The Boston Marathon was canceled for the first time in its 124-year history, officials announced on Thursday, as the spread of the coronavirus made clear that earlier plans to postpone the race until September were too optimistic.
The race — the most prestigious marathon in the United States — has been held annually since 1897, even amid world wars, periods of domestic tension, and in snow and rainstorms.
But with experts saying mass events remain a danger throughout the country while the coronavirus persists, the Boston Athletic Association and Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston announced that the marathon would not take place in 2020 as a “traditional, one-day event,” even as several North American sports leagues were making plans to return to play.
Organizers intend to hold a virtual marathon instead, with people running the 26.2 miles remotely.
“It’s really saddening to have to largely call off what is one of the best weekends of the year in Boston, but with the 100,000 people dead around the country, one could not do something as irresponsible as the holding of a large event,” said Tom Grilk, the chief executive of the B.A.A.
The marathon, originally scheduled for April 20, was initially postponed in March and rescheduled for Sept. 14.
But as the severity of the pandemic grew, it became clear that September was not realistic for a race that regularly brings hundreds of thousands of people together.