FILE - In this April 15, 2019, file photo, fans cheer on the third wave of runners at the start of the 123rd Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass. The 2020 Boston Marathon was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time in its 124-year history. There will be a virtual event instead, where a weeklong TV special beginning Sept. 7, 2020, will showcase runners’ stories as they go the distance on their own. (AP Photo/Stew Milne, File)

Ready, set, go! Virtual Boston Marathon is about to be run

The 124th running of the Boston Marathon finally gets underway next month

BOSTON — Missing: Boston’s raucous crowds and smiles for miles. Still there, sort of: Wellesley College’s iconic “scream tunnel” and the thunderous cheers along the finish line on Boylston Street.

The 124th running of the Boston Marathon finally gets underway next month, but virtually — meaning real runners will do the hard work, and an interactive mobile app will help augment their not-quite-authentic experience.

Rather than lining up in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and making the long trek to Boston, athletes will run this year’s marathon solo because of the coronavirus pandemic. A weeklong TV special and the new mobile app will showcase their stories as they go the distance on their own.

Amazon and WBZ-TV are teaming up on a “Boston Marathon Live” broadcast that will be aired nightly starting Monday, Sept. 7, through Sunday, Sept. 13.

Co-produced by the Boston Athletic Association, which puts on the marathon every year, the show will air at 8 p.m. EDT and again at midnight on television and be streamed on CBSBoston.com.

The marathon normally is run on a Monday in April, on Massachusetts’ unique Patriots Day holiday, but was postponed to mid-September because of the pandemic. Then, at the end of May, it was cancelled altogether — the first time in its 124-year history that the storied race in its traditional format was scrapped.

Instead, registered runners are being encouraged to complete the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometre) distance by themselves — wherever they are in the world — and share accounts of their preparation, motivation and execution.

Athletes also will be able to use a mobile app the BAA is rolling out to upload their routes and finish times. The app includes audio cues that will sync with an individual runner’s progress and play at key mile markers, such as the roar of the crowd as runners approach the irrepressible women of Wellesley, a marathon tradition, and the finish on Boylston in downtown Boston.

It’s all designed to help participants get at least a feel for the real thing, even if they’re running in Bangor or Bangkok instead of Boston, the planet’s most prestigious marathon and a bucket list dream for serious runners.

BAA CEO Tom Grilk said the show will “truly allow for us to bring Boston to the world.” More than 17,000 runners worldwide are registered for the virtual version. A field of 30,000 runners participated in last year’s in-person race.

“This isn’t quite how I imagined, but it still feels exciting,” said Zach Lister, a marathoner who’s using his run to raise money for Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

One advantage to the virtual marathon: Runners can pick a day where the weather suits them, rather than get stuck racing in withering heat or pouring rain.

But covering the classic marathon distance solo — without the usual cheering crowds or fellow athletes to draw on for strength and support — won’t be easy. RC Malden, a suburban Boston running club, alluded to that Friday in a tweet: “Running a marathon is hard. Running a marathon ALONE is almost impossible.”

“Boston Marathon Live” will be hosted by WBZ-TV anchor Lisa Hughes. Each show will feature interviews with marathon personalities, including champions, and profiles on people participating in the virtual edition.

“The B.A.A. is delighted to partner with Amazon and WBZ-TV to offer a week of programming that will celebrate our participants, spotlight race history and serve as a unifying element throughout the Boston Marathon Virtual Experience,” Grilk said in a statement.

During the show, the BAA will be raising money for coronavirus response efforts.

A virtual Boston Marathon Expo also will be held, featuring sessions with running legends, coaches, dietitians and wellness professionals. Runners will have a chance to engage in real-time video or text chats with exhibitors, said Conventures Inc., which produces the expo.

William J. Kole, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Red Deer has nine active COVID-19 cases

Number of cases increased by 107 Friday

Vaping persists amongst Canadian youth

New survey into vaping habits of youth

Man sentenced to 7 years for gas-and-dash death of Alberta gas station owner

Ki Yun Jo was killed after Mitchell Sydlowski sped off in a stolen cube van without paying for $198 of fuel

Skydivers raise money for Kids Cancer Care at Innisfail Airport

A group of Albertans proved they would go to new heights to… Continue reading

Notley to stay on as Alberta NDP leader for 2023 provincial election

The NDP took almost all of Edmonton but few seats outside of the city

Vancouver Whitecaps fighting for playoff position on U.S. road trip

Vancouver Whitecaps fighting for playoff position on U.S. road trip

Toronto FC expects to play six games in home away from home in East Hartford

Toronto FC expects to play six games in home away from home in East Hartford

Reed takes the lead as the real US Open gets started

Reed takes the lead as the real US Open gets started

Eflin fans 9, Harper homers, Phillies blank Blue Jays 7-0

Eflin fans 9, Harper homers, Phillies blank Blue Jays 7-0

Citrus vs. Cactus: Tampa-Dallas NHL final is duel of former coaching associates

Citrus vs. Cactus: Tampa-Dallas NHL final is duel of former coaching associates

Billions more for health care tops premiers’ wish list for throne speech

Billions more for health care tops premiers’ wish list for throne speech

Partial closure of Canada-U.S. border extended to Oct. 21

Partial closure of Canada-U.S. border extended to Oct. 21

Provinces crack down as COVID-19 cases soar across much of Canada

Provinces crack down as COVID-19 cases soar across much of Canada

Most Read