Most big city marathons were called off last year. Now that pandemic restrictions have eased, major marathons are planned for later in 2021 in cities including New York, Boston and Chicago.



Jeff Dengate likes to run in big city marathons. The pandemic made that impossible.

JEFF DENGATE: I have not raced at all in the last 18 months. Actually, I'm really bumming out.

KELLY: But Dengate may not be bummed out much longer. A number of major marathons plan to return later this year - Boston, New York, Tokyo, London and many more.

DENGATE: I signed up for the Pikes Peak Marathon in August and the Boston Marathon in October.


Dengate is the runner-in-chief at Runner's World. He's convinced the races will be safe. After all, there's a built-in safety factor.

DENGATE: Our sport is pretty fortunate that it happens outside.

BERTA JACOBSON: My name is Berta Jacobson. I live in Chicago, Ill. And I'm an avid runner, and I've run over 40 marathons.

KELLY: Jacobson's last one was Atlanta two years ago. Now that she is fully vaccinated, she has no fears about running in this fall's Chicago Marathon. When she signed up, there was no screening for unvaccinated participants.

JACOBSON: I don't know if I wasn't vaccinated how comfortable I would personally feel. I think it has to be a personal choice.

SHAPIRO: Runners in the TCS New York City Marathon will undergo some screening when they register, says race director Ted Metellus.

TED METELLUS: We'll be asking participants to answer a COVID questionnaire.

SHAPIRO: And that's not all.

METELLUS: We will have the necessary infrastructure in place to create a socially distant operation where athletes will be starting 6 feet apart, and there'll be the necessary space on the course for them to run safely.

KELLY: While race organizers in New York are working to keep runners safely spaced, the marathon calendar is packed, says Jonathan Gault. He writes about marathons and other races for

JONATHAN GAULT: The ones that were supposed to happen this spring, many of them have postponed their 2021 races to the fall.

SHAPIRO: Gault says calling off last year's races left marathon organizations feeling a nasty financial pinch. Starting up again will help. But even when marathons are run in 2021, many will have fewer participants.

GAULT: The fields in Boston and New York, they're not going to be quite as big as normal. And so it means it's going to be more competitive. It was more competitive to get into Boston than it's been for a long, long time.

SHAPIRO: But not every marathon organization feels it's ready to run races yet.

IAN DOBSON: My name is Ian Dobson. And I'm the race director for the Eugene Marathon here in Eugene, Ore. For the second year in a row, we didn't hold an in-person event.

KELLY: Dobson says because the fall is so crowded with marathons this year, his group didn't think they'd be able to attract enough top runners.

DOBSON: I think we're being more careful than other places. And at the same time, I think that our entire state has been taking a really careful approach to it. And so in the context of that, it just didn't feel right to us to encourage people to come in when we have people registered from all 50 states, from 20 countries. We just felt like, boy, the optics of that are really, really challenging.

SHAPIRO: But Jeff Dengate of Runner's World isn't worried. He offers this advice to his fellow potential marathoners.

DENGATE: Make the plans, hope for the best, but, like, don't be disappointed if it doesn't come together on race day.

KELLY: Pretty good advice for marathons and life.

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