Running one of the world's most famous races just got a little more technical.
With the coronavirus still raging and ravaging the world, we've moved into an almost virtual reality. Not so much oculus, but a reality where most things are done via online technology: shopping, hanging with your friends, visiting your family, etc. And, yes, we are slowly moving away from our computers and back into the real world for better or for worse, but some things are still necessitating distance. Running races is no exception. While small-time races still may be a thing, events that draw thousands of runners and hundreds of thousands of spectators are either being put on hold or moving into the virtual realm. And the Boston Marathon is no exception.
The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) announced on May 28 that the 124th Boston Marathon will now be a virtual race. Honestly, I was shocked when I heard the news. Back when the BAA announced the unprecedented decision to postpone the April 20 event to September, I wasn't surprised, though I understood the ramifications. Runners would have to alter their training plans, have to avoid injury for longer; runners that were fearing having to drop out due to injury were encouraged by the idea of being able to heal and get back out into the field. The postponement was a big deal.
Virtual running changes the playing field entirely.
The reason the move to virtual racing was so shocking to me was the introduction of a new variable into an otherwise level playing field for the participants. I had assumed that they would just cancel/postpone the race until April 2021. But virtual racing offers this: participants will now be able to choose when and on what day they want to run the race between September 7 and September 14, they'll be able to choose where they run, and they'll be responsible for their own times. While they have to provide proof of their times to the BAA, there won't be much else monitoring the actual running. Runners who have access to flatter land and/or moderate temperatures will have a distinct advantage over those who have to compete with hills, rough terrain, and hotter, colder, wetter, or dryer climates. A runner can wait to start their race until they're feeling particularly good. A virtual race may even eliminate the adrenaline rush or crippling nerves for some runners. Most likely due to these factors, the finishing times will not be used as qualifiers for the Boston marathon in 2021. However, your qualifying time for the 2020 Boston marathon can be used to qualify you for the one in 2021.
The CEO of the Boston Athletic Association, Tom Grilk, said this, "While we cannot bring the world to Boston ... we plan to bring Boston to the world."
And with that, pre-registered participants upon the thousands will get full refunds and then race swag upon proof of completion.
More details about the virtual race will be coming soon on the BAA's website as well as directly to registered participants. Some frequently asked questions have already been answered and can be found on the official Boston marathon web page. The decision to go virtual has certainly affected the city, the surrounding suburbs, and the hype.
What do you think of the Boston marathon's decision to go virtual? Is it groundbreaking or disappointing? Share your thoughts in the comments!
The Run-Around is a weekly feature, focusing on fitness in and around Annapolis, MD.