The second day of the second annual Adidas Boost Boston Games will move to Charles Street Sunday at 3:15 p.m. World record-holders, Olympians, and several of the nation’s top high school athletes will compete on an elevated track between the Public Garden and Boston Common.
Last year, hundreds of fans lined the walls blocking the track, watching the world’s fastest runners compete just a few steps away. For a city that embraces its annual marathon unlike any other, it was unsurprising that the 2016 Boost Boston Games drew such a crowd.
Many of the top runners in this year’s field hope for a similar turnout Sunday.
“We are here for the fans and showing the fans why we do this,” said Jeff Henderson, who won the 2016 Olympic gold medal in the long jump. “For us, it’s to represent for the USA, and it’s the hardest meet of the year for us.”
Headlining a loaded field is South African Wayde van Niekerk, whose 400-meter time of 43.03 seconds at the 2016 Rio Olympics broke Michael Johnson’s world record set in 1999. Van Niekerk will race in the final competition of the day, the 200 meters, at approximately 5:55 p.m.
Tori Bowie, the only American track and field athlete to take home three medals in Rio, will race in the 150 meters at 4:27 p.m. In addition to the traditional track events, the Boston Fire Department will race the Boston Police Department in a relay at 3:30 p.m.
Despite their experiences and successes, many of these athletes have never run in this type of event. The Boost Boston Games, inspired by popular street races in Manchester, England, is the only street meet of its kind in the country.
“I’m very excited,” van Niekerk said. “I don’t know what to think or feel because it’s something new.”
Constructing a track overnight in one of the city’s most visited areas presents its challenges. Last year, some runners complained that the track’s surface was uneven, raising the likelihood for injury.
But many of last year’s participants chose to return, viewing the Boost Boston Games as an opportunity to qualify for the world track championships in London in early August. Others who already have achieved Olympic glory are using Sunday as a building block.
“I normally put a lot of pressure on myself,” Bowie said. “But this year, it’s all about executing on what I have been doing in training and see what kind of results I can get from that.”Brad Almquist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @bquist13.