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BAA invites Boston Marathon non-finishers back for 2014

Runners who were unable to finish the 2013 race will be able to go back to the Boston Marathon start line in Hopkinton next year.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Runners who were unable to finish the 2013 race will be able to go back to the Boston Marathon start line in Hopkinton next year.

The Boston Athletic Association is welcoming back the runners who were unable to reach the Boston Marathon finish line last month because of the bombings.

The group extended an invitation Thursday to the 5,633 qualified runners who failed to finish the race. They will be welcome to run in the 2014 race.

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“The opportunity to run down Boylston Street and to cross the finish line amid thousands of spectators is a significant part of the entire Boston Marathon experience,” said BAA executive director Tom Grilk.

“With the opportunity to return and participate in 2014, we look forward to inviting back these athletes and we expect that most will renew their marathon training commitment.

“We want to thank our participants for their patience as we continue to work through the details of arranging this accommodation for them, and we ask for continued patience from the running community as we plan the 2014 Boston Marathon next April.”

The BAA’s statement laid out the guidelines as follows:

“To be eligible, a 2013 Boston Marathon participant must have been an official entrant who started the race and who reached the half marathon mark. Registration for the 2014 Boston Marathon is scheduled to occur in September, and 2013 Boston Marathon participants who were unable to cross the finish line on Boylston Street will receive a non-transferable unique code in early August to be used for entry. An applicant’s entry will be guaranteed only during a designated registration period. Participants will be required to pay an entry fee, which has yet to be determined.”

Ryan Polly of Burlington, Vt., was running his first marathon on April 15 when he was stopped with less than a mile to go to the finish line.

In the days that followed, his first thoughts were with the victims, and he helped organize a 5K race on April 20 in Burlington called “Get Moving for Boston” that raised more than $15,000.

Then his thoughts turned to others like him who were forced to abandon the race, and he soon found out he wasn’t alone. He and others worried that it might seem selfish to voice concerns about what would happen to the runners who had to stop.

“We needed to finish, we needed to be able to cross the finish line,” he said.

So Polly launched a petition online at Change.org to urge the BAA to invite the stopped runners back for 2014.

“Many people had reached out to the BAA, but knowing they were busy, the idea was, ‘How can we get all the voices in one place?’ ” he said. “It was somewhat healing to at least know you were not alone.”

After the petition took off, many thanked Polly for giving them the opportunity to add their voice, and he said he had a series of communications with the BAA about the issue that he described as “amicable.”

Polly was working from home Thursday when he got a message via Facebook about the BAA’s decision.

“I was super-excited,” he said. “I just had this sense of happiness, excitement and just gratitude that the BAA did hear what we needed and honored that request.”

The BAA still has not decided on the scope of the 2014 race, which is expected to be both a commemoration of the bombings and a celebration of the history of the Marathon.

But coordinating how big the field can grow, potentially beyond its normal size of about 27,000 runners, is a logistical challenge. Organizers are still discussing those issues with officials from the state and the cities and town along the route.

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