BOSTON — The Boston Athletic Association announced Thursdayin a release that the 124th Boston Marathon will be held as a virtual event, following Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s cancellation of the marathon as a mass participation road running event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virtual Boston Marathon will be complemented by a series of virtual events throughout the second week of September.
“Our top priority continues to be safeguarding the health of the community, as well as our staff, participants, volunteers, spectators, and supporters,” said Tom Grilk, C.E.O. of the B.A.A. “While we cannot bring the world to Boston in September, we plan to bring Boston to the world for an historic 124th Boston Marathon.”
All participants who were originally registered for the April 20 event 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 to the 124th Boston Marathon, which can be run any time between Sept. 7–14.
Although the title of Boston Marathon champion is contested by a few dozen elite athletes, the field includes more than 30,000 recreational and charity runners, with as many as 1 million people lined up along the course trek from Hopkinton to Boston’s Back Bay. That presented organizers with a social distancing problem that won’t be solved by the fall.
The cancellation is the first ever for the race, which began in 1897 when 15 men drew a starting line in the dirt in Ashland and headed for the city to commemorate the first modern Olympic Games the previous year. In 1918, the format was modified to a relay because of World War I; the 2013 race was stopped when two bombs exploded at the finish line, several hours after the winners had finished but while many recreational runners were still on the course.
For each of those years, the race was held in April on the state holiday to commemorate the battles in Lexington and Concord that marked the start of the Revolutionary War. Traditionally, the Red Sox have scheduled their first pitch for the morning so baseball fans could wander over to Kenmore Square after the game to see the runners pass by with one mile to go.
Virtual offerings for participants during that week will include 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. Further details will be sent to all entrants in the near future.
Participants in the virtual 2020 Boston Marathon will be required to complete the 26.2 mile distance within a six hour time period and provide proof of timing to the B.A.A. All athletes who complete the virtual race will receive an official Boston Marathon program, participant t-shirt, medal, and runner’s bib.