It may be the world’s most celebrated footrace. It’s certainly a marker of the start of spring in New England.
But this year April 20 will be just another day from Hopkinton to Heartbreak Hill to downtown Boston. The Boston Marathon has been postponed to Sept. 14 because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has announced.
The Boston Athletic Association, which oversees the marathon, had held off deciding the fate of the iconic 26.2-mile race even as other high-profile sporting events were canceled or postponed around the globe.
The move leaves scores of area runners — both experienced marathoners and dedicated amateurs — who had been training for Boston in a quandary: Keep training or scale back?
Kevin Downing, owner of DB Sports, who has been involved with the Wampanoag Road Runners club for some 36 years, says the postponement could be a blessing in disguise for at least some runners.
Downing, 69, who has run Boston 15 times, says, “It will give people running for charity more time to raise money.”
The delay could be a hardship on some athletes who will have to train in the summer months, when temperatures and humidity in the area can soar to unhealthy levels. “But if you are training for fall marathons,” such as Chicago or the Bay State Marathon in Lowell, both of which are run in October, “you will be in the same situation.”
Downing, who is not running this year, said most of those who have signed up to run won’t be deterred.
“Most are still going to want to do it. They’ll have to adjust their schedules, but that’s still the goal,” he said.
For Sandy Sheehy, a stay-at-home mom, graphics designer and certified running coach, the delay of the race “is very frustrating and sad.”
Sheehy, 55, has run 13 Boston Marathons as an official participant (and two more as a “bandit”) and was planning to head to Hopkinton this April, too. But she says the area’s whole race season has been affected, not just Boston.
“If you sign up for something, it’s pretty likely to get canceled,” she said.
Along with sending a contingent of runners every year (the club charters a bus to Hopkinton every Patriots Day), the Wampanoags provide a corps of volunteers to the BAA, running water stations along the course and serving at events the week before the race, Sheehy notes.
As a coach, she advises those still planning on running Boston to “stay the course, maybe pull back a little bit but get out there in the fresh air and get the miles in.”
She advises, “We chose to be runners. It’s not life-changing if we can’t do it, but we look forward to the fall. Hopefully, we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”
Maria Chevalier, 45, of Cumberland, has run the Boston Marathon 11 times, as well as dozens of other distance races and had already signed on to run Boston next month. Chevalier works at a compounding pharmacy, presently engaged in making up prescriptions for elderly clients to keep them out of the hospital. She says the therapy she gets from running is more important than ever.
“I’m absolutely planning on running Boston in September,” she said. “I was super relieved that they rescheduled it. I was panicking they were canceling it.”
The rescheduling is also a boon to the communities along the marathon route, many of which get a significant amount of revenue from race day activities.
“The BAA was working with all of the state and town governments and was able to pull it off. It’s not a small thing to figure out,” she said.
Chevalier, who runs eight to 10 miles a day on weekdays and up to 30 miles on weekends, isn’t changing her training schedule, even though many of the events she had planned taking part in have been called off.
She had planned to run a marathon in Maryland last weekend, but that was canceled. Instead, she ran a marathon on her own on local roads and was happy she completed the 26.2-mile course in BAA qualifying time.
A 50K ultra running event she had signed up for has also been canceled. She’s planning on running that distance — a little over 30 miles — on her own as well.
“I’m finding it kind of entertaining. You have to dig within a little more,” Chevalier said.