Track and Field

From Hopkinton to Boston, Monday's marathon absence seen, felt

For the first time in 124 years, there was no Boston Marathon on Monday. Organizers and authorities recently postponed the race until Sept. 14 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Race postponed until Sept. 14 because of coronavirus pandemic

For the first time in 124 years, the Boston Marathon wasn't contested on Monday as the race was postponed recently because of the coronavirus pandemic and rescheduled for Sept. 14. (Mary Schwalm/Associated Press/File)

"It All Starts Here."

The motto is bannered on the Hopkinton website, laid into the floor of the Marathon Elementary School, painted on a sign that sends Boston Marathon participants off on their way to Copley Square.

Since 1924, this 300-year-old Massachusetts town serendipitously located 42.2 kilometres west of Boston has been the starting line for the world's most prestigious road race and, like Marathon and Athens themselves, the two are enduringly linked.

From the starting line in this leafy Colonial town to the finish on Boylston Street, residents and runners are preparing for a spring without the Boston Marathon — the first in 124 years.

Organizers and authorities have postponed the race originally scheduled for Monday until Sept. 14 because of the coronavirus pandemic, stripping the streets of brightly coloured singlets and opening a gap in the sporting schedule for runners from all over the world.

"Tradition's an overused word. But this really is a rite of spring," said Tim Kilduff, a longtime Hopkinton resident and former Boston Marathon race director. "So this year it will lead into a beautiful fall season in New England."

Flowers grown to decorate course placed at hospitals

The daffodils are in bloom now from Hopkinton Green to Copley Square and all along the 42.2 km route in between. Thousands of the bright yellow flowers were planted after the 2013 bombing as a symbol of rebirth and resilience, and they have the benefit of blossoming in mid-April — right around Patriots' Day — to cheer the runners along.

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Thousands more potted daffodils have decorated the course each year since the explosions at the finish line that killed three people and wounded more than 180 others. With the state holiday and the race postponed until the fall, the blooms will have long since withered.

Instead, many of the flowers grown to decorate the course were placed outside of hospitals to thank health care staffers for working through the pandemic. Outside Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, just down the road from the 1 Mile To Go marker in Kenmore Square, the flowers were arranged in a heart. A sign encouraged workers to take a plant home.

Just a few steps from the finish line, the Marathon Sports shoe store on Boylston Street gets especially busy over the weekend leading up to the race, when tens of thousands of runners descend on the Back Bay. Things typically cool off on Monday, giving the staff a chance to pop out and cheer the finishers.

Store staff to encourage people to run Monday

Marathon participants are easily recognizable after the race: There is the medal around their neck, of course, and a mylar warming blanket draped around their shoulders if the weather is cold. Often their bib number is still pinned to their chest.

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A memorial stands on the sidewalk outside to the three killed in the explosions and the two police officers who died in the ensuing manhunt, which shut down the city and surrounding area for much of the week. The store reopened about two weeks later.

Now it's closed again.

"We are going to be encouraging runners to go out and get a run in on their own, keeping the social distancing, but not to run the race route itself," said Dan Darcy, Marathon Sports' marketing director. "We're not able to do any sort of celebration."


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