its outskirts for the annual Boston Marathon - at least it was before COVID canceled the in-person race in 2020 and pushed its running to October last year. But now, for the first time in three years, the marathon is back in its rightful Patriot's Day time slot. And for runners in this year's race, it's a much-needed return to normalcy. Madeline Silva (ph) lives in New York City. She ran the marathon in the fall, but this will be her first Patriot's Day race.

MADELINE SILVA: I mean, training for two marathons within six months was definitely a task. But I kind of felt like I couldn't pass it up. Of all the marathons I've done - this is my fourth - definitely, Boston's been my favorite experience so far.

BUSTILLOS: Thomas Habimana, who made the trip from Indiana, is a veteran of the race. This will be his fifth time running the Boston Marathon. But this run will have some special meaning.

THOMAS HABIMANA: I feel this one is going to be a bit different. It's, you know, restarting new after - I hope it's post-COVID. It's just fantastic. So it's so good that we're able to get our lives back.

BUSTILLOS: Unfortunately, Boston isn't out of the COVID woods just yet. Cases are on the rise again. But at the marathon finish line the day before the race, there was still a cautious sense of hope the marathon brought. Father Michael Sliney is a priest based out of Washington, D.C., who is running his first Boston marathon. Sliney, understandably, was coming off a pretty busy Holy Week as he made final preparations for the race. And while he's offering blessings to any runners who may feel like they'll need a little help from above to cross the finish line, he sees the marathon itself as its own kind of blessing after a hard couple of years.

MICHAEL SLINEY: So I think it's a way for us to kind of almost burst out of the tunnel and see the light with everybody else, and it's kind of symbolic of that, the culmination of a long road that hopefully is going to open up to a brighter sunshine.

BUSTILLOS: And as the marathon and the country try to get back to normal, hopefully that forecast of clear skies stays true.

For NPR News, I'm Esteban Bustillos in Boston.

(SOUNDBITE OF SABZI'S "PURBASHA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.