Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon
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Boston Marathon canceled for first time after 123 years; virtual event planned

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The Boston Marathon, held every year since 1897, has been canceled as an in-person event for the first time. It will be held as a virtual race instead due to the coronavirus.

“While we cannot bring the world to Boston in September, we plan to bring Boston to the world for an historic 124th Boston Marathon,” Boston Athletic Association (BAA) CEO Tom Grilk said in a press release.

The world’s oldest annual marathon had been postponed from April 20 to Sept. 14, it was announced March 13.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he first considered canceling the postponed marathon during a coronavirus surge in April.

“We were maxed out in our hospital emergency rooms,” Walsh said Thursday. “I realized that the downside of the curve, which we were on, the backside of the curve, is going to be going for some time. The concern of a second surge made me have some real reservations about can we have the marathon or not.”

Walsh said experts said a potential second surge would be between August and October. He held out hope to hold the race until talking with the BAA last week.

All participants originally registered for Boston will be offered a full refund of their entry fee and have the opportunity to participate in the virtual alternative, which can be run between Sept. 7-14.

More details, including entry information, will be announced in the coming weeks.

It’s the biggest alteration to the Boston Marathon, which was inspired by the marathon’s debut at the first modern Olympics in 1896. Previously, the biggest change came in 1918, the last year of World War I. The marathon was still held on Patriots’ Day in April but as a 10-man military relay race.

The original 2020 Boston elite fields included two-time U.S. Olympian Des Linden, the 2018 Boston winner who was fourth at the Feb. 29 Olympic Trials, where the top three earned Olympic spots.

London is the world’s other major spring marathon. It was rescheduled from April 27 to Oct. 4. Its original fields for April were headlined by the two fastest men in history — Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele. It’s unknown if they will remain in the field, should London happen.

The fall major marathon schedule

Boston — Sept. 7-14 (virtual event)
Berlin — TBD (will not be held as planned on Sept. 27)
London — Oct. 4
Chicago — Oct. 11
New York City — Nov. 1

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MORE: U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials results

When Meb Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon while wearing the names of bombing victims

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Before starting the 2014 Boston Marathon, Meb Keflezighi had four names scribbled in marker on his race bib corners: Martin, Krystle, Lingzi and Sean.

Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu died as a result of the twin bombings near the Boylston Street finish line during the 2013 Boston Marathon. Three days later, Sean Collier, a policeman, was shot and killed in a confrontation with the attackers.

Keflezighi ran in 2014 in their memory and with his own remembrance. All the way to one of the defining victories in the race’s 123-year history, becoming the first U.S. male runner to win in 31 years.

A year earlier, Keflezighi left an observer grandstand near the finish line of the Boston Marathon about five minutes before the bombs went off.

“The four victims that died in the explosion were spectators just like me,” he said.

It marked a career turnaround at age 38 for Keflezighi, who had been dropped by Nike three years earlier. He considered retirement. The 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2009 New York City Marathon champion had placed 23rd at his previous marathon and withdrew before the 2013 Boston race with a calf injury.

Keflezighi went out hard from the start, keen on meeting his minimum pre-race goal: to set a personal best. At the halfway point, he and little-known American Josphat Boit led the field by 30 seconds.

In the chase pack, other Americans conversed and strategized not to push the pace in pursuit.

“We needed to give Meb as much space as possible,” Ryan Hall, the fastest American marathoner in history, texted Tim Layden, then of Sports Illustrated and now of NBC Sports. “If the African guys were going to try to catch him, we weren’t going to do the work to help them. It wasn’t my day to win, as much as I wanted to. Meb winning was the next best thing and what the US needed.”

Keflezighi pulled away from Boit between the 15th and 19th miles, opening a one-minute lead. The margin dropped to about eight seconds at the 25-mile mark, but Keflezighi held off Kenyan Wilson Chebet by 11 seconds on Boylston.

“This is beyond running,” Keflezighi, whose full first name, Mebrahtom, means “let there be light” in the Eritrean language, said in a finish-area TV interview. “This is for the people, for the Boston Strong. We’re resilient as runners.”

Keflezighi, born in Eritrea, moved to the U.S. at age 12. His first time running seriously was in San Diego in junior high school, when PE students were given a grade for how much effort they put into a mile. He eventually earned a scholarship to UCLA and made his first Olympic team at age 25 in 2000.

Keflezighi retired from elite running in 2017 after 26 marathons, but he felt complete after Boston in 2014.

“99.9 of my career was fulfilled,” Keflezighi said after winning Boston. “Today, 110 percent.”

MORE: Marathon Week TV, live stream schedule

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Boston Marathon marathon kicks off Marathon Week on Olympic Channel

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The Boston Marathon won’t be held on Patriots’ Day on Monday, but a marathon of recent Boston Marathons will kick off Marathon Week on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA instead.

