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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.

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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.

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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.

  • It’s much bigger than you write about. This would mean the death of the Boston Marathon. Why on earth would anyone train and work so hard to qualify for an event that may never happen in the future. Because you know this isn’t the end of this virus. It will come back every year and it will be the same thing. So Boston marathon will be done and so will Boston as a city. Boston will become like a Baltimore or Cleveland. No marathon, why would people want to come there?

  • What you haven’t considered is the people like me that only have one shot to do this. Who have not only put in the time and training, but have invested thousands of dollars to travel cross country and reserved overpriced rooms to get there! How do I recoup the money and try to reschedule time off from a busy work schedule to do it again?

  • Will look forward to another running event with all my running colleagues…See you in Boston when the coronavirus is tamed. Right call on cancelling in my humble opinion. Keep running all!

  • Ich habe mich für diesen Kauf qualifiziert und bin stolz darauf. Es ist mein erster Boston Lauf. Nach einem Jahr mit Verletzungen, aufgrund dessen ich nicht kaufen konnte, ist dieser Marathon ein Geschenk an meine Wiedergenesung. Wir laufen!

    • Germany is one of the worst hit countries from COVID 19 !! You would only be worsening the cases. You should be thinking about others instead of yourself !

  • Thanks for your article. This will be my 10 th or so Boston since my first in 1996. I love going to Boston. I am 71. My daughter is a GP on the front lines of Coronavirus. She says “Mum don’t go.” I am sure you are correct in your thoughts that the organizers will do the right thing and we can run another day. Keep on running, Sue in Calgary, Canada

  • People’s lives matter more tHan a race.
    Passion should never take precedence over common sense and corporate or financial greed.

    • Questo articolo è veramente la conferma della psicosi maniacale dei runner. Ci sono persone che stanno morendo, medici e infermieri che non fanno il tampone perché se risultassero positivi non possono lavorare in questa emergenza, rischiando in prima persona, e….in tutto questo? Voglio sentire gli applausi all’arrivo. CHE VERGOGNA!!

  • Rubbish! Sheer hysterical nonsense, Ms. Cooney. So far, the CDC has estimated (based on weekly influenza surveillance data) that at least 12,000 people have died from influenza between Oct. 1, 2019 through Feb. 1, 2020, and the number of deaths may be as high as 30,000. How come no one is living in a plastic bubble over that fact?

    We live in a mollycoddle culture with device-addled idiots staring at their palms instead of the sidewalk in front of them. The Boston Marathon has NEVER been cancelled. Media hysteria is no reason to cancel it this year.

    • LOL. First and foremost you can’t compare both as the flu has been studied for decades. We know very little about COVID-19 there is no vaccine or medicine for COVID as we do for the flu.

      As per CDC, COVID appears to spend more rapidly than the flu. As some upthread said… People’s lives matter more than a race.

  • I am signed up for Paris and have been training since December. Trip and marathon was cancelled. I can’t make the trip in October when they rescheduled it. I’m thinking about doing my first ultra this fall instead. I have never run Boston, but I did run the first 20 miles of the course this past weekend.

  • Thank you for your well-written words. Ultimately, I think we all want to remain healthy and happy, and I hope we wish this for all others. We also wish for a safe and enjoyable marathon. However, we have been presented with a serious challenge. COVID-19 is not influenza or the common cold. In fact, it is “novel.” This is the key to understanding the crisis that is confronting us. Slowing the spread of this virus is crucial in allowing for the effective medical treatment of those afflicted. If not, people may die due to a shortage of medical equipment such as respirators; people who may have otherwise recovered with standard ICU treatment. To say that the people of Boston are not “Boston Strong” if they decide to cancel or postpone the marathon is such a gut-wrenchingly horrible thing to say. The irony here is that the truly “strong” decision would be for us to cancel the marathon and make the health and wellness of friends, family, and those we don’t even know our number one priority. Yes we have all trained hard and yes some of us, including myself, have raised thousands of dollars. But who would actually enjoy this marathon? Knowing it’s impact? Who thinks it’s a good idea to corral thousands of heavy breathing runners from all over the world in Hopkinton on April 20th. Let’s take a knee on this one. We can run another day.

  • I agree completely with your thoughts. This race would also be my 10th and under any other circumstance, I would be very disappointed to not get to run. This case is different as there are bigger things at stake than me running a race or not. People will be coming from around the world and the country for this epic event, and at this point in the life of the virus, we are about curbing the exponential impact from exposure since we can no longer contain it. Race another day, as you aptly stated, and hopefully in conditions that are better for ALL of us.

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