Runners start the 116th running of the Boston Marathon, in Hopkinton, Mass.,… (Stew Milne / Associated…)
The 2012 Boston Marathon is off and running, though there may not be quite as many participants as expected doing the actual running due to the potentially dangerous heat expected during Monday's race.
The temperature was 69 degrees when the wheelchair racers left Hopkinton for the start of the race at 9:17 a.m. ET, and had risen to 71 when the women started at 9:32 and was up to 73 when the rest of the field took off at 10.
By the time the runners get to Boston's Back Bay, they could be facing temperatures in the mid-80s.
The heat already appears to be taking its toll on the participants, with the leaders running at a slower than usual pace early on. The elite women ran the first three miles at a pace that would have them finish in around 2 hours, 38 minutes -- which would be the slowest Boston Marathon women's time since 1978.
It's a stark contrast from last year, when perfect temperatures helped Geoffrey Mutai run the fastest marathon ever (2 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds). He and fellow Kenyan Carolina Kilel, who won the women's race last year, are back to defend their titles.
Race organizers warned inexperienced marathon runners about the dangers of running in such heat and said they could opt to defer their entries into next year's race. Runners typically have to qualify for the event on a yearly basis.
“Only the fittest runners should consider running," Boston Athletic Assn. executive director Tom Grilk said Sunday. "The risks that you'll see tomorrow are simply greater than normal.”
But a little extra heat has not discouraged all of the 27,000 registered runners from taking part in what is, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime event.
“You've got to know your own body,” Mike Buenting of Minneapolis said as he waited for the starting gun. “You have to know how to hydrate and the rest will take care of itself.”
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Boston Marathon: Heat already taking its toll on runners