BOSTON (AP) - Hotels in the Boston area already are almost booked to capacity more than two months before the first Boston Marathon since two explosions at the finish line last year, tourism officials say.
About 36,000 runners are expected to compete in the April 21 race, 9,000 more than last year. That includes about 4,500 who were stopped by officials before completing the race after the pressure cooker bombs went off, killing three people and injuring more than 260.
Interest from families, fans and the media also is expected to be high, putting additional strain on hotels.
"It's probably the biggest consumption of rooms related to the marathon that we've experienced," Paul Sacco, president of the Massachusetts Lodging Association, told The Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/1bEItRy).
Boston and Cambridge hotels are completely booked, he said. Hotels outside the two cities are filling fast.
The eight Marriott hotels in the Boston area, with more than 3,700 rooms combined, already are almost full on the night of the marathon and the Sunday before, company spokeswoman Lucy Slosser said.
Marathon Tours and Travel of Charlestown has sold out its blocks of discounted rooms at 45 area hotels.
"People just want to be here," said Kelly McClay, who handles reservations for the company.
Some runners said they were drawn to this year's race to show their support for the city. Cedric King, an Army veteran who lost both of his legs after stepping on an explosive device in Afghanistan, was just learning how to run on prosthetics when the bombs exploded in Boston. He's running his first marathon.
Kenneth Williams, 72, of Mississippi, was one of the runners last year who was stopped before finishing.
"It's Mecca," he said. "It's the Masters. It's the Indianapolis 500. It's the Super Bowl, and you're getting to play in it."