Boston Marathon goes virtual around the globe amid the coronavirus pandemic

Nearly 20,000 runners are participating

BOSTON MA. – MAY 28: A runner passes the Boston Marathon Finish Line on the day the race is canceled on May 28, 2020 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
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Boston Marathon runners devastated by the race’s in-person cancellation this year due to the coronavirus pandemic will try to make the most of it next week with the marathon’s first-ever virtual experience.

Nearly 20,000 runners from across the world will run 26.2 miles on courses in about 100 countries. The runners have from Sept. 5 through 14 to cover the marathon distance in one continuous run.

The Boston Athletic Association this week launched the Virtual Experience mobile app and web platform — where runners can download bibs, spectators can securely track their loved ones’ real-time GPS, and where participants get instructions to make an at-home finish line.

There will be leaderboards for participants to compare their times to runners worldwide or locally.

The Boston Marathon Expo will also be presented virtually — highlighted by sessions with running legends, coaches, dietitians and wellness professionals. Visitors to the virtual expo will also have the opportunity for real-time video or text chats with brand representatives from participating companies, and to shop from a variety of exhibitors directly on the site.

In addition, the Boston Athletic Association announced the debut of a nightly broadcast “Boston Marathon Live” presented by Amazon and WBZ, which will air every night from Sept. 7 to 13.

“The B.A.A. is delighted to partner with Amazon and WBZ-TV to offer a week of programming that will celebrate our participants, spotlight race history, and serve as a unifying element throughout the Boston Marathon Virtual Experience,” B.A.A. CEO Tom Grilk said in a statement. “The nightly show will be available to our global audience and truly allow for us to bring Boston to the world.”

The Boston Marathon was initially postponed from April to September due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, race organizers later canceled the September in-person race because of the virus, and created a virtual race.

Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray said that about 17,000 runners will be doing the virtual marathon.

A few weeks ago, he ran a marathon and biked 40 miles for his 66th birthday. The virtual run will be his 48th Boston Marathon.

“I’ll be back out on the road again soon with 17,000 other marathoners from around the world!!” McGillivray wrote. “Looking forward to it!”

Throughout race week, the B.A.A. will raise funds for COVID-19 response through a text-to-donate campaign.