Boston Marathon returns to normal spring after pandemic woes

Runners were preparing for the Boston Marathon on Monday, marking the return of the prestigious race to its springtime location for the first time since the pandemic began.

At 6 a.m. in Hopkinton, race director Dave McGillivray sent out a group of about 20 Massachusetts National Guard personnel, who walk the course each year, announcing the start of the 126th Boston Marathon. He told them that the “the return is greater than the reverse.” McGillivray said in an interview that “it’s a new normal” with some pandemic protocols still in place – like requiring attendees to be vaccinated or showing an exemption – “but that’s normal.”

He said he used the tagline because “we’re about to see this come to life.” “We recognize that we are not completely off the hook. We are still susceptible to the virus and need vaccinations,” he said. “We’re really not back to normal yet, but that’s what the new normal is. The key is to keep everyone safe.” The wheelchair divisions were due to start shortly after 9 a.m., followed by the elite fields.

Eleven former champions are competing. McGillivray said it’s “one of the greatest assembled professional fields of all time.” It’s only been six months since athletes ran the 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) to Copley Square in Boston for the world’s oldest and most prestigious annual marathon. The 2020 race was canceled due to the pandemic, the first cancellation since the event began in 1897. And the 2021 version was postponed, then held in October. It was the first fall edition of the marathon. The field was smaller for social distancing and the crowds were also smaller, but no less enthusiastic.

More than 28,000 runners signed up to run Monday during the Patriots’ Day holiday. It is the traditional place of the marathon on the calendar, the day which commemorates the beginning of the revolutionary war. About a third of the National Guard group also marched in October. Captain Gus Ashton, 29, said the crowds were great last year and he’s excited to come back and see even more people on the course.

“It’s still not quite normal, but it’s much closer to normal,” he said. The Boston Athletic Association celebrates the 50th anniversary of the official women’s premier division, although the eight women who lined up alongside the men that year were not the first to run the race. Bobbi Gibb is recognized as the first woman to lead Boston. She finished in 1966 among the unofficial runners known as bandits. A year later, Kathrine Switzer registered as “KV Switzer” and got an official bib. Race director Jock Semple tried to run her off the course.

Nina Kuscsik’s victory in 1972 is celebrated this year. Five of the original eight women participate in the celebrations. Valerie Rogosheske, who finished sixth in the 1972 race, will race again this year, along with her daughters, and will serve as the honorary starter for the women’s elite field. Amy Sipe, 46, of Dallastown, Pa., said the anniversary makes this year’s race, her fourth time on the course, more exciting and special.

“I am grateful for the pioneering effort they made to make this possible for us today,” she said of her precursors on the starting line. “Their grit, courage and determination to overcome all odds has made this possible for us today and for female athletes around the world. It carries over to other sports.” Back then, she says, many people thought women could only run a few miles.: “We are there today. We are strong.” Sipe went to the marathon with a Delaware-based running club, along with Alison McCann, 47, and Mardi Ung, 55. The two women from Pennsylvania both raced in October. “It was tapered, rest, repeat, then back to training,” McCann described the last semester.

This year, the women’s peloton is one of the toughest ever. Reigning Olympic gold medalist Peres Jepchirchir, London and New York marathon winner Joyciline Jepkosgei and Ethiopian Degitu Azimeraw all have personal bests faster than Boston’s course record. Kenya’s Benson Kipruto won the men’s race in October and will be looking to defend his title. Ukrainians registered for the race were offered a refund or postponement to a future race if they were unable or unwilling to run this year. Residents of Russia and Belarus have been told they are not welcome.


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