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2021 Boston Marathon will be held Oct. 11 if Mass. eases COVID-19 restrictions

The Boston Marathon was canceled in 2020.
The Boston Marathon was canceled in 2020.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/file

It’s a date — maybe.

The 2021 Boston Marathon will move to the fall, specifically Oct. 11, if the pandemic has eased enough by then for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to allow the 26.2-mile Hopkinton-to-Back Bay race to proceed.

“We announce the 2021 Boston Marathon date with a cautious optimism, understanding full well that we will continue to be guided by science and our continued collaborative work with local, city, state, and public health officials,” said Tom Grilk, president and CEO of the Boston Athletic Association, in a statement Tuesday.

“If we are able to hold an in-person race in October, the safety of participants, volunteers, spectators, and community members will be paramount.”

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For the race to take place, three requirements must be met:

  • The state will have to be in Phase 4 of its reopening plan.
  • Road races will have to be permitted.
  • The eight cities and towns along the course will have to grant their approval.

In non-pandemic years, the Marathon attracts some 30,000 runners and an estimated half-million spectators along the route.

The BAA’s announcement came hours after the city of Boston said it would move to Phase 3, Step 1, of the state’s reopening plan on Feb. 1. Much of the state is already in Phase 3, Step 1.

A man walked past the faded starting line of the Boston Marathon on Main Street in Hopkinton on Tuesday.
A man walked past the faded starting line of the Boston Marathon on Main Street in Hopkinton on Tuesday.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The early stages of the pandemic last spring led to the postponement and then the cancellation last May of the race for the first time in its 124-year history. Customarily held each Patriots Day Monday in April, the “race” last year morphed into a virtual event that took place in a span of one week in early September.

“While it was of course the right thing to do, canceling the 2020 Boston Marathon for the first time in its 124-year history was one of the hardest announcements to make,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Tuesday.

“Today, I’m filled with hope, as we set our sights on October for the running of the 125th Boston Marathon. We have a ways to go before we’re out of the woods, but guided by sound judgment and the advice of our public health experts, I am hopeful that we’ll get to enjoy the return of one of Boston’s most storied traditions this fall.”

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Citing hope for “getting back to a new normal in 2021,” Governor Charlie Baker added, “We will continue to work with local partners and the BAA to monitor the situation and remain hopeful that the 125th Boston Marathon can take place this October.”

There will still be an option for runners to run the race virtually, the BAA said, but details are not yet available. Registration dates, field size, safety measures, health protocols, and participant requirements are also still to come.

The qualifying window for this year’s race opened in September 2018.

The BAA’s 5K race will be held virtually over Patriots Day weekend, April 16-18, with registration opening Feb. 1.


Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.