BOSTON — Next year’s Boston Marathon will include an additional 9,000 runners, amid a groundswell of support and interest in the wake of the bombing attack this year that killed three people and cut the event short, marathon officials said Thursday.
Boosting the field size to 36,000 runners at the April 21, 2014, race would make for the second-largest turnout in its history, since 38,708 runners toed the starting line in Hopkinton, Mass., at the race’s 100th anniversary in 1996.
“We understand many marathoners and qualifiers want to run Boston in 2014, and we appreciate the support and patience that the running community has demonstrated because of the bombings that occurred this past spring,” said Tom Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the race.
The increase, a one-time break from the race’s normal cap of 27,000 runners, will help to accommodate the 5,624 athletes who were still on the course this year, when a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs exploded amid thousands of spectators, volunteers and athletes at the finish line and brought the race to a halt.
Three days after the April 15 attack, FBI officials released photos of two men they believed were responsible for the bombing in a plea for the public’s help in identifying the suspected bombers. The pair, later identified as brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, tried to flee Boston that night, first killing a university police officer in a failed attempt to steal his gun and later engaging in a firefight with police in Watertown, Mass., that ended with older brother Tamerlan, 26, dead and younger brother Dzhokhar fleeing the scene.
Most of the Boston area was locked down for the following day while police searched for Dzhokhar, who was found hiding in a boat in a suburban back yard. Now 20 years old, the surviving brother is awaiting trial on charges, including the murder of four people and using a weapon of mass destruction.
Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and may face execution if convicted.