The Boston Marathon, one of the country’s oldest continuous sporting events, will not take place on April 20 because of mounting concerns about the coronavirus.
Another prestigious event, the London Marathon, was postponed a few hours later. It had been scheduled for April 26, and for some British runners would have served as a qualifier for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in late July.
The Boston Marathon will be Sept. 14. The London Marathon will take place on Oct. 4.
After resisting calls to cancel the race for weeks, the Boston Athletic Association, which owns the Boston Marathon, announced the postponement, because health officials have said banning large-scale events is important to stop the spread of the virus.
The 26.2-mile race first took place in 1897 and has been held annually through wars, periods of domestic tension, and in intense weather.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston said the race brings more than $200 million to the city.
“So you think about the economic impact on the city but the bottom line is my job as mayor is to make sure that people are safe,” Walsh said earlier this week.
The race, which follows a course from Hopkinton in Boston’s western suburbs, to downtown Boston, has a field of 30,000 runners, and hundreds of thousands more line the streets to cheer them on. Other than the Olympic trials, it is the only major marathon in the country that most runners have to qualify for by running fast enough to meet a standard for their age group.
It is a major accomplishment for weekend warriors and the qualifying times last for one year only. The athletic association does not allow runners to defer their entries for a year if they get injured. About 6,000 runners get into the race by committing to raise money for charity.
The London Marathon followed suit a few hours later. “The world is in an unprecedented situation grappling with a global pandemic of COVID-19 and public health is everyone’s priority,” Hugh Brasher, the director of the race, said in a statement.
More than 750,000 spectators were expected to cheer on some 40,000 runners through the streets of London. That includes some of the top elite marathoners in the world, including defending champions and world record holders Eilud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei. The race also would have decided some members of the British Olympic marathon team.
Both races are part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a collection of the six largest marathons in the world. This is the third marathon in the series impacted by the coronavirus. The Tokyo Marathon was restricted to elite athletes.
Coronavirus has wreaked havoc with the global road racing schedule, with organizations following different strategies. The Tel Aviv Marathon, scheduled for late February, prohibited anyone from flying into the country to run the race. The Paris Marathon, scheduled for April, postponed the event until October, as did the Barcelona Marathon.