By Madeleine Pearce
Boston University News Service
As mask mandates drop and COVID-19 restrictions loosen in cities across Massachusetts, the first in-person Boston Marathon to be held in the spring since the COVID-19 pandemic signals a return to normalcy for many in the region.
The 126th Boston Marathon increased its field size to 30,000 from last fall’s total registration of 18,252 runners, bringing participation back to pre-pandemic levels. To increase involvement in the marathon despite COVID-19 safety concerns, the first fall marathon in the event’s history incorporated a virtual run to include an additional 28,612 across the globe. The anticipated race in 2020 included 31,500 registered athletes before the race was canceled.
“As we look to return to the traditional Patriots’ Day date for the first time since 2019 and allow for as many athletes to participate as safely as possible, we know that a fully vaccinated field is the appropriate requirement to implement,” Tom Grilk, president and CEO of the B.A.A. said in a written statement. “We had a 93% vaccination rate among our 125th Boston Marathon participants and want to do our part to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as we continue our return to racing.”
Last fall, runners had to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to compete. Runners who tested positive for COVID-19 could not race and were issued a refund for their entrance fee.
This spring, all athletes must be fully vaccinated and must show proof before picking up their bib number. No refunds will be issued for unvaccinated runners, but the B.A.A. agreed to individually review any cases for medical exemptions to the vaccine.
The city of Boston’s COVID-19 regulations remain in place during Monday’s event, including requirements to wear masks on public transportation, official Boston Marathon buses and medical tents.
The Boston Athletic Association encouraged all athletes and spectators to have a plan for isolation in case of testing positive for COVID-19 and recommends avoiding public activity if symptoms develop.
The 2022 Boston Marathon kicks off Monday at 9:02 a.m. with the men’s wheelchair race.