BOSTON (CBS) – There will be no in-person Boston Marathon this year. Initially the race was moved from Patriots' Day to September 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but on Thursday the event was canceled.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the city and Boston Athletic Association will work to hold the event virtually.
"There's no way to hold this usual race format, without bringing large numbers of people into close proximity," said Walsh. "And while our goal and our hope was to make progress and contain the virus in recovering our economy, this kind of event would not be responsible or realistic on September 14, or any time this year."
B.A.A. CEO Tom Grilk On Virtual Boston Marathon
The race had never been canceled or rescheduled in its 124-year history until this year. The event has been modified several times, but never canceled completely.
"The spirit of Boston and the spirit of the Boston Marathon is to be strong and to be smart," said Tom Grilk, B.A.A. CEO. "When necessity drives you in a direction you may not like, you have to have the strength, the wisdom and the guidance from public officials to do what's right."
Anyone who entered to run the Boston Marathon this year will be refunded their entry fees. Grilk said the plan for the virtual race is to reward people who run the event with participant shirts and medals like the ones that are normally given out.
"While we can't bring tens of thousands of people from around the world to Massachusetts for the marathon this year, we do hope to bring the spirit of the Boston Marathon to the world," said Grilk. "And we'll do our best to do that. We know there'll be many questions, and we'll answer those in the days and weeks to come. More information will be sent directly to all participants, and also will be available on our website."
Grilk said runners will not be automatically entered into next year's race because they are unsure what the race will look like. He is deferring questions about charity fundraising to those charities.
The marathon brings in more than $200 million to Boston's economy each year, according to Walsh, and raises $36 million for charities.
"Economically, it's a big hit there's no question about it," said Walsh. "This entire three months has been a big hit for most sectors economically. Certainly we're feeling it in our budget, our restaurants are feeling it, our small businesses are feeling it. Many of our offices are feeling it. We'll survive. It might be a different reality for a lot of people."
About 30,000 people run the Boston Marathon each year with about a million spectators along the 26.2-mile course.
Walsh said recently that the decision to reschedule the marathon from April to September was made with the hope that coronavirus "would no longer be a significant public health risk." On Thursday it was determined it would not be safe to hold the event.
"At the time, it was a forward thinking decision. And it was the right decision," Walsh said Thursday. "It helped us set the tone for major decisions nationwide. So we should all be proud of that. It became clear as this crisis developed that September 14, was less and less plausible. So the B.A.A. and our partners have been studying the alternatives for everyone who invested time and energy in this race, the runners, the sponsors, the charities, the local businesses, the spectators. This is a challenge, but meeting tough challenges is what the Boston Marathon is all about."
Speaking at UMass Lowell Thursday afternoon, Gov. Charlie Baker said the city and the BAA made the right decision.
"For the time being, we are better off being careful and cautious when it comes to really big events like that," Gov. Baker said. "I'm sure everybody is hoping and anticipating that a typical rite of spring here in the Commonwealth, which is the running of the marathon, right around Opening Day and the celebration of Patriots' Day, will be back with us next spring."
All large events in Boston, including parades and festivals, were previously canceled through Labor Day.
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