The Boston Marathon kicks off in its first spring race since the pandemic started

Runners were gearing up for the Boston Marathon on Monday, marking the return of the prestigious race to its springtime spot for the first time since the pandemic began.

At 6 a.m. in Hopkinton, Race Director Dave McGillivray sent out a group of about 20 from the Massachusetts National Guard, which walks the course annually,

McGillivray said in an interview that "it's a new normal," with some pandemic protocols still in place — like requiring participants to be vaccinated or show an exemption — "but it's a normal."

We recognize that we're not totally out of the woods. We're still sensitive to the virus and requiring vaccinations," he said.

"We're really not back to normal for the time being, but this is what the new normal is. The key is keeping everyone safe."

The wheelchair divisions were to start shortly after 9 a.m., followed by the elite fields. Eleven former champions are competing. 

It has been only six months since athletes raced 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) to Copley Square in Boston for the world's oldest and most prestigious annual marathon.

Real Madrid makes comeback from 0-2 down against Sevilla, edging