The Boston Athletic Association announced Thursday that the field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon will increase to 36,000 runners and registration for the race will open on Monday, Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. The new field size marks an increase of 9,000 runners from 2013, but it will not surpass the record of 38,708 entrants set at the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996.
The additional spots will give qualifiers slightly more opportunity to secure a coveted 2014 race number and will present logistical challenges for race organizers amid dramatically increased security measures in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
“Interested runners have been remarkably respectful and cooperative as we worked towards what will be an important day in the history of the race, the sport and the City of Boston,’’ said BAA executive director Tom Grilk. “The BAA offers special thanks and gratitude to the town, city and state officials for the cooperation and allowances needed to conduct a special race of this size and scope.’’
Around the world, the distance running community has anxiously awaited information about next year’s event, which is scheduled for April 21. Following the bombings on Boylston Street this past April, many avid marathoners expressed a desire to enter the 2014 race as a show of solidarity and resiliency. And many scrambled to achieve qualifying times in late spring and summer marathons.
The BAA announcement comes after Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told NECN on Aug. 2 that “we have 9,000 more runners that are going to be in the field’’ next year. At the time, the BAA said it was still working with “each of the eight cities and towns along the route’’ to determine field size. All of the municipalities from Hopkinton to Boston needed to approve the increase.
While the Boston finish will face new organizational and safety considerations with 36,000 entrants, the Hopkinton start and pre-race staging area may shoulder the biggest burden with a larger field. The town has less open land to accommodate runners waiting to start than it did in for the record-setting 100th Boston Marathon.
Meanwhile, registration will proceed as it did for the 2012 and 2013 races with “rolling admission’’ until the field size limit is reached. The fastest runners will be allowed to enter first with registration held entirely online at BAA.org.
On Sept. 9 and Sept. 10, qualifiers who met their age and gender designated qualifying standards by 20 minutes or more can sign up. Then, if space remains, qualifiers who ran 10 minutes or faster (Wednesday through Thursday), then five minutes or faster (Friday through Saturday) will follow. If there is still room in the field, there will be a second week of registration when all qualifiers can enter.
The registration fee for the 2014 Boston Marathon for qualifiers is $175 for US residents and $225 for international runners.
“The BAA is aware of the significantly increased interest in registering for the 2014 Boston Marathon,’’ said Grilk. “The rolling admission schedule will provide runners with the fastest qualifying times in their age and gender group the ability to have their entry accepted in an orderly and systematic manner. We understand many marathoners and qualifiers want to run Boston in 2014, and we appreciate the support and patience that the running community has demonstrated because of the bombings that occurred this past spring.’’
The BAA announcement came on the same day that its special registration period for non-finishers concluded. Starting Aug. 19, the BAA allowed 5,624 runners who did not have an opportunity to finish the 2013 Boston Marathon due to the bombings a chance to enter early. Non-finishers were eligible for the special registration period if they reached the half marathon checkpoint or later. As of 9 a.m. Thursday morning, 4,511 non-finishers, or 80 percent of those eligible, had taken advantage of the special registration period.
With the special registration period set to close Thursday at 5 p.m., the increase in field size should result in roughly an extra 4,000 spots for runners from around the world. At this point, it’s unclear how those spots will be divided between qualifiers and special invitation runners. The special invitations could include runners with connections to the bombing victims. In recent years, the BAA has tried to keep the special invitation/waiver/non-qualified runners around 20 percent of the total field, or roughly 5,500 out of 27,000.
Before registration opens on Sept. 9, race organizers will make a final determination on how the extra spots will be allotted. The Boston Marathon has always prided itself on a being a race for qualified runners.
At this point, there is no way to accurately measure how increased interest in running the 2014 Boston Marathon will impact how quickly the field fills.
Once the field takes shape, the BAA will review race day logistics. With 36,000 runners, it’s likely there will be a fourth wave of starting runners, meaning larger start and finish staging areas and longer road closures. Organizers may need to stagger runner arrivals in Hopkinton to avoid overcrowding. For example, Wave 4 may arrive at the start staging area as Wave 1 waits in corrals at the start. Additionally, it’s likely there will be secured areas around the start and finish line open only to runners, credentialed race staff and media. Those plans are still under discussion.
But determining next year’s field size is a big, early step toward shaping what will be an emotional 2014 Boston Marathon.