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Boston Marathon highlights city’s ultimate sports triple-header

Race fans cheer runners at mile marker 26 of the 118th Boston Marathon in 2014.

Robert F. Bukaty/The Associated Press

It was in 2009 and Rob Campbell remembers it like it was yesterday – only he can't recall which NBA team was involved.

A quick check of the record books indicates it must have been the Chicago Bulls, who played the Celtics in Boston in the opening round of the playoffs that season.

Campbell can be forgiven for his foggy memory.

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The Toronto electrician had just completed the Boston Marathon, the world's most famous 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometre) trip for the running obsessed, and even his brain was sweaty.

"Actually, it was my first year here doing the marathon," said the reed-thin Campbell, who now has five of these expeditions under his belt, soon to be six. "I had just finished and was a little wobbly and I walked right through this procession of really big guys getting off their bus in front of their hotel.

"I didn't even really notice until I looked up, and they were obviously basketball players, and this one player was cursing me out because I was in their way."

Campbell was asked what he did. He got out of the way, naturally.

Welcome to Boston, in mid-April, where a convergence of big-time sporting events have been known to collide within the confines of this edgy New England city over the course of one, wild holiday weekend.

And this is one of those weekends.

Over the course of four days, Boston-area sports fans are overwhelmed with events, starting with the Boston Red Sox, who were at home over the weekend at Fenway Park to do battle with the Tampa Bay Rays.

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After the Red Sox game on Sunday afternoon, those lucky enough to have scored tickets could head across town to TD Garden for the first game of the Celtics' NBA Eastern Conference playoff series against the Chicago Bulls.

And on Monday, it all comes to one, big, glorious finale.

The long haul starts with the Red Sox, who play their final game of the series against the Rays, with a start time on the Patriot's Day holiday of 11:05 a.m. (ET).

That early start is a concession to the 121st running of the Boston Marathon, the legendary road race that attracts close to 30,000 competitors and winds its way through the outskirts and into the city and past Fenway near the end.

The race, which will include some 2,000 Canadian runners, will be cheered by a crowd estimated to be a million people who line the route.

And if that's not enough to fill your athletic appetite there is always Game 3 of the NHL's Eastern Conference quarter-final, at TD Garden on Monday night between the home-town Bruins and the Ottawa Senators.

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"It's going to be nuts in there," said Ottawa forward Clarke MacArthur, about the prospect of entering the lion's den of a wild Boston sports scene. "With everything going on there it's going to be a lot of action. The bars will be packed, the Irish boys will be out drinking.

"It's always a great atmosphere."

"It's Boston's day," added Evan Allen, 34, a local elementary school teacher.

For the past several years Allen has been using this weekend to meet up with several friends to celebrate Boston's vibrant sporting atmosphere.

Sunday afternoon, it was the Red Sox and Sunday night, the Celtics.

"And Monday, it's like Christmas morning," he said. "My friends and I have a tradition where we go watch the Red Sox and after that's over catch the end of the marathon.

"And then Monday night, if we're still standing, we're going to try and scalp some tickets to see the Bruins game."

Call it the ultimate New England triple-header.

Jim Taggart is the manager of The Fours, the Boston sports bar that has been operating in the shadow of the Bruins' home rink since the mid-1970s.

The name is spawned by the iconic Bobby Orr, who made the No. 4 jersey both famous and cool when he starred for the Boston Bruins.

There is a painting of Orr behind the desk at the main entrance of The Fours. Inside the restaurant, a framed shot of Orr's famous celebratory dive after scoring the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in 1970 is on a wall.

This is, first and foremost, a hockey outpost.

Taggart said that saloon operators in Boston always look forward to this time of year, especially on the holiday Monday when both the hockey and basketball teams have made the playoffs.

"It's probably the No. 1 drinking day of the year for Boston, more than St. Patrick's Day," Taggart said on Sunday as his establishment started to swell with locals getting their game on for the Celtics' playoff match that night.

"We're not on the marathon route, but if you go up into the Back Bay [neighbourhood], you go to any of the bars on Boylston Street, they will be full by 8 o'clock in the morning, absolutely jammed."

The events of four years ago, when bombs were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and maiming many, many more, obviously had on impact to the city's festive vibe.

The Boston Marathon continues but heightened security is still an obvious aftershock.

The attack, as crude as it was, could not dampen the spirit of Boston sports fans such as Allen, a former runner in the marathon.

Allen said he was in a restaurant with friends when the bombs went off that year, not too far from the finish line.

"They locked the doors, they locked us inside the restaurant," Allen said. "It was a bit eerie."

But Allen said the attack failed miserably in that it could not divide the city and its insatiable love affair with sports.

"I think it had the opposite effect," Allen said. "I think it really united the city – and we were right there when it happened."

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