Organizers of the Boston Marathon, the planet’s most celebrated footrace, have postponed the event until September 14 because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced on Friday.
The Boston Athletic Association, which oversees the marathon, had held off deciding the fate of the April 20 race even as other high-profile sporting events were canceled or postponed around the globe.
But pressure had mounted in recent weeks from officials in Boston and the seven cities and towns along the 26.2-mile course. Some had expressed worries not only for the health of the 31,000 registered runners but also the estimated 1 million spectators who traditionally line the route, giving athletes hand slaps, high fives and even kisses as they pass.
President Donald Trump’s order restricting most Europeans’ travel to the US over the coronavirus complicated efforts to salvage the race. Thousands of runners come from Europe to compete at Boston.
The Boston Marathon has never been canceled outright since its first running in 1897, though there was a de facto cancelation in 1918, when the end of World War I and a global influenza pandemic prompted organizers to switch to a relay race format.
Until Friday, not even the Great Depression or ferocious storms had interrupted the 124-year-old race, a bucket list quest for runners worldwide. About a third of this year’s field were from outside the US.
It wasn’t an easy decision, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the marathon pumps $211 million a year into the city’s economy - not counting the millions more that runners raise for charities.
Massachusetts Government Charlie Baker had declared a state of emergency, and race organizers had said they were in close contact with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
In recent days, the Rome Marathon was canceled, the Paris Marathon was postponed from April 5 to October 18 and the Barcelona Marathon was postponed from March 15 to October 25, all over concerns around coronavirus.
This month’s Tokyo Marathon was expected to have 38,000 participants but was limited to elite runners due to concerns over the outbreak of the virus in Japan. And spectators at the Los Angeles Marathon, held earlier this month, were advised to practice social distancing.
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