Organizers canceled the Boston Marathon on Thursday for the first time in its 124-year history, in order to follow the social distancing requirements of the coronavirus outbreak.
The event has been conducted through two World Wars, a volcanic eruption and even the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.
It typically draws 30,000 participants, and had already been postponed from April 20 to Sept. 14.
Instead, participants will appear in a virtual event in which they will verify that they ran 26.2 miles on their own, to receive their finisher’s medal.
“It became clear as this crisis developed that Sept. 14 was less and less plausible,” Mayor Marty Walsh said at a news conference outside City Hall, where runners traditionally gather for a pre-race pasta dinner.
The @BAA has announced 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. pic.twitter.com/tlIdvsU9sq
— Boston Marathon (@bostonmarathon) May 28, 2020
“This is a challenge, but meeting tough challenges is what the Boston Marathon is all about,” Walsh continued, referencing the response to the finish line bombings that occurred seven years ago. “It’s a symbol of our city’s and our commonwealth’s resilience. So it’s incumbent upon all of us to dig deep, like a marathon runner, like we did in 2013, and keep that spirit alive.”
Up to one-million people routinely line up along the course track.
“There’s no way to hold this usual race format without bringing large numbers of people into close proximity,” Walsh said. “While our goal and our hope was to make progress in containing the virus and recovering our economy, this kind of event would not be responsible or realistic on Sept. 14 or any time this year.”
The Boston Marathon, which is the longest-running annual marathon in the world, began in 1897.
Qualifying times for this year’s race will be eligible for the 2021 Boston Marathon, which is scheduled to take place on April 19. The 125th anniversary race is scheduled for April 18, 2022.