Marathon

Boston Marathon announces tentative fall 2021 date

"I am hopeful that we'll get to enjoy the return of one of Boston's most storied traditions this fall."

A woman walks past the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street this past October. Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

With “cautious optimism,” the Boston Athletic Association is setting their sights on Columbus Day for the 2021 Boston Marathon.

Organizers announced Tuesday that the 125th Boston Marathon will be held on Monday, Oct. 11, if road races are allowed to take place at that time as part of the Massachusetts reopening plan.

The news comes after the 2020 race last spring was postponed and then canceled in its traditional in-person format for the first time ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of the second coronavirus surge, the BAA announced last fall that the 2021 race would also be postponed from its traditional April date until later in the year.

But as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout gets underway and local officials slowly ease some restrictions amid signs that the second surge is easing, the BAA is looking at the possibility of the first fall marathon in the race’s history.

“We announce the 2021 Boston Marathon date with a cautious optimism, understanding full well that we will continue to be guided by science and our continued collaborative work with local, city, state, and public health officials,” Tom Grilk, the president and CEO of the BAA, said in a statement Tuesday. “If we are able to hold an in-person race in October, the safety of participants, volunteers, spectators, and community members will be paramount.”

Additional details about the race, such as field size, registration dates, safety measures and protocols, and participant requirements, will be announced later, the BAA said.

Like last September’s marathon, officials say the 2021 marathon will have a virtual option. The BAA will also hold its annual marathon weekend 5k as a virtual race from April 16 to April 18, with registration opening on Feb. 1.

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Under the Massachusetts reopening plan, in-person road races are not permitted until Phase 4, along with things like bars, nightclubs, professional sports with spectators, and large concerts (the state is currently in the first step of Phase 3). The event plan also depends on the approval of the eight cities and towns that comprise the marathon route.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said that canceling the 2020 marathon was the “right thing to do,” but also “one of the hardest announcements to make.”

“Today, I’m filled with hope, as we set our sights on October for the running of the 125th Boston Marathon,” Walsh said. “We have a ways to go before we’re out of the woods, but guided by sound judgment and the advice of our public health experts, I am hopeful that we’ll get to enjoy the return of one of Boston’s most storied traditions this fall.”

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