Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced that the 124th Boston Marathon has been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, May 28. In the wake of this cancellation, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) has announced plans to organize “a series of virtual events” to fill the void created by this cancellation.
This marks the first time in the marathon’s 124 year history that the race has been canceled, becoming the latest public event to be canceled due to public health concerns in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Initially, the marathon, traditionally held on Patriots’ Day each year, was scheduled for April 20. However, as states across the country began implementing measures to limit public activity in order to halt the spread of the coronavirus, the race was postponed until September 14, which would have been the first time the race would be held beyond the month of April.
Nevertheless, as the gravity and longevity of the pandemic became even more apparent, it was only a matter of time before the race was canceled. Even back when the marathon was initially postponed, officials expressed skepticism at the idea that conditions would sufficiently improve in time for the race to be conducted, even with its new date.
For prospective runners who had already entered the race, the BAA announced that all, “will be offered a full refund of their entry fee associated with the race and will have the opportunity to participate in the virtual alternative.”
Open any time between September 7-14, this virtual alternative will allow entrants, “to complete the 26.2-mile distance within a six-hour time period and provide proof of timing to the B.A.A,” with those who successfully complete challenge being awarded, “an official Boston Marathon program, participant t-shirt, medal, and runner’s bib.”
In addition to this virtual marathon, the BAA will also organize, “a series of [other] virtual events and activities...in an effort to bring the Boston Marathon experience,” not only to Boston residents who can no longer enjoy the marathon in person, but also to people, “across the United States, and around the world.”
These events will involve, “exclusive panel discussions, champions interviews, and a downloadable Boston Marathon toolkit that includes signature race elements such as a printable finish line, winner's breaktape, and more.”
BAA CEO Tom Grilk reaffirmed that, “safeguarding the health of the community...staff, participants, volunteers, spectators, and supporters,” remains their, “top priority.” However, despite this unfortunate development, Grilk also expressed some optimism, stating: “While we cannot bring the world to Boston in September, we plan to bring Boston to the world for an historic 124th Boston Marathon.”