Jack LeDuc, 63, grew up in Hopkinton, a block off the course, and remembers when 200 runners was a big field. He has handled P.A. duties in Hopkinton since 1997, sending off the waves with a quip and a grin, and has run the marathon 15 times.
That blue-and-gold stripe on Main? That’s LeDuc, too. For 32 years he has been coming out the Wednesday before the marathon to spend five hours painting the start line. The last few years have seen the call for a more uniform, corporate design, but for a while the line was LeDuc’s personal canvas, the place where a handyman could play with font and color, lay down whimsical touches, and give heartfelt nods to departed friends and stalwarts the public barely knew.
Last year LeDuc had just begun his routine to launch race director Dave McGillivray’s traditional late-afternoon-run of the course: Play a song, then give an intro over the mini-P.A. system for the few dozen left in the square. He was about to say, “The great Dave McGil-livray, running his 43rd straight. . . .” when he saw a motorcycle cop drawing a cut-the-music finger across his throat. He heard “two bombs” mentioned over the police radio.
McGillivray jumped into a car and took off for Boston. The few left at the line soon cleared out. “I don’t think I realized what was going on until I got home and turned on the TV,” LeDuc says. “Then you get that sinking feeling in your stomach. They took something so innocent and made it so ugly.”