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


The Boston Marathon is a week from today. But the expected pool of runners just shrunk. Dozens from Russia and Belarus are now banned from participating because of Russia's war on Ukraine. From member station WBUR, reporter Amanda Beland has more.

AMANDA BELAND, BYLINE: Katia Zykova has dreamed of running the Boston Marathon for years.

KATIA ZYKOVA: I just had a feeling that I need to be there and that this place is - really was something magical for me.

BELAND: Zykova lives in Russia. She first signed up to run in 2020. But the race was canceled because of the pandemic. She registered again this year. But when Russia invaded Ukraine, she was unsure if she could make it. With this ban, her decision was made for her. She says she's disappointed but supports the move.

ZYKOVA: If it can help even one people in Russia to understand that this war is so awful that you can't support it, if it will help people to think about it from this side, I am - I will take it.

BELAND: In a statement announcing the ban, the Boston Athletic Association says it will not recognize Russian or Belarusian flags or country affiliation until further notice. Russian and Belarusians runners who live elsewhere can still compete, but only as representatives of other countries. In the 2019 marathon, 46 Russian and Belarusian runners competed under their flags, none of them placed in the top 500 finishers. Nina Zarina is Russian, but lives and runs under the U.S. flag. She ran the Boston Marathon in the fall. She says she understands the sentiment but thinks the ban is the wrong way to support Ukraine.

NINA ZARINA: We don't choose the place where we were born. And I hope to see in future, the decision, that so powerful decision, will be made based on people actions, not only by the nationality.

ZYKOVA: Dan Fitzgerald gets both perspectives. He's a running coach and president of the Heartbreak Hill Running Company. It's named after the marathon course landmark Heartbreak Hill.

DAN FITZGERALD: The people with whom I empathize most, an athlete who doesn't get the opportunity that they've been training for is a terrible experience. But I think, under these circumstances, I support the ban.

BELAND: The Boston Athletic Association says efforts will be made to refund affected runners, including those from Ukraine who can't compete this year.

For NPR News, I'm Amanda Beland in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Amanda Beland