Marathon

BAA announces field size and registration dates for postponed 2021 Boston Marathon

Officials say they're working to ensure social distancing is possible throughout the 26.2-mile course, "especially at the start and finish."

Runners' shadows precede them across the finish line of the 120th Boston Marathon. Charles Krupa / AP

The Boston Athletic Association may be planning a smaller in-person Boston Marathon this fall — but not unrecognizably so.

The BAA announced Monday afternoon that the 2021 race will have a 20,000-participant field, along with revealing registration dates and other details about both the in-person race and 70,000-participant virtual marathon.

The smaller in-person field, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is about two-thirds of the marathon’s usual size; the race hasn’t had less than 30,000 registrants since 2013. The 20,000-entrant field — which also depends on the state’s COVID-19 reopening rules — sets up the postponed Oct. 11 race to be the smallest Boston Marathon since at least 2005 (the field never topped 10,000 until 1996, when the 100th running of the marathon attracted 38,708 participants).

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In a statement, BAA CEO Tom Grilk said Monday that the organization is working to ensure that social distancing is possible “throughout the course, especially at the start and finish.”

“In addition to a smaller field than in previous years, we will have significant additional protocols in place to ensure participant and public health,” Grilk said. “We are committed to making the oldest annual marathon in the world as safe as possible in October.”

Registration for the in-person race will open Tuesday, April 20, at 10 a.m. ET and continue to Friday, April 23, at 5 p.m. ET on the BAA’s online Athletes’ Village platform. Entrants can submit qualifying times from races as far back as Sept. 15, 2018. The registration process is not first come, first serve; rather, participants will be ranked and selected based on their qualifying times.

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BAA officials are declining to predict a “cut-off time.”

Despite the smaller field, BAA has also said that it will still set aside roughly 20 percent of bibs for charity runners. Those interested in running for a member of the Boston Marathon Official Charity Program can also apply to a team beginning on April 20. According to the BAA, organizations that comprised its official charity program for last year’s race — which was canceled due to the pandemic — and the 2020 John Hancock Non-Profit Program will receive invitational entries for the 2021 race.

According to the BAA website, finishers of the in-person race will receive a “special edition” medal in honor of the 125th anniversary of the race.

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“Additional information on entry fees for the in-person and virtual races, COVID-19 safety measures, and participant requirements will be announced in the coming weeks,” the BAA’s website says.

The BAA also announced Monday that registration for the 70,000-person virtual race will open to anyone over the age of 18 on Tuesday, March 30, at 10 a.m. ET through its Athletes’ Village platform.

That registration process is first come, first serve. However, qualifying applicants who are not accepted into the in-person marathon will also get the opportunity to register for the virtual event at a later date.

“We ask that qualifiers do not submit a registration application for the virtual race until they are notified that they have not been accepted into the in-person race,” says the BAA’s website.

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The virtual race will be held held Oct. 8 to Oct. 10 (the days leading up to — but not during — the Oct. 11 race). Participants can earn a finishers medal if they walk or run 26.2 miles in “one, continuous attempt” anywhere and at any time during that three-day window.

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