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BAA vows Boston Marathon will go on

Runners hugged after picking up their effects at the finish line Tuesday.

Adrees Latif/reuters

Runners hugged after picking up their effects at the finish line Tuesday.

The world’s oldest annual marathon will be held as scheduled next year, the Boston Athletic Association vowed after Monday’s race was interrupted when two bombs exploded near the finish line, leaving three spectators dead and nearly 180 maimed or bloodied.

“The Boston Marathon is a deeply held tradition — an integral part of the fabric and history of our community,” BAA executive director Tom Grilk said Tuesday afternoon in a statement. “We are committed to continuing that tradition with the running of the 118th Boston Marathon in 2014.”

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With race officials busy working with federal, state, and city investigators, checking with medical staffers at local hospitals, and helping runners locate their belongings, it was unclear whether the thousands of entrants who were prevented from finishing the race would be offered a place in next year’s race without having to qualify again.

“Right now we are still focused entirely on meeting the needs of people who ran this year,” Grilk told the Globe. “We certainly will address those issues and all of the other issues that will come up with the utmost care. Today is not the day for that.”

Monday’s truncated event marked the third time in six years that a major American marathon was either halted or canceled. The 2007 Chicago race, during which one runner died and more than 300 others were picked up by ambulances amid brutal 88-degree October heat, was stopped after 3½ hours, with the remaining competitors prevented from continuing past the midway point. And last year’s New York City Marathon was scrubbed two days beforehand amid the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

A Chicago Marathon spokesman said in an e-mail that ‘‘out of respect for our partners in Boston’’ he would not say whether those prevented from finishing were offered entries for the 2008 race.

“I do not feel comfortable comparing circumstances to what Boston experienced,” Jeremy Borling wrote. “I am certain [the] BAA will handle the situation in the best way possible.”

‘Boston is strong . . . resilient. And Boston has made us proud in the last 24 hours.’

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New York offered its 47,500 registrants either a refund or a guaranteed place in either the 2013, 2014, or 2015 races or in last month’s half-marathon, with half of them choosing a deferred entry.

Twice in the last three years, BAA organizers have given runners a deferral option. In 2010, after the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland created mass flight cancellations during the days preceding the race, several hundred overseas runners were offered a place in the 2011 event based on their original seeding times. Last year, with scorching heat forecast for race day, participants who picked up their bib numbers were granted the option of competing this year instead, but only 427 of the 26,716 entrants did so.

But the BAA never has had to deal with entry decisions in the wake of a race that was stopped hours after it began, leaving runners strung out from the Newton hills to the Back Bay flats. Of the 23,326 official starters, 17,584 had crossed the finish line on Boylston Street just before Copley Square when timing was stopped at 2:57 p.m.

Another 4,496 runners passed the 40-kilometer mark on Beacon Street just before Kenmore Square but were diverted from the finish. The remaining 1,246 either dropped out or were prevented from continuing, many of them at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill next to Boston College.

Among the thousands of runners who never reached the finish was Amby Burfoot, the 1968 champion who was marking the 45th anniversary of his triumph by running with two friends.

“We had already started our celebration of another completed Boston Marathon,” Burfoot noted in his report for Runner’s World, where he is Editor-at-Large. But like many others, he and his companions were kept from making the 90-degree turn onto Hereford Street that leads to the final straightaway on Boylston.

Finishing the race not only provides personal fulfillment validated by an official time but also a beribboned medal emblazoned with the BAA’s signature unicorn head. Runners who picked up their personal effects Tuesday were given medals whether or not they’d completed the race.

“We have not denied anyone a medal who came to pick up their belongings who felt they deserved one,” said Grilk. “It would have been callous to deny a medal to anybody who honored us by coming here.”

While the times of all finishers will be declared official even though the race was cut short, it was uncertain whether intermediate times for distances like 10 kilometers and the half-marathon will be valid for non-finishers hoping to use them to qualify for shorter events.

Unclear as well was whether Ben Beach, the Maryland resident who was kept from finishing what would have been a record 46th consecutive Boston race, would be considered as having his streak intact.

“I can say that we will address all questions like that with the highest degree of regard for the people who ran on Monday,” said Grilk.

For the BAA, which has kept the world’s most fabled road race going through conditions that challenged human endurance, Tuesday was a day to reaffirm human resolve.

“Boston is strong,” Grilk declared. “Boston is resilient. Boston is our home. And Boston has made us enormously proud in the last 24 hours.”

John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com.
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