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Boston Marathon organizers expect 70,000 runners for virtual race

Instead of replacing the in-person marathon, the Boston Athletic Association hopes to run the virtual race in addition to the traditional format

Edna Kiplagat Photo by: Michael Doyle

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) has officially finalized plans for a virtual race format that will be held in addition to the in-person Boston Marathon later this year. The two races will be run on October 11, and organizers said the virtual marathon will be open to 70,000 runners. This year’s event will be the 125th running of the storied marathon, and although there’s still no guarantee that the in-person run will happen, organizers are optimistic that their race will go ahead in the fall.

Virtual Boston 

This year’s race will be the second edition of the virtual Boston Marathon after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the live event in 2020. Last year, organizers saw 16,000 runners compete in their virtual event, and this year’s run will welcome more than four times as many participants. 

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There won’t be any time cut-off for runners, and as long as they complete a continuous 42.2K and back it up with a GPS tracking file, they will receive a finisher’s medal. To give the virtual race a more realistic feel, organizers said participants will also be able to print official bibs for their runs, plus finish line tape and more. 

“Building upon the success of the 2020 Boston Marathon virtual experience, we again will strive to bring the spirit of Boston to neighbourhoods around the world through this virtual race,” said B.A.A. president and CEO Tom Grilk . “No matter where you cross the finish line, the 125th Boston Marathon will be a celebration for all runners.” 

Boston Marathon 2019 finish line. 

The B.A.A. also noted that there’s no qualification for the virtual race (unlike the in-person marathon), and anyone interested in running it simply needs to be quick to register for the event instead of posting a quick qualifying time. The first 70,000 people to register will get a spot, and anyone after that will have to wait until 2022. Registration dates for the virtual race have yet to be announced. 

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Flexible plans 

In January, the B.A.A. announced the October 11 race date for Boston, although officials made sure it was clear that nothing was set in stone, and they said they were moving forward with “cautious optimism.” They appear more hopeful now, just one month later, and Grilk said they “anticipate having a reduced field size for the in-person road race.” 

The exact field size has yet to be determined, but Grilk and the B.A.A. said they hope to keep numbers “as close to previous years as possible” while still maintaining the safety of everyone involved in the race. 

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