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Marathon changes afoot: Rolling start, masks, leaf peeping

It's the first fall Boston Marathon in the event's 125-year history.
Credit: AP
Painter Rick Kent, of Middeborough, Mass., carries a stencil featuring a logo for the Boston Athletic Association, Wednesday, Oct 6, 2021, while working on the start line for the 125th edition of the Boston Marathon, in Hopkinton, Mass. The race is to be run on Monday, Oct. 11. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON — For runners in this year's Boston Marathon, it all starts before race day and 26.2 miles away from the start on Main Street in Hopkinton. Just steps from the finish line, participants will have to clear coronavirus protocols before their journey can begin. COVID-19 tests and vaccine verification are taking place in the same Copley Square medical tent where the athletes seek post-race refuge for pulled muscles, dehydration, and more. 

It's one of many changes afoot for the first fall Boston Marathon in the event's 125-year history.

In addition to the vaccine verification, they will be required to wear masks indoors in Boston and on the buses out to the Hopkinton start. When they get there, there will be no crowded athlete’s village where they can grab a granola bar and stretch while waiting to start; they have been instructed to get off the bus and go, with electronic chips recording their start time.

Another social distancing accommodation: The field will be about one-third smaller, about 18,000 runners instead of more than 30,000. It’s also more American, with many of those from countries with strict quarantine rules unable to attend. 

And the runners will be able to enjoy peak fall foliage.

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