The first Boston Marathon was held on April 19, 1897.

By Alison Fox
May 29, 2020
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Boston Athletic Association

The iconic Boston Marathon has been canceled this year in an unprecedented move, according to organizers, and will be run virtually for the first time in its long history.

This decision marks the first time the Boston Marathon has been canceled in its 124-year history.

The marathon was originally scheduled for April and postponed until September 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the marathon has been officially canceled and will instead be carried out through several virtual events in September, according to the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A), which organizes the race.

“Our top priority continues to be safeguarding the health of the community, as well as our staff, participants, volunteers, spectators, and supporters,” Tom Grilk, the CEO of the B.A.A, said in a statement. “While we cannot bring the world to Boston in September, we plan to bring Boston to the world for an historic 124th Boston Marathon.”

Rather than an in-person race, which draws huge crowds and weaves through the city and surrounding areas before finishing in the Back Bay area of Boston, the marathon will be run by individuals on their own anytime between Sept. 7 and 14. Runners will have to complete the 26.2 miles within six hours and provide proof of their race time to the B.A.A.

Runners will also receive a refund of their entry fees and anyone who completes the virtual race will be sent an official Boston Marathon program, a t-shirt, medal, and runner’s bib, according to organizers.

"There's no way to hold this usual race format without bringing large numbers of people into close proximity," Mayor Marty Walsh said about the cancellation, according to CNN. "This kind of event would not be responsible or realistic on September 14th or anytime this year."

The marathon will also feature other virtual events, including online panel discussions and interviews with champions, and will include downloadable content like a printable finish line.

While Boston has canceled its marathon, a decision has yet to be made about other major marathons, including the Chicago and New York City Marathons. When asked about the New York City race — scheduled for November — the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, told The New York Times: “I think it’s fair to say it’s going to be a while before we’re comfortable with any large gathering.”