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Delayed By Coronavirus, Boston Marathon Runners Now Count Down to September

Hundreds of runners pour into Kenmore Square at mile 25 of the Boston Marathon. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Hundreds of runners pour into Kenmore Square at mile 25 of the Boston Marathon. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The news the distance running community expected came Friday morning: The Boston Marathon will not take place on Monday, April 20. Now, race organizers plan to stage the historic event on Monday, September 14. It’s an unprecedented move in unprecedented times.

As local and state leaders work to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Boston Marathon runners understand the need to postpone the race.

"I'm in total agreement, but it makes me sad and disappointed," said Kate Donaldson, a nurse from Lincoln who plans to run her second Boston Marathon in September. "I think it would have been an offset to all the anxiety and hysteria we're facing now."

When asked if she was disappointed by the news, Julia Hermann, an elementary school teacher in Somerville said, “Surprisingly, no, I’m not. I haven’t been able to run races because of injury and that’s been disappointing. Maybe I’m not disappointed now because this is such a new thing or maybe it’s because I’ve run Boston before. My focus is more on keeping the community safe.”

Hermann has run the Boston Marathon four times. She plans to run it a fifth time in September, then get married six days later.

“I had my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t be the same weekend as my wedding,” she said. “It’s six days, but I think I can manage that.”

When official word about the postponement came down, other runners hoped they could enter another spring marathon. And that the new marathon on their race calendar wouldn’t be canceled.

“I’m just glad they didn’t do it the week before,” said Mark Vautour. “My typical [running] crew is already looking for backup races. Now, who knows, maybe the backup races will be canceled as well. But people have been looking all over the map. You’re feeling fit, you’re feeling fast and you want to peak at the right time and the more notice the better because you can pick a contingency plan. A lot of people are definitely doing that.”

"I think it would have been an offset to all the anxiety and hysteria we're facing now."

Kate Donaldson

Vautour, who has 10 Boston Marathons on his running resume, is “up in the air” about whether he will run in September.

“The benefit of the Boston Marathon to me is that it gets me out of bed in the winter,"
said Vautour. “And if it wasn’t for my crew that says, ‘Hey, I’ll meet you at 6:30 at the BU Bridge’ it would be real easy to get soft in the winter. For me, more than anything, it’s the social component of it. In some ways, it’s already served its purpose of getting me through what oftentimes is a long, miserable winter in Boston.”

For runners looking ahead to September’s Boston Marathon, one concern is race day weather. The average high temperature in Boston in September is 72 degrees. The ideal marathon temperature is 50 degrees. But many runners will be doing their long runs in August heat.

“The September date could actually be an advantage,” said Rachel Allen, who will be running as a qualifier for the first time. “The weather in April is such a variable and such an unknown that quite often you’re training in the cold for a race that might be warm. While the race in September probably will be warmer than it would have been in April, we’ll have had the hot summer months to train for it so it will feel cooler on race day.”

And then there are participants like two-time Olympic marathon trials runner Brian Harvey.

“I don’t see really any downsides to moving it to the fall,” said Harvey. “Typically, training for the Boston Marathon is pretty difficult in the Boston area. It’s the middle of winter. We often have a lot of snow. It’s pretty incredible that so many people who live here are able to train so well.

“I also just ran the Olympic Trials a couple weeks ago so it was going to be a relatively quick turnaround for me to run Boston. So [the postponement] turns out to be nice because I’ll have the whole summer to train … And I generally run pretty well in the heat. I look forward to racing in September.”

Now, for elite, qualified and charity runners, the new Boston Marathon countdown clock begins.

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