BAA starting to unveil its ‘virtual’ plans for the Marathon

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
A runner crossed over the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston Street in late May shortly after Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that the Boston Marathon was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The organizers of the Boston Marathon this week will begin unveiling new plans and enhancements for the “virtual experience” being offered in lieu of an actual race this year.

The 2020 Boston Marathon was canceled in May after initially being postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its place, the Boston Athletic Association offered entrants the opportunity to run a marathon anywhere they choose while still being part of the collective group of runners who had been accepted into the field.

On Thursday, the BAA is planning to reveal an app designed only for Boston Marathon Virtual Experience participants that it hopes creates a better sense of community among the runners who have registered and enhances their experience. The features range from tracking and race metrics to social media toys.


The BAA said it would not require runners to complete their run in six hours or less, which was originally a requirement of the virtual event. Runners are expected to do their marathon in one continuous effort, and the honor system is being used for reporting their times. There will not be an official winner declared.

The BAA has also moved up the start of the virtual experience time frame to Saturday, Sept. 5. It was originally scheduled to start on Sept. 7 and end on Sept. 14, but after hearing what some runners have planned and reconsidering the calendar, a decision was made to add two weekend days.


“The Boston Marathon is so much more than a race, and we are excited to begin sharing the ways we will bring Boston to the world through the Boston Marathon Virtual Experience and seeing how marathoners embrace the spirit of the marathon in their own neighborhoods,” BAA spokeswoman Kendra Butters said.

Of the 30,106 runners entered for the marathon on April 20, 17,862 have registered for the virtual experience and that number is expected to increase slightly before it begins. The field will be spread across 96 countries, and all 50 states will be represented.

On Tuesday, the BAA will begin unveiling its honorary team. Each day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., a new member of the 26-person team will be introduced via the BAA’s social media accounts. The honorary team includes frontline workers, volunteers, qualified and charity runners, para athletes, Boston Marathon champions, and youth ambassadors.


The first to be announced is Katonya Burke, an ambassador and volunteer for Black Girls Run, an organization that promotes running and a healthy lifestyle for Black women. Burke, a FedEx driver, will be running her first Boston Marathon.

Another group also displaced by the cancellation of the marathon is the legion of volunteers who assist in the management of the race, so the BAA designed a “volunteer challenge” to provide them with an opportunity to give back to their communities. Some 4,804 volunteers have signed up to support their communities and the marathon’s charity partners in a variety of socially distant ways.


While the BAA has heard from runners planning all sorts of ways to do their virtual Boston Marathon, it is discouraging use of the actual marathon course from Hopkinton to Boston.

The BAA urges all participants to follow local and state guidelines pertaining to physical distancing and the coronavirus pandemic within their communities. The Boston Marathon route will not be closed to vehicular traffic nor will support personnel be stationed along the way. We understand many people live on or near the course and it is part of their typical running route. However, road races are prohibited until Phase 4 of the Massachusetts re-opening plan; any organized group run along the course is discouraged due to these state guidelines,” the BAA said.


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