The Boston Athletic Association has invited runners who were prevented from finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon because of the bombings near the finish line to participate in the 2014 race. "The opportunity to run down Boylston Street and to cross the finish line amid thousands of spectators is a significant part of the entire Boston Marathon experience," BAA executive director Tom Grilk said in a press release. "With the opportunity to return and participate in 2014, we look forward to inviting back these athletes and we expect that most will renew their marathon training commitment.
"Boston spectators are known for their impassioned support and unbridled enthusiasm, and they will give these returning athletes some of the loudest cheers at next year's race. We want to thank our participants for their patience as we continue to work through the details of arranging this accommodation for them, and we ask for continued patience from the running community as we plan the 2014 Boston Marathon next April."
From the BAA press release:
To be eligible, a 2013 Boston Marathon participant must have been an official entrant who started the race and who reached the half marathon mark in this year's race on Monday, April 15. Registration for the 2014 Boston Marathon is scheduled to occur in September, and 2013 Boston Marathon participants who were unable to cross the finish line on Boylston Street will receive a non-transferable unique code in early August to be used for entry. An applicant's entry will be guaranteed only during a designated registration period. Participants will be required to pay an entry fee, which has yet to be determined.
The BAA has emailed runners who are eligible. More than 5,700 were not able to finish when the race was stopped shortly after two bombs exploded on Boylston Street near the finish line, and the organization's press release says there are 5,633 eligible for the invitation to next year.
Ryan Polly of Burlington, Vt., was running his first marathon on April 15 when he was stopped with less than a mile to go to the finish line.
His first thoughts were with the victims, and he helped organize a 5K race on April 20 in Burlington called "Get Moving for Boston" that raised more than $15,000.
Then his thoughts turned to others like him who were forced to abandon the race, and he soon found out he wasn't alone. He and others worried that it might seem selfish to voice concerns about what would happen to the runners who had to stop.
"We needed to finish, we needed to be able to cross the finish line," he said.
So Polly launched an online petition at Change.org to urge the BAA to invite the stopped runners back for 2014.
"Many people had reached out to the BAA, but knowing they were busy, the idea was, 'How can we get all the voices in one place?' " he said. "It was somewhat healing to at least know you were not alone."
After the petition took off, many thanked Polly for giving them the opportunity to add their voices, and he said he had a series of communications with the BAA that he described as "amicable."
Polly was working from home Thursday when he got a message via Facebook about the BAA's decision.
"I was super-excited," he said. "I just had this sense of happiness, excitement, and just gratitude that the BAA did hear what we needed and honored that request."
The BAA has not decided how big the field will be for the 2014 Marathon. Following the tragedy, many runners expressed a desire to run in 2014. The BAA said it must work with the towns the course passes through as well as other city and state officials before determining changes to next year's event.
Polly said he will definitely run in 2014.
"For me, it's just going to be an opportunity to prove that I'm capable of doing something that physically I didn't think I was ever able to do," he said.
The decision to invite stopped runners back for 2014 was largely met with applause from the running community.
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
- Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
- Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes