So much had happened since Sarah Mulcahy ran the Boston Marathon in 2019, the last time it was held on its traditional Patriots’ Day morning.
COVID-19 forced cancellation of the 2020 race Then it led to postponement of the 2021 event from April to October, and it just wasn’t the same.
The historic race finally returned to mid-April for the first time in 1,099 days Monday, and the trend toward near normalcy was evident.
Kenyan distance standouts Evans Chebet and Peres Jepchirchir posted the fastest times in the men’s and women’s divisions within the 30,000-runner field that made the 126th run from Hopkinton east to Boston. Chebet captured the men’s title in 2 hours, 6 minutes and 51 seconds while Jepchirchir — the reigning Olympic champion — won the women’s division in 2:21.01.
Behind them were thousands of others who sought to celebrate the event’s spring reprise amid temperatures that climbed to near 50 degrees and a cool headwind that challenged runners over the final 3 miles of the 26.2-mile trek.
“The only indication that we are living in COVID times were the masks [required for runners to ride buses to the starting line] and that vaccination was required to even be in the race,” said 38-year-old Rob Gomez of Biddeford, believed to be the fastest Maine runner in the field and 227th overall with his time of 2 hours, 34 minutes and 1 second.
Boston Marathon results by state weren’t immediately available late Monday afternoon.
“Those were the big things, but other than that it was pretty much business as usual today,” Gomez added. “I’m in the middle of Boston right now and it doesn’t seem like we’re in COVID times. It seems like we’re back to normal.”
Sarah Mulcahy of Fort Kent finished 79th in the women’s field with a personal-best Boston time of 2:50:45 as she returned to the event for the first time since its last Patriots’ Day edition.
“Literally the only change was wearing a mask on the bus to get to the starting line or if you had to go to one of the medical tents,” she said. “For the most part, if people wanted to wear a mask in the [runners’] expo they did, if they didn’t want to they didn’t, and everybody was just chill. I think everybody was happy to be running again.”
The marathon finish was the 24th overall for the 36-year-old Mulcahy, a married mother of two, math teacher at Fort Kent Community High School and a track coach, both at that school and the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
It also was the best of her four Boston Marathons.
She debuted while 6½ months pregnant in 2014 and finished in 4:08.19. Two years later she dropped out after 10 miles due to injury and in 2019 battled through a calf injury to finish in 3:22.55.
This year she reduced her pre-Boston mileage and overcame a training regimen done primarily indoors on a treadmill due to the harsh winter chill of the St. John Valley to post the fourth-fastest marathon time of her career.
“The high mileage was not leading to performance, it was coming up short every time, so we came up with a new plan this time,” said Mulcahy, who ran her personal best for the distance of 2:44.28 at the 2018 California International Marathon to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.
“I prefer to run high mileage, but something obviously was not working so we dropped the mileage. Instead of running 100- to 120-mile weeks we stuck to 80 to 90 and it seemed to pay off.”
Gomez had hoped to run Boston in less than 2:30 but tailed off over the second half of the race and settled for a finishing time that enabled him to edge 36-year-old Ryan Collins of Portland by less than a minute.
“During the first half I was well on pace for [sub-2:30], under that, in fact,” Gomez said. “But I knew at that point it was going to be a struggle because some days you have it and some days you don’t and halfway through I realized that my legs probably didn’t have it for the rest of the day.
“It was a little off what I intended to do today, but who cares? It was great. It was good to finish and a little redemption after not finishing my last Boston Marathon in 2018.”
Collins finished in a personal-best marathon time of 2:34.58, while 53-year-old Robert Ashby of Brunswick was clocked in 2:40.02.
“I think we’re all very ready to get back to the way things were,” Gomez said, “and coming down here to be able to do a race like this puts an exclamation point on it.”