We can understand the disappointment of the hundreds of local runners -- and the thousands from the United States and across the world -- when Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and race organizers announced last week that the 2020 Boston Marathon would be canceled due to the COVID-19 concerns.

Building the physical strength and mental will to run 26.2 miles takes months of training. Runners sacrifice sleep and socializing for miles of New England pavement. By the time they toe the line in Hopkington for the start of the race, they’ve given a significant portion of their lives to a single spring morning. 

This year’s race had been postponed until September in the hopes the pandemic would have eased enough to allow 30,000 runners and roughly one million spectators to gather along the route. But it was not to be.

“It’s really saddening to have to largely call off what is one of the best weekends of the year in Boston, but with the 100,000 people dead around the country, one could not do something as irresponsible as the holding of a large event,” Tom Grilk, the chief executive of the Boston Athletic Association, said last month.

He’s right. Boston is an international event, and bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from across the country and across the world would invite a resurgence of a virus that has already killed more than 370,000 people.

Large, historic races like Boston are one of the great unifying forces in the world, bringing together people of all shapes, sizes and nationalities in a common endeavor.

We saw it in Boston in 2014, the year after the terrorist bombing, when men’s champion Meb Keflezighi crossed the finish line, the names of those killed in the attack written on his race bib. And we saw it in New York in 2013, the year after Hurricane Sandy devastated coastal cities along the Atlantic coast, when the storied race marked its one millionth runner.

Des Linden, the 2018 women’s champion, said she was “sad to miss out on an opportunity to compete this year, but the Boston Marathon as an event is as resilient as its participants.” She promised to be back next year.

Like Linden, we are optimistic that Boston will return in 2021, serving once again as a symbol of unity and endurance. 

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