By PAIGE SUTHERLAND, Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Athletic Association has launched an app that allows runners around the world to be a part of the 2014 Boston Marathon experience.
The Boston Marathon World Run app, available for free on Apple and Android phones, is designed to make the exclusive event more inclusive to people of all abilities, locations and ages. Users are encouraged to set fitness goals they hope to accomplish by the April 21st race day, even if they're not in Boston or running a full 26.2 miles.
After the 2013 marathon bombing, there was an insatiable outpouring of people wanting to participate in the iconic race, said T.K. Skenderian, marketing and sponsorship manager for the BAA, which organizes the marathon.
"This year we are all Boston Marathoners," Skenderian said. "Whether you can run a 3:30 marathon or are from Southern Cambodia, everyone can take part." Even if you don't run, sign up and cheer on your friends and family, he said.
The app and corresponding website allow runners to share photos, post their mileage and connect with amateur and elite athletes around the globe. People on six continents have already signed up to take part in the virtual running community.
Users can set individual goals, group target mileage or run their own 26.2-mile course on Marathon Monday. By next year, the app is set to have GPS mileage tracking and route mapping, said Al Silvestri, senior vice president of marketing and new media at Lagardere, who helped design the app.
Participants who reach their goals will receive a printable bib number, a finisher's certificate and a Facebook medal that they can show off to friends, Silvestri said.
Kelly Lynch, 31, of California, said she will use the app to stay in touch with friends and family back home even as she does her mileage on the other side of the country.
"We are all affected by what happened last year," said Lynch, who grew up in Winchester, Mass., and graduated from Boston College. "I used to cheer people on during the race while I was at B.C. Now, I can still be a part of it."
Lynch said she hopes to run six miles without stopping on April 21.
When people sign up to participate, they can also donate to One Fund Boston, the charity to aid victims of last year's bombings and their families.
Another former Boston resident, 30-year-old Kayla Gorski, said running 26.2 miles sounds daunting to her but she still wants to be involved that day.
"I just registered to run 10 miles on Patriots Day," said Gorski, who now lives in California. "Having this virtual running community is going to keep me honest and motivated even though I'm miles away."
The 118th edition of the race will have a field of 36,000 runners, a 9,000 increase from last year.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.