The Boston Marathon is breaking with a more than century-old tradition and moving up its start time by two hours.
The move, announced Monday by the race's organizer, the Boston Athletic Association, is aimed at easing traffic in the eight cities and towns along the course and helping runners with cooler temperatures.
Organizers of the world's oldest annual marathon had been discussing the idea of starting at 10 a.m. instead of noon with officials in each of the cities and towns since last year. The association announced the new start time Monday, saying it had received approval from officials in each community, as well as from the state.
The Boston Marathon follows a 26.2-mile route from Hopkinton into Ashland, then Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and, finally, Boston. The inaugural Boston Marathon, held in 1897, began at 12:19 p.m., and the race traditionally began at noon in the 109 races that followed.
The mobility-impaired program, wheelchair and elite women's divisions will continue to start earlier. The next race, to be held April 16, 2007, will continue to have a two-wave start, with the first wave starting at 10 a.m., the association announced.
"An earlier starting time will benefit the 22,500 runners who compete in the marathon due to the cooler temperatures, while allowing all of the communities, and the city of Boston in particular, to reopen roads to traffic earlier in the day," said executive director Guy Morse.
In addition to weather and traffic concerns, the association cited several other reasons for making the move to an earlier start: runners overwhelmingly prefer the earlier start; the event's medical directors support the move; and international media deadlines would be more easily met, allowing for better coverage.