Organizers expect 18,000
By Eddie Medina, Boston.com Staff, 3/17/00
Last year the BAA raised the cap on the field, expecting more runners than usual would be interested in the first Boston Marathon of the 21st century. The decision appears to have been prophetic.
Last year's official field was 12,797, though thousands of unofficial runners also took part.
"This race has definitely been as large as expected. And it will definitely be the biggest field since 1996," said Guy Morse, directing his 15th Boston Marathon this year for the BAA.
Over the past few weeks, BAA volunteers have been busy working the phones to verify the applications of thousands of runners who waited to mail their paperwork in until the March 1 entry deadline. Jack Fleming, BAA spokesman, expects bib numbers will be assigned by mid-March.
Though the field will be the largest since the 100th marathon, which attracted 38,708 runners in a field without a size limit, the BAA will rely on much the same staff and technology they've used in recent years.
Many of the same 6,000 volunteers that manned the centennial marathon are expected to help pull off this year's, Morse says. The microchips that attach to shoes and track a runner's time will also return, as well as Web-based delivery of race results.
That's in stark contrast to the 15 men who started and finished the first marathon in 1897, starting from a line drawn in the dirt with the heel of a shoe.
Though Morse doesn't foresee a race "so encompassing as the 100th," he says the BAA will implement a more expansive busing program to ferry runners out to Hopkinton, where the race begins. The BAA will also have to deal with some logistical challenges around the start and finish areas, Morse said.
Morse doesn't believe the larger field will affect communities along the race route any more than past marathons, but the BAA contacted those communities earlier this year to alert them.
In keeping with the BAA's ever-expanding efforts to incorporate the Internet into the race, two new technology sponsors join the BAA's list: network router leader Cisco Systems Inc., and Applied Theory, which provides network and connectivity solutions. Both will lend their expertise to the number-crunching on race day, along with Quantic Communications Inc., which designs the BAA Web site. The site itself will offer much the same as last year, but the BAA is seeking to perfect their delivery of information online this year.
Return sponsors include John Hancock, Citgo, Gatorade and Adidas (which inked a 10-year deal with the BAA late last year).
Johnny A. Kelley will return to the pace car as the marathon's grand marshal this year, after illness kept him from marshal's duties last year. Runner's World named Kelley "Runner of the Century" in its January 2000 issue. Kelley, 92, will throw out the first pitch at the Red Sox' traditional morning game at Fenway Park on race day. He ran 61 Boston Marathons, winning two and placing second seven times. A sculpture of Kelley stands at the base of Heartbreak Hill on Commonwealth Avenue in Newton.
Also this year, four-time marathon winner Bill Rodgers, 52, will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first Boston Marathon victory in 1975. "He will be doing broadcast work for Channel 5, along with Joan Benoit Samuelson," Fleming said.
"[Rodgers] embodies all that's Boston, and so does Johnny," Morse said.