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Update: In news that many people saw as inevitable, organizers of the Boston Marathon announced on March 13 (two days after this opinion article was published) that they are postponing the race until Sept. 14 in recognition of the danger posed by the new coronavirus. And the London Marathon followed on March 13 with its own postponement, to Oct. 4. We can run another day — in six (or seven) months.

It’s my job to think about the novel coronavirus. As a journalist at STAT, I’ve been steeped in outbreak coverage for several weeks now. Covid-19 first seeped, then flooded, into public health, politics, business, education, and athletics — in other words, life.

And now into my life. I live and run in Boston. That means I can say “I’m running Boston” without adding the word “marathon” when I tell people I’m training for the race, scheduled for April 20.


I don’t want the coronavirus to derail my plans, even though it feels petty to think that way about a novel, sometimes fatal disease we can’t prevent or cure — even though it also derails the plans of 31,000 other athletes, disappoints the millions who line the course, and jeopardizes the $211 million in revenues it means for the greater Boston area.

It’s a privilege to pin on a bib to run the Boston Marathon, something I’ve been remarkably fortunate to do for 10 years in a row. After qualifying and registering for this marathon last year, I was invited to compete in a masters’ (read: over 40) championship as part of the London Marathon, which may or may not happen on April 26.


I’ve logged 500 miles since Dec. 26, but won’t be shocked if I don’t get to run either race.

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Paris and Barcelona postponed their spring marathons until October. Tokyo limited its March race to about 300 elite runners. Tel Aviv said only runners who had been in the country a week before its Feb. 28 race could toe the starting line, but looked the other way for some who just showed up.

In my heart of hearts, I just want to run the 26.2-mile course with all the other runners, soak in the cheers from enthusiastic crowds, and thank countless selfless volunteers. Whether I chat nervously with a fellow runner in a corral in Hopkinton, the starting point for the Boston Marathon, or banter in a pen in Greenwich, the starting point for London’s, I hope to draw energy from kindred spirits who share a purpose and months of work doing the hard thing we love.

And yet.

Just as runners in the Boston Marathon in 2013 weren’t the ones injured or killed by the bombs, runners in Boston or London may not be the ones harmed by the coronavirus. It’s the crowds along the way, the vendors at the pre-race expo, the servers in restaurants, the staffers in hotels, the workers in subways, or the drivers in their Ubers who may be exposed to whatever danger runners and the people around them bring to the city. And the same holds true for the volunteers, who choose to give their time just for the love of running.

Boston and London have decisions to make about the greater good of their cities. My guess — as a journalist, a runner, a native of Boston — is they will consider such facts as they can muster in the next few weeks, rise to the occasion, and choose to put no one in danger.

We can run another day.

Elizabeth Cooney is the editor of STAT Plus, STAT’s subscriber-only service for pharma, biotech, business, and policy coverage.

  • I am all ready to run Boston this year but You are right we can run another day. Even if they don’t cancel it now I don’t know if I would go to Boston in light of everything that is going on

  • Circumstances such as COVID-19 are why every conteact has a “force majuere” clause.

    Sadly, we’re wasting our time bickering over which party bears the financial losses of event cancellation rather than taking the steps necessary to slowbthe spread of the virus.

    The healthcare system in the USA has been progressively devolving over the past 40 years and an influx of even a modest number of patients rewuiring extended critical care would overwhem it in a short amount of time.

    We have fewer hospital beds per 1000 than very nearly every other developed or developing nation – thus wr should be even more aggressive with evenr cancellation than these countries. But we are not. I guess the notion of American Exceptionalism remains very mych aluve and well…even if many of its adherents soon won’t be.

  • This would be my fifth straight Boston and I think we all see the signs of canceling coming our way. I guess Boston Strong was just a t-shirt. I am ok with canceling or postponing though if that’s what needs to be done. If they cancel, they need to refund as best as they can otherwise they are basically stealing our money. And they need to make sure everyone who is qualified this year runs next year. I have friends who finally qualified the first time this year and that would stink if they don’t get in. If you raised money for charity, you should get in next year without having to do that again. And no charges from shady hotels that charge people when they don’t stay there. Holding the race without everyone running is a cheat, no elite only races!

    • The strongest thing to do is to do what we don’t want and that means cancelling in this instance.

  • I think the more effective way of spreading your idea is to start a petition to cancel or delay the Boston Marathon.

  • Why mayor Walsh hasn’t come to his senses and cancel the Boston marathon is beyond all commonsense.The st Patrick day parade has been postponed so why not the marathon

    • Agreed. Time to be proactive instead of reactive when thousands of people are exposed.

    • Canceling now is an overreaction. There are 40 days to the race. I think they can wait till early April and see where we are as far as the virus goes. Honestly I am considering coming anyway and running the course. Something tells me I wouldn’t be the only one.

