BOSTON - Boston Marathon runners who were stopped on the course when bombs went off at the finish line, including many Canadians, will have a chance to come back and run again next year, race organizers said on Thursday.
One month and one day after the April 15 explosions that killed three people and wounded hundreds more, the Boston Athletic Association said that 5,633 people who were stopped on the second half of the course when the race was shut down at 2:50 p.m. will be allowed to register early for next year's race.
"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," B.A.A. executive director Tom Grilk said. "With the opportunity to return and participate in 2014, we look forward to inviting back these athletes."
The B.A.A. said runners who passed the halfway checkpoint at 13.1 miles but hadn't reached the finish line will get a code to register in August; regular registration is scheduled to begin in September. Runners will be required to pay the entry fee — the amount hasn't been determined yet — but they will not have to re-qualify by running another marathon in a given time.
Normal registration for the Boston Marathon requires a qualifying time from 3 hours 5 minutes for an 18- to 34-year-old man to 5:25 for an 80-year-old woman. The requirement forces most runners to spend a full year training for their qualifying and Boston runs and makes the race, for many, a one-time event.
The announcement was quickly praised on the B.A.A. Facebook page, where thousands of people — many of them using the B.A.A. logo or other marathon-related photos for their profile picture — "liked" the announcement. Hundreds posted comments vowing to return.
"I don't feel entitled to this in the least," wrote Maggie Lapan. "But thank you BAA."
The B.A.A. said it has contacted those affected, a group that includes 2,611 runners from Massachusetts and 726 from 47 countries. There are 2,983 women and 2,650 men, aged 18 to 82. More than 2,000 Canadians were registered for the storied race.
"Boston spectators are known for their impassioned support and unbridled enthusiasm, and they will give these returning athletes some of the loudest cheers at next year's race," Grilk said in the release, which added that no decision has been made on whether the 2014 field will expand to include an expected influx of runners who say they want to run next year to support the race and the city.
"We want to thank our participants for their patience as we continue to work through the details of arranging this accommodation for them," Grilk said. "And we ask for continued patience from the running community as we plan the 2014 Boston Marathon next April."
The B.A.A. has granted limited deferrals in the past, including one for European runners who couldn't get to town because of the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010. Last year, with forecasts of dangerous heat, organizers allowed everyone a chance to defer their entry to this year's race; a few hundred took advantage of the offer.