As the running community searches for solutions to salvage their iconic events in 2020 in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, from postponements to virtual competitions, here’s another, more nuanced idea for the Boston Marathon 2020.

After suggesting a medical-teams relay as an alternative to the standard 27,000-strong Boston Marathon field, a format that would both hail our frontline healthcare practitioners, and  mirror the military-teams relay staged in 1918 during World War I to salute the U.S. expeditionary forces, the thought of an Elite-only race to limit the number of runners was also proposed. That was the solution the 38,000-strong Tokyo Marathon went with March 1st.

But based on the current trajectory of the Covid-19 disease, mid-September might still be too soon to start flying people across oceans and continents safely without adequate testing procedures in place.  So another alternative solution would be to limit the 2020 Boston Marathon to American-only elites.

All those American athletes who ran in the Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta in February? Well, here would be a second chance at glory in 2020, though of a different kind. And as with the idea of a medical-teams relay, the American—only Elite format would also tie directly into Boston’s history.

According to the Boston Athletic Association’s History of the Boston Marathon, “Monday, April 19, 1897the Boston Marathon was originally called the American Marathon and was the final event of the B.A.A. Games.”

So despite Chicago having changed its name from the Mayor Daley Marathon to America’s Marathon/Chicago between 1982 and 1987, it’s Boston that has the original American-named connection.

Therefore, if a medical-teams relay would salute today’s frontline healthcare professionals and tie in to the military-teams relay staged in 1918, then an American-only elite Boston in 2020 would similarly touch back to the event’s historic roots while minimizing the impact of large numbers gathering during the current medical crisis.

Acknowledging that no alternative would be perfect, let’s keep thinking. Stay safe  Stay well.  



  1. So, the covid catch phrase ” we are in this together” does not apply? The elites, in this case, are now lumped in with the top 1% of the wealthy. They gain favor based on status. Hey, Elites, I am all for your awesomeness. You guys and gals break barriers most don’t even dream of. Now, and to my point, did I not train as hard to deserve a run if there is one? At 50, not only did I log 250 mile weeks, I also worked 60/70 hour weeks at my business, jungled family life, and took care of our mother, who has since passed. None of this stopped me from qualifying on my 1st attempt. What makes someone else’s determination more worthy? If Boston runs Elites only, there will only be a handful of Elites – the individual winners of each category. The rest are chasing the dream and would’ve been no better than the average masses who weren’t permitted to run. Just thinking out loud and am sorry if I offended anyone. Just thinking “Elites only” could be sort of decisive in a time when everyone seems to preach inclusiveness???

    1. Not to be too critical, but just wondering if D. Kusiowski meant that s/he was running 250 miles per MONTH and not 250 miles per week. Seems that would be a bit more possible/plausible. I’d imagine 250/month is beyond elite, but almost superhuman! 🙂

      1. That 250 number jumped out at me as well. Coupled with 60/70 hrs/week working makes it impossible to believe.

  2. Boston is the Super Bowl for the common runner. Any alternative that negates this year’s qualifications shouldn’t even be considered. Elites will always have their races. Not everyone will qualify again for Boston.

  3. I think we need to be open to all scenarios and one that honors Boston’s history is a great idea. I’ve suggested a 50th running of New York could be elite-only staged entirely within Central Park just as it was in 1970.

    1. Good idea, Paul. The 2007 Olympic Trials Men’s Marathon held within Central Park worked beautifully and would give credence to that model for 2020, even as it mirrors the event’s history on a historic anniversary. Thanks for sharing, and stay well.


  4. Great idea, Toni, though it’s still appearing too soon to have any large/semi-large scale groups even in September (although I don’t doubt that Deniers will deny that). Good health to you and Toya.

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