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For anybody who yearns to add that unicorn medal to their collection, this might be your golden opportunity. The Boston Marathon is opening up 70,000 spots in 2021 for virtual participants to run the race—no qualifying time required—in addition to the in-person marathon scheduled for October 11.
Officials announced the virtual option on Tuesday, noting that the rescheduled 2021 marathon, its 125th anniversary (originally supposed to take place on April 19), will have a reduced field size due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Although the Boston Athletic Association has not released details on how much they will cull the list of approximately 30,000 runners toeing the line in Hopkinton, 80 percent of the field will include qualifiers and 20 percent will be invitational runners, such as charity participants.
This is the second year that the Boston Marathon has offered a virtual race. After it was canceled in 2020, about 16,000 runners ran it on their own. Virtual racing has become a popular option in the past year for runners, as well as a needed revenue stream for many event organizations that have struggled during the pandemic. Boston’s announcement could be a preview of other virtual opportunities to come from races of all sizes.
“For the first time in our history, most everyone will have the opportunity to earn a unicorn finisher’s medal for every B.A.A. race in 2021—no matter whether they choose to walk or run,” siad Tom Grilk, present and CEO of the B.A.A., in a written statement.
Virtual racers will be required to finish their 26.2 miles in one continuous attempt, but they won’t face any time restrictions. In addition to the finisher’s medal, they’ll also get a bib number, breaktape, and start and finish line.
Registration for the virtual Boston Marathon is through the B.A.A. Athletes’ Village.