Guest Post: 2020 Virtual Boston Marathon Brings Boylston to the World

The following has been submitted by Run Oregon reader, Brian James Siddons – Runner, Writer, Poet.

Most runners never run the Boston Marathon, and most people are never there, in person, to see and feel the palpable excitement and passion this 124-year-old tradition of racing from Hopkinton to Boston on Patriots Day brings forth. For those that have run the Boston Marathon to exhaustion and for those that have cheered their hearts out along the 26.2-mile course, it’s a very special event. The world’s most cherished marathon, honored and revered by the great state of Massachusetts and by runners and fans around the globe.

Nearly cancelled completely due to Covid-19, the 124th running of the Boston Marathon will be a virtual event in 2020, open only to those runners meeting the stringent qualifying requirements or those running for one of the many charities associated with the marathon by raising thousands of dollars individually, and over $30 million dollars, in total, each of the past few years.

The air out of the balloon, of course, is missing out on the chance to experience all that makes the Boston Marathon so great. The extended trip most make for the event. Meeting up with friends and relatives. The pre-race expo, 5k race, local events and sightseeing all nixed this year. Certainly, the heartbreak of not running the actual course, including Heartbreak Hill, is a sting that will last many months. First timers, many that have worked hard for years to qualify, as well as multi-year veterans, have all expressed the emotional letdown they are feeling.

The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) is also feeling the pain. They have done an exceptional job of keeping the dream alive as best as possible. The virtual event will be the 124th running, and in 2021 it will be the 125th running. This September, after the window of the virtual run ends, medals will be sent to finishers, along with shirts and certificates. Nice mementos, but not exactly what everyone had in mind when they signed up.

I’ve run Boston twice. The first time in 2018, alongside my wife, through all the sleet, rain, cold and wind that was the monsoon of marathons. So much fun it was, I qualified again and ran in 2019, a hot and humid day that melted my goal before I hit Wellesley. With our son’s wedding planned for May of 2020, I opted out for this past April, which would have made three years in a row of really weird Boston Marathons. I empathize with the runners, qualifiers and fundraisers alike, for having to miss out on the Boston experience. I hope they will all get a chance to go back one day. Monsoon or heat wave, Boston is still one of the best experiences a runner will have.

As I read through post after post this past week, the period when runners could officially sign up for the virtual Boston Marathon, there was a positive message coming through as more and more runners posted they were in for the run. It is, after all, the official Boston Marathon for 2020, and, as many stated, a unique experience.

I began to realize 2020 will be an experience that is going to be shared across America and around the globe by the nearly 28,000 runners that were set to be in Boston last April. The Boston Marathon, my friend, is coming to you! This is a chance for sharing the Boston Marathon in a way we may never (hopefully) have again.

Each runner will be mailed a racing number (bib) to wear, and many will put on a special or lucky outfit to run in, making the day as official as possible. All that is needed is for you and I to find a local Boston Marathon runner and cheer them on come race day. Sharing the Boston Marathon beyond the cities and streets of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston will motivate runners and give spectators a chance to cheer, something we could really use right now.

Boston runners, get the word out about your race day. Time, place, estimated pace. Let friends know and be sure to tell them how much you’d appreciate their support. Spectators, you know who your running geek friends are, check in with them and find a local runner that’s going to run the Virtual Boston Marathon. Make time to spend along the course and provide some encouragement to their effort.

It won’t be the same as trying to navigate Athlete’s Village in the morning, hearing the cheers of the most incredible spectators to line a race course, or making those last two turns of Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston, but in a year when there are much bigger goals for our country and world to accomplish, some days we need to let out the sail and let the wind guide our course. You never know what you can accomplish supporting one another. Boston Strong!

Brian is a lifelong runner (1972, first year of high school cross-country) and over the decades since, has run everything from 5k to 50 milers. Boston Marathon finisher (2018 & 2019), 2019 Minnesota Senior Games 800/1500m. 2019 Masters All American, Track: 1500m/3000m, Road:5k/10k).

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