"There's no way to hold this usual race format without bringing large numbers of people into close proximity," Walsh said during a Thursday press conference, according to CBS Boston. "And while our goal and our hope was to make progress and contain the virus in recovering our economy, this kind of event would not be responsible or realistic on September 14, or any time this year."
In March, the famed marathon was postponed from April 20 to Sept. 14. But the race will now occur solely as a virtual event, the marathon's organizer, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.), said in a press release.
"Our top priority continues to be safeguarding the health of the community, as well as our staff, participants, volunteers, spectators, and supporters," said Tom Grilk, CEO of the B.A.A. "While we cannot bring the world to Boston in September, we plan to bring Boston to the world for an historic 124th Boston Marathon."
The @BAA has announced that the 124th Boston Marathon will be held as a virtual event, following Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s cancellation of the marathon as a mass participation road running event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. pic.twitter.com/tlIdvsU9sq
About 30,000 people run the marathon each year and about a million spectators cheer them on, CBS Boston reported. Walsh said the marathon brings in over $200 million to the city's economy each year and raises $36 million for charitable organizations.
Participants who originally registered and paid an entry fee for the April 20 event will be offered a full refund and can participate in the "virtual alternative" race, the B.A.A. said. Athletes can participate in the virtual race between Sept. 7 and 14.
Those who participate in the virtual race must complete the 26.2 miles within six hours and provide proof of their time to the B.A.A. in order to receive a shirt, medal and other items.
The organization said it is also planning additional virtual events for marathon week "in an effort to bring the Boston Marathon experience" to those in Boston and around the world. Examples of virtual events include champions interviews, exclusive panel discussions and a downloadable marathon toolkit which will include "signature race elements," the organization said.