  • Dear Elizabeth,

    I respect your opinion, and your right to publish it. How do however feel very differently than you do about this. Like many runners, I have trained for this day for significantly over a year, including long during during the winter. I have raised funds for a charity that my donors have so generously supported. While I genuinely sympathize with those affected by Coronavirus, I feel very strongly that this race must go on as scheduled. The hysteria and media hype around this are reckless, and are not consistent with other threats that have not caused a similar level of hysteria, cancellations, and more.

    Several years back, the term “Boston Strong” was born. I think we punch this disease right in the face and continue the race as planned, only with every possible and reasonable precaution that the best and most qualified people can implement in the time frame that we have.

    I wish you and everybody else a fantastic marathon, whenever it is, and despite our differences of opinion on this matter.

    • “The hysteria and media hype around this are reckless, and are not consistent with other threats that have not caused a similar level of hysteria, cancellations, and more.”

      Actually the reporting is based on this exact virus and its actual effects in other countries. We are about 10 days behind Italy, trending exactly like they were at this time. The need to take decisive action was a few weeks ago. We have less hospital capacity per capita, and they are in a crisis.

  • I’m not good at writing but you stole the words right out of my fuzzy thoughts. I’m running my very first marathon – London Marathon this year and at this point I don’t care if I get to run or not… If I want to really run, I can run anywhere, as much as I want… What I currently care about it the risk I’d be putting on others… Like the volunteers.

    We can run another day! Well said and I toast to that!

  • I can’t believe there are comments on here saying to run it. Have you not seen the condition Italy is in on the news?! Bearing in mind America is about a month behind Italy, then to host a marathon with runners coming from all over these COVID 19 hit countries & Boston to be at peak infection, then common sense suggests to cancel, as there’s always another day as the post suggests. FACT: Someone will inevitably die from attending (runner or spectator), when you look at the European figures, so why is it even a debate on what should be done.

  • The reason why I became a runner is because the Boston marathon bombing of 2013 as a result of a pain rehab treatment program after a horrific cycling accident. I found out one couldn’t just paint entry fee and run it to show support. It took me running over 10,000 miles to qualify… Then didn’t get in due to so many people applying that also qualified faster than me. That year I turned 35, so I was given And additional five minutes to qualify. The next year the same five minutes was taken away due to qualifying standards being changed. I ran a faster marathon than the previous year for my first race of my next year at new standards and didn’t qualify. My body was falling apart and I developed exercise induced asthma from smoking cigarettes for a 19 1/2 years which I gave up after one month of starting my training. My next race it was either all or nothing and I ran a sub three marathon 13.5 minutes into qualifying finally gaining entry into the 2020 race. I feel that if it’s canceled due to this “Pandemic“ I won’t continue my new goal of running all 6 world majors. Boston would be #4 followed by Tokyo in London to finish it out. Right now I have on my schedule attempting a sub 2:45 marathon so I can qualify for Tokyo. What’s the point if they’re just gonna be canceled anyway… I know I worked my ass off to get here but it seems like I should just sit back and light up again. It was actually the only thing that was keeping my PTSD at bay…. so Boston please don’t cancel if you’re reading this. Along with many more, I have tried so hard to get here. I told myself I would die to qualify for Boston! Now that I have, I would die PROUD to run it! I said leave it up to the Runner and have them sign waivers saying that, “you could get coronavirus if you run” initial here 🤷🏼‍♂️ Being a part of the Boston marathon is a dream I never thought possible. Don’t take it away!

    • @Benjamin Haukoos
      How many times did you say “I” in your comment? It’s all about you, right? You missed the whole point of Elizabeth’s point column. It’s not about YOU. It’s about the thousands of people that are putting themselves at risk so YOU can run. How selfish can you be? People such as yourself are what is destroying the sport (and the country).

  • What are we really scared of? The corona virus has been completely blown out of proportion. Do you know how many people have died from the flu this season In the US so far? 10000 people. How many from corona? 55. How many people in the US under 50 have been hospitalized by corona? The media is perpetuating a visceral fear every day about the “pandemic” when in reality it can be as mild as a seasonal cold. The race must go on. Don’t feed into the fear.

    • You’re terribly misinformed. Look up the r-naught for coronavirus. Then look up the mortality rate of the flu vs coronavirus. Even if the mortality rate is barely a smidgeon above the flu, this will be an absolute disaster! 62K people died from the flu in 2017/18. 500,000 were hospitalized.

      Did you even know that you can spread coronavirus BEFORE you exhibit any symptoms? Are you a troll?

      So here’s the scenario for you…you go to Boston, run the race, catch coronavirus, and then bring it back to wherever you live only to pass it along to others before you realize you’re infected. Meanwhile the person you gave it to can’t fight the disease and dies. Yeah, just stick that head in the sand smh

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