On April 19, 1897, the first-ever Boston Marathon was run, with John J. McDermott winning the race in a time of 2:55:10. This year, runners are facing another first-ever event: the race will not be run on Patriots’ Day. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 124th Boston Marathon has been tentatively rescheduled to Sept. 14, 2020.
For some runners, the delay represents an opportunity. Nick Taber ran the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2019, but wasn’t planning to run again this year. Taber, who graduated from Nauset Regional High School in 2013, has been living in Brighton and works for John Hancock Investment. The company has an employee lottery for people who want to run the race. A total of 300 employees are randomly chosen while the rest are put on a waitlist.
Taber’s name was far down the list for this spring, but with runners dropping out because of the date change, Taber is now in the number 10 spot.
“I didn’t train and figured it wasn’t going to happen for me,” Taber said. Now, he says, “there’s a very good chance I’ll get off the waitlist, so I’ve begun training again.”
If Taber moves up the list, he’ll be running to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Boston and the Ron Burton Training Village, two organizations that assist youth in the Greater Boston area.
Katie McCully and Chris Novak are athletes who have been a part of the Cape Cod Athletic Club (CCAC) since the 1980s. The two live in Eastham year-round.
“We’re both triathletes and runners,” McCully said. “We’ve dabbled in everything — both of us have done some marathons.”
McCully is a teacher at Nauset High and Novak works for Cape Cod Healthcare.
The couple were planning to run in the Wellfleet Sprint Triathlon on May 30 and the USA Triathlon Nationals in Milwaukee in August. They are worried the Wellfleet event will be canceled, McCully said, adding, “The virus will dictate what we’re allowed to do.”
An announcement is expected by the end of April, according to wellfleetsprinttriathlon.org.
No matter, McCully said, she and Novak have continued to train weekly. They do try to find remote areas to train.
“Where we live in Eastham, we put on our sneakers, go out the back of our house, and we’re a quarter mile away from Fort Hill,” she said. “To me and Chris, it’s the most beautiful place to run on Cape Cod.”
She and Novak have noticed more people are outside walking, running, and exercising in the last few weeks. They said most people are doing a good job keeping their social distance from each other.
“I’m noticing that people are respectful,” McCully said. “It’s not like they’re on top of each other.”
Susan Spencer is another member of the CCAC who is a part-time resident of Brewster. Spencer is a regular runner who posted a poll on the CCAC Facebook page asking members if they wear a mask while running.
As of April 13, 51 members had responded, with 36 stating they never use a mask while running on their local routes.
According to an NPR story aired on April 13, the risk of infection while exercising outdoors is low, but a runner carrying the infection might, breathing hard, expel more virus into the air than a sedentary person would. One scientist suggested runners double their usual distancing to 12 feet. A well-fitting mask would make sense if closer contact is going to be made.
Without races to run, members of the CCAC are posting challenges that can be shared virtually. Runners are encouraged to post their times to the page.
McCully thinks this time of isolation could actually result in people becoming more active. Even people who aren’t runners.
“I have a guy from work who couldn’t wait to tell me he’s been walking four miles with his dog each day,” she said.