Boston Marathon organizers prepare for another rainy race
BOSTON — The Boston Marathon race director never thought he would see a repeat of the rainy, windy and generally miserable conditions from last year’s race so soon, but it looks as if it’s going to happen.
At least it’s not expected to be as chilly along the 26.2-mile road from Hopkinton to Boston as it was in 2018.
Organizers of the 123rd race announced several adjustments Friday for the world’s oldest annual marathon because of the stormy forecast. While they’re now preparing again for rain and strong winds, they backed away from initial warnings of morning temperatures near freezing, saying it looks as if it will be significantly milder.
“The weather in New England can change significantly from day to day,” the Boston Athletic Association, which puts on America’s most celebrated footrace, wryly noted.
Runners and spectators will appreciate the latest forecasts now calling for temperatures in the 50s at the starting line, rising into the 60s in the afternoon.
In the 2018 race, more wheelchair and elite athletes dropped out than in any previous race. A combination of hypothermia-inducing cold and gusty, strength-sapping headwinds were to blame.
There will be additional medical vehicles to pick up athletes who can’t complete the course and additional supplies stocked at the medical aid stations. Tent walls will be added at the staging areas, and additional ponchos will be distributed to volunteers.
Organizers also eliminated a 25-minute gap in the start times for two waves of runners. Because the conditions will cause unique challenges for participants in the wheelchair division, hand cycle program, duo program and runners competing with prostheses, those athletes can defer and receive a complimentary entry into the 2020 Boston Marathon.
The adjustments are based on what the association learned in 2018, when athletes raced through the pelting rain, temperatures in the mid-30s and wind that gusted as high as 32 mph.
Desiree Linden became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985, and Yuki Kawauchi’s late surge made him the first Japanese man to win since 1987. Both aim to defend their titles this year.
More than half the athletes in the wheelchair division and more than a dozen elite runners dropped out last year, race director Dave McGillivray said.
“I’m not saying we weren’t prepared, but we weren’t prepared for that many because historically it never happened,” he said.
Shalane Flanagan finished seventh in 2018 in what she said would be her last competitive Boston race. She recalled Friday how that race was the “perfect storm for hypothermic conditions” and how many people suffered from that, including her.
Flanagan said she doesn’t remember much after the halfway point, but the intense cheering of the fans that motivated her to get to the finish.
“Everyone said last year, ‘It’ll never be like this again. This is a once in a lifetime kind of experience,'” she said. “When I saw the weather foreshadowing similar conditions, I literally said, “Oh no!” I feel so bad for the runners.”
Sarah Sellers, who came out of nowhere to finish second at the Boston Marathon last year, said she knows she can handle the conditions because she did last year.
“Whether it turns out to be more mild or a cold front comes through and it’s a freezing hurricane, I’m ready to roll with it,” she said.
Meb Keflezighi is the marathon’s grand marshal. His stirring victory in the 2014 Boston Marathon, the first by an American since Greg Meyer in 1983, came a year after bombings near the finish line of the 2013 race killed three people and injured at least 264.
Keflezighi said he gives extra thanks to the volunteers and the spectators who still come out in the rain; they were freezing last year and it takes a lot of effort.
“It’s hard to run 26.2 miles, but they want to make it as positive as possible, no matter what the situation with Mother Nature is,” Keflezighi said.
Tatyana McFadden is trying to win the women’s wheelchair race Monday for the sixth time. When she saw the forecast, she said she thought, “Bring it on.”
“I always look forward to challenges,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to get in Boston.”
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