The fastest Boston Marathon field has ever returned from the quickest turnaround in the event’s 126-year history, leaving Hopkinton for Boston’s Back Bay on Monday morning, six months after a smaller and more socially distanced race was forced to fall.

Ten former champions led more than 28,000 runners down Main Street on their way to the Boylston Street finish line, 26.2 miles away, under a sunny spring sky. For the first time since 2019, the event’s return to its traditional Patriots’ Day slot in the schedule drew large crowds in each of the eight cities and towns along the route.

Race Director Dave McGillivray sent out about 20 members of the Massachusetts National Guard, who walk the course every year, to announce the start of the 126th Boston Marathon at 6 a.m. in Hopkinton. Wheelchair racers took off shortly after 9 a.m., followed by elite runners a half-hour later and four waves of recreational runners — a full field that came after two virtual races and one that was postponed until October, the event’s first fall race.

Athletes from Russia or Belarus who were denied entry due to the invasion of Ukraine are not welcome. Ukrainians who were unable to travel to Boston were given the option of deferring or receiving a refund.

“Whatever they want to do, they can do,” said Tom Grilk, president of the Boston Athletic Association. “Run this year, run next year. You want a puppy? Whatever. There is no group we want to be more helpful to.”

The pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 race, the first since the event began in 1897. The 2021 edition was postponed, and it was finally held in October.

In October, about a third of the National Guard group marched as well. Capt. Gus Ashton, 29, said the crowds were fantastic last year, and he’s looking forward to seeing even more people on the course this year.

“It’s still not quite normal,” he said, “but it’s a lot closer.”

The women’s division of the Boston Athletic Association is celebrating its 50th anniversary, with Nina Kuscsik becoming the first official women’s winner. Valerie Rogosheske, who finished sixth in 1972, said she planned to hide in the bushes and run as a bandit until a few weeks before the race when women were given permission. She is running with her daughters this year and will serve as the honorary starter for the elite women’s field.

“I just had this feeling like, ‘Boy, we’re going to do this.'” No one is allowed to leave. On Monday, she said at the starting line, “There are eyes on us.” “A lot of people thought we shouldn’t be running a marathon. As a result, we felt a lot of pressure but also a lot of opportunity to complete this marathon.”

The women’s field this year is one of the best ever. Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, Joyciline Jepkosgei, the winner of the London and New York marathons, and Ethiopia’s Degitu Azimeraw all have personal bests that are faster than the Boston course record.

Evans Chebet won his first Boston Marathon in an unofficial time of two hours, six minutes, and 51 seconds. When Chebet competed in this event in 2018, he did not finish.

Lawrence Cherono, the 2019 Boston Marathon winner, finished second in 2:07:21, while Benson Kipruto, last year’s winner, finished third in 2:07:27.

Last year’s race was postponed until October 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the 2020 edition was canceled and became a virtual race for the first time in the event’s history. Daniel Romanchuk of the United States won his second Boston Marathon title in the men’s wheelchair division, clocking one hour, 26 minutes, and 58 seconds. In 2021, the 23-year-old came in second.

At the 2020 Tokyo Games, Romanchuk won his first Paralympic gold in the 400-meter wheelchair race.

The famed 26.2-mile course, which starts in rural Hopkinton and ends on Boylston Street in Boston, attracted more than 28,000 runners aged 18 to 83 from all 50 US states and 120 countries.