Fitness

Mourning the 2020 Boston Marathon That Never Was

First, the 2020 Boston Marathon was postponed due to COVID-19 and then, for the first time in the race's storied 124 years, it was canceled. Here are the moments we'll miss the most.


Photograph by Scott. M. Lacey / Art by Tessa Yannone

I moved to Boston in late March of 2018. My first Boston Marathon experience was a short two weeks later, on April 16, 2018—two days after spending my first birthday in the city, celebrating with new friends at new places. I spent race day in Hopkinton, and later at the finish line, where I watched Des Linden become the first American woman to win the race since 1985 despite torrential rain, blustery wind, and chilly temps. To say I was moved would be an understatement. Between spending days leading up to the race reporting on shoes, athlete’s stories, and race projections with my new Boston magazine family and experiencing the city light up on Patriot’s Day, I felt welcomed home. I felt one with a city that was little more than a stranger at the time.

It was a good first lesson in what the race is about: coming together, despite all our differences, as one. It’s about anxiously waiting for the gun to fire at the starting line of something hard, and finishing it together as one unit—as one team. And it’s about opening our city to outsiders (like I was two years ago) and making them family. While we won’t get to celebrate the Boston Marathon after its first official cancelation, it’s still serving all of us during these uncertain times. As we continue to grieve the immense losses we’re experiencing due to coronavirus, it’s OK to give yourself the space to mourn the loss of the marathon. It’s one of the city’s most shining moments each year, and losing it is meaningful even amongst other losses. While I’m giving myself space to mourn the loss of the event that catapulted my love for Boston into what it is today, I’m also making sure to give myself room to embrace hope. Because I’m certain that when we are allowed to gather again on Boylston Street, we’ll be stronger and more resilient, not just because we’ve come back from hard and terrible things before, but because we never really were separated in theory at all—maybe in distance, but not in heart.

Here are the moments—in no specific order—I’ll miss most about not getting to celebrate this year, and which I look forward to celebrating again on some future Marathon Monday:

Decorations of the MFA for One Boston Day in 2018 / Photo provided by MFA

The general buzz of the city the weekend leading up to the Marathon, including the festivities of One Boston Day 

The festive atmosphere as everyone plays hooky for the day

Photo by Natalie Gale

Lining the streets of the course to cheer on the runners with creative signs and decorative garb

Boston marathon events

Hopkinton Town Center / Photo by Tessa Yannone

Feeling the anxious excitement of runners gathering in Hopkinton

The start of Heartbreak Hill / Photo by Greta Jochem

Watching runners ascend (and conquer) Heartbreak Hill

Marathon Monday Scream Tunnel at Wellesley College / Photo by Alexandria Otero

Hearing the deafening cheers from Wellesley’s legendary scream tunnel 

Runners approach the finish line / Photo by Simone Migliori

Getting all teary-eyed from the unmatched sportsmanship of runners on the course

Photo via Rick Powers

Petting all the good boys, like Spencer, Boston’s favorite marathon dog

Katherine Switzer of Syracuse, found herself about to be thrown out of the normally all-male Boston Marathon when a husky companion, Thomas Miller of Syracuse, threw a block that tossed a race official out of the running instead, April 19, 1967 in Hopkinton, Mass.(AP PHOTO) / Photo via AP

Catching up with running’s greatest athletes, like Kathrine Switzer, who became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967 as an officially registered competitor  

Volunteers writing encouraging messages on the pavement / Photo by Natalie Gale

Volunteers standing outside all day to make the day run (no pun intended) as smoothly as possible 

Waiting to see what lovely spring weather New England bestows upon us 

Des Linden holds up the American flag after winning the 2018 Boston Marathon / Photo via AP Images/Elise Amendola

Seeing the first elite runner break the tape and hold up their country’s flag with uncontrollable emotions  

Runners race to the finish line / Photo by Simone Migliori

Seeing the faces of all runners as they round Hereford Street and approach the finish line on Boylston  

Boston 26.2 Brew / Photo provided by Samuel Adams

Drinking a Sam Adams 26.2 Brew at a local bar (if you can get in) after the excitement of the day has settled 

The welcome sign at the convention center for the 2018 Boston Marathon expo

Opening up our city (and our hearts) to runners across the world 

Walking through Copley the next day and seeing remnants (like runners’ blankets and confetti) from the race still lingering on the streets, remembering that there’s always next year  

And so much more. What will you miss most about the city’s best holiday?