At an interfaith vigil in the wake of last month's bombings at the Boston Marathon, President Barack Obama vowed that Americans would "summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had" and "finish the race.”
On Thursday, the Boston Athletic Association announced that the 5,633 runners who were unable to finish the race when it stopped would be able to do just that, issuing invitations to participate in the 2014 marathon.
"The opportunity to run down Boylston Street and to cross the finish line amid thousands of spectators is a significant part of the entire Boston Marathon experience," Tom Grilk, the association's executive director, said in a statement announcing the invitations. "With the opportunity to return and participate in 2014, we look forward to inviting back these athletes and we expect that most will renew their marathon training commitment."
The 2013 race was stopped at 2:50 p.m. ET, shortly after a pair of bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three and wounding hundreds of others. About 1,400 runners were within 1.25 miles of finishing the 26-mile course when the detonations occurred.
To be eligible for the offer, a runner who was stopped "must have been an official entrant who started the race and who reached the half marathon mark."
Registration for the 2014 Boston Marathon is scheduled to occur in September, and 2013 Boston Marathon participants who were unable to cross the finish line on Boylston Street will receive a non-transferable unique code in early August to be used for entry. An applicant's entry will be guaranteed only during a designated registration period. Participants will be required to pay an entry fee, which has yet to be determined.
More than 26,000 runners entered the 2013 race, according to the BAA, and more than 23,000 started. Of those, 17,580 were about to finish before the attack. No decision has been made on the field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon, Grilk said. The race will be held on April 21, 2014.
Ryan Polly, a Williston, Vt., runner who was stopped about a mile before the finish line, had launched a petition on Change.org to allow runners like him the opportunity to finish the race. Polly's petition—"Let Us Run"—received more than 28,000 signatures.