Every Boston Marathon from 2014-19 will air in a row starting at 6 a.m. ET. The following six days and nights will also feature recent World Marathon Majors, culminating in a London Marathon marathon on April 26, when this year’s race in the British capital was originally scheduled.

It begins with Meb Keflezighi‘s emotional Boston victory in 2014, a year after twin bombings rocked the world’s oldest annual 26.2-mile race. The 2014 Boston Marathon also reairs at 10 p.m. on Monday. Keflezighi became the first U.S. male runner to win Boston since 1983.

In 2018, Des Linden became the first U.S. female runner to win Boston since 1985. Linden’s victory — in perhaps the worst weather conditions in Boston history — airs at 4 p.m.

The 2020 Boston Marathon, postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, was rescheduled for Sept. 14.

“It’s an expectation and a hope right now is that this date will get us to a safer place in relation to the spread of the coronavirus,” Boston mayor Marty Walsh said on March 13, while discouraging anyone from trying to run the course on Patriots’ Day. “It’s a date that the BAA [Boston Athletic Association] can make work for their runners.”

It’s one of the most significant alterations to Boston, which has been contested for 123 straight years. In 1918, the last year of World War I, the marathon was still held on Patriots’ Day but as a 10-man military relay race.

Other significant marathons that will air next week:

2017 Chicago Marathon: Galen Rupp becomes the first U.S. male runner to win the race since 2002.
2018 Berlin Marathon: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge lowers the world record by 78 seconds to 2 hours, 1 minute, 39 seconds.
2019 Chicago Marathon: Kenyan Brigid Kosgei takes 81 seconds off the women’s world record, clocking 2:14:04.

The revised 2020 World Marathon Major Schedule
March 1 — Tokyo Marathon (completed without mass participation)
Sept. 14 — Boston Marathon
Sept. 27 — Berlin Marathon
Oct. 4 — London Marathon
Oct. 11 — Chicago Marathon
Nov. 1 — New York City Marathon

MORE: NBCSN Olympic Games Week TV, live stream schedule

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Marathon Week TV schedule on Olympic Channel

Day Time (ET) Program Stream Link
Monday 6 a.m. 2014 Boston Marathon LIVE STREAM
8 a.m. 2015 Boston Marathon LIVE STREAM
10 a.m. 2016 Boston Marathon LIVE STREAM
1 p.m. 2017 Boston Marathon LIVE STREAM
4 p.m. 2018 Boston Marathon LIVE STREAM
7 p.m. 2019 Boston Marathon LIVE STREAM
10 p.m. 2014 Boston Marathon LIVE STREAM
Tuesday 12 a.m. 2015 Boston Marathon LIVE STREAM
11 a.m. 2017 Tokyo Marathon LIVE STREAM
2 p.m. 2018 Tokyo Marathon LIVE STREAM
8 p.m. 2019 Berlin Marathon LIVE STREAM
11 p.m. 2018 Berlin Marathon LIVE STREAM
Wednesday 11 a.m. 2017 Berlin Marathon LIVE STREAM
2 p.m. 2018 Berlin Marathon LIVE STREAM
8 p.m. 2019 Chicago Marathon LIVE STREAM
11 p.m. 2018 Chicago Marathon LIVE STREAM
Thursday 11 a.m. 2017 Chicago Marathon LIVE STREAM
2 p.m. 2018 Chicago Marathon LIVE STREAM
8 p.m. 2019 Tokyo Marathon LIVE STREAM
11 p.m. 2020 Tokyo Marathon LIVE STREAM
Friday 11 a.m. 2019 Tokyo Marathon LIVE STREAM
2 p.m. 2020 Tokyo Marathon LIVE STREAM
5 p.m. 2019 Berlin Marathon LIVE STREAM
8 p.m. 2018 Berlin Marathon LIVE STREAM
11 p.m. 2019 Berlin Marathon LIVE STREAM
Saturday 2 p.m. 2017 Chicago Marathon LIVE STREAM
5 p.m. 2019 Chicago Marathon LIVE STREAM
8 p.m. 2018 Chicago Marathon LIVE STREAM
11 p.m. 2019 Chicago Marathon LIVE STREAM
Sunday 6 a.m. 2018 London Marathon LIVE STREAM
9 a.m. 2016 London Marathon LIVE STREAM
12:30 p.m. 2017 London Marathon LIVE STREAM
4:30 p.m. 2018 London Marathon LIVE STREAM
7:30 p.m. 2019 London Marathon LIVE STREAM
11 p.m. 2018 London Marathon LIVE STREAM