The marathon is traditionally held on the third Monday in April, which is celebrated as Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts. It was postponed this year amid the coronavirus pandemic and eventually was staged in September as a virtual-only event.
The Boston Athletic Association (BAA), which stages the marathon, noted Wednesday that Massachusetts has yet to move to Phase 4, the final stage of its reopening plan and the only one that allows for road races and other large athletic events held outdoors. With fewer than six months before Patriots’ Day, that has left the BAA “shifting our focus to a fall date,” as the group’s CEO, Tom Grilk, said in a statement.
“Prioritizing the safety of participants, volunteers, spectators, and community members,” said Grilk, “we continue to assess all elements of the race including a potential reduced field size or weekend date.”
The Boston Marathon is one of six recognized major events in the sport, and one of three, along with marathons in Tokyo and London, that traditionally take place in the spring. Those events have already moved their 2021 dates to the fall, joining the Berlin, Chicago and New York City marathons and making for a crowded calendar:
- Sept. 26 — Berlin Marathon
- Oct. 3 — London Marathon
- Oct. 10 — Chicago Marathon
- Oct. 17 — Tokyo Marathon
- Nov. 7 — New York City Marathon
In addition, with the Tokyo Olympics having been postponed from 2020 to 2021, its marathon events, set to be held in Sapporo, will take place on Aug. 8-9.
The D.C.-area Marine Corps Marathon, one of the largest in the world, was canceled this year for the first time in its 45-year history after having been set for Oct. 25, and went virtual-only instead. A spokesperson for the event said that the MCM, which is traditionally held on the last Sunday of October, is expected to take place on Oct. 31 next year, but that the date is not yet official.
Of the six major marathons, only Tokyo and London staged races this year, and they were restricted to elite-level participants. The Boston Marathon was canceled entirely as an in-person event for the first time in a history that had dated back continuously to 1897. In 1918, with the United States embroiled in World War I, the event was temporarily changed to a 10-man military relay race.
“The Marathon is one of Boston’s most beloved traditions,” the city’s mayor, Marty Walsh, said Wednesday in a statement. “We have appreciated the BAA’s cooperation in putting public health and safety first, both by shifting the 2020 Marathon to a virtual format this fall, and by postponing the 2021 Marathon until the public health data shows that it is safe for all athletes and spectators to gather in large numbers. We look forward to holding the Marathon again to celebrate not only this world-class event, but also the resilience and solidarity that the people of Boston have shown throughout this crisis.”
Grilk said his group was “optimistic that the Boston Marathon will continue its tradition of celebrating the spirit of community and athletic excellence next fall.”