BOSTON (WPRI) — The Boston Marathon has been canceled for the first time in its 124-year history.
Organizers have decided to have a “virtual event” instead, where participants who verify that they ran 26.2 miles on their own will receive their finisher’s medal.
The race had originally been scheduled for April 20 before being postponed for five months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the title of Boston Marathon champion is contested by a few dozen elite athletes, the field includes more than 30,000 recreational and charity runners, with as many as 1 million people lined up along the course.
That presented organizers with a social distancing problem they don’t expect to solve by the fall.
“There’s no way to hold this usual race format without bringing large numbers of people into close proximity,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday.
Shortly after the announcement was made, Eyewitness News caught up with two members of Rhode Island State Police who were set to run the 2020 marathon.
Trooper Roupen Bastajian was going to run the marathon for a fifth time, while Sergeant Peter Cambio was gearing up for his second race. He first competed in the Boston Marathon last year.
“I trained as best as I could, and I raised some money for these families,” Sgt. Cambio said. “It was well worth it.”
So Cambio decided to join the team of seven state troopers training to run this year’s race. The team participates in the marathon for the charity “Cops for Kids with Cancer,” which helps New England families who have children battling some form of pediatric cancer.
In 2019, Cambio says troopers raised more than $25,000 for the charity. Their goal this year was to surpass that.
“They [the families] should not be worrying about bills,” Cambio explained. “They need to focus on their kids, their families. The money that we raise does help.”
The team of runners from RISP would have joined more than 30,000 people in making the trek from Hopkinton to the Back Bay in Boston on Sept. 14.
The race is usually held in April on the state holiday to commemorate the battles in Lexington and Concord that marked the start of the Revolutionary War. Traditionally, the Red Sox have scheduled their first pitch for that morning so baseball fans could wander over to Kenmore Square after the game to see the runners pass by with one mile to go.
In announcing postponement in March due to the coronavirus, Mayor Walsh cited the desire to salvage the estimated $211 million pumped into the city’s economy each year.
The marathon also holds extra meaning since the bombings at the finish line in 2013. Trooper Bastajian ran the marathon that year, and when the bombs went off, he ran to help.
He describes that day as, “chaos, difficulty, a lot of scrambling. A lot of people, obviously their lives were devastated… There are a lot of families that will never be the same. At the same time, the community – Boston Strong – they came together and ran it the following year. You saw the community together. When we go through trials and difficulties, that’s when I see America always rises up together.”
Bastajian said this pandemic is proof of that. He says he plans to run the marathon virtually on September 14. He and Cambio also plan to continue training to run 26.2 in Boston next spring.
“It will give more time for us to train next year and hopefully raise more money,” Cambio said.
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