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Runners who live in Russia and Belarus are banned from this year's Boston Marathon

Runners near the finish line on Boylston Street during the 125th Boston Marathon on October 11, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. Runners residing in Russia and Belarus are banned from this year's event.
Maddie Malhotra
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Runners near the finish line on Boylston Street during the 125th Boston Marathon on October 11, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. Runners residing in Russia and Belarus are banned from this year's event.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus who live in those countries won't be allowed to participate in this year's Boston Marathon, organizers announced on Wednesday — less than two weeks before the event is set to take place.

The Boston Athletic Association said that Russians and Belarusians who live elsewhere will be able to run — but not under their countries' flags. The decision applies to athletes who were accepted into either the marathon or 5k run, as part of the open registration process.

"Like so many around the world, we are horrified and outraged by what we have seen and learned from the reporting in Ukraine," said Tom Grilk, B.A.A. president & CEO. "We believe that running is a global sport, and as such, we must do what we can to show our support to the people of Ukraine."

The B.A.A. joins many organizations around the world — including the International Olympic Committee, FIFA and the International Chess Federation — in seeking distance from Russia and its ally Belarus after Russian troops invaded Ukraine in late February.

The Boston Marathon, set for April 18, bills itself as the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's six most prestigious marathons. The event routinely draws runners and spectators from around the world — 35 Russians and 12 Ukrainians entered last year's race.

Runners must qualify for the race by meeting standards for their age and gender (the current marathon mark for men between the ages of 18 and 34, for example, is three hours flat). The marathon weekend will kick off on April 16 with a separate, scenic 5k through Boston's Back Bay.

The B.A.A. says neither of the events — nor the B.A.A. Invitation Miles — include any professional or invited athletes from Russia or Belarus, and it's pledging not to recognize the countries' affiliations or flags "until further notice."

"The B.A.A. will make reasonable attempts to refund the athletes from Russia or Belarus who will no longer be able to participate, within the constraints as imposed by federal and international sanctions," it said.

For any Ukrainian runners who are registered but unable to compete, organizers will provide them with either a refund or the option to defer for a coming year.

The 126th Boston Marathon is the first to take place both in person and in April since 2019, after being canceled in 2020 and delayed to October last year.


This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
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