While continuing to honor the title of being the world’s oldest annual marathon, the Boston Marathon is introducing several innovations this year to provide spectators and athletes with more excitement while introducing new traditions to race weekend. For spectators, one key difference in this year’s marathon will be names on the front bibs of the professional runners.

Sponsored by adidas, the exclusive supplier of officially licensed footwear and apparel for the Boston Marathon since 1989, the bibs with names will add a personalized touch to the uniforms of the professional athletes, including first-time Boston Marathon runners Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall, as well as returning champions Robert K. Cheruiyot and Dire Tune.

“The bibs will further highlight the elite participants, making them more recognizable along the course for the fans,” said Guy Morse, B.A.A. executive director. 

With the addition of the Boston Marathon, each of the five World Marathon Majors events will feature names of the professional athletes on the race bib. The other four World Marathon Majors events are in London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.

On April 19, two new events will take place near Copley Square Park. Beginning at 8 a.m., the B.A.A. 5K, a new road race, will take the place of the traditional Freedom Run and offer participants a timed competitive race. With a capacity of 4,000 runners, the 5K already has more than 3,000 entrants. The new event includes part of the route used by the B.A.A. last year when the organization played host to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Women’s Marathon. The home stretch and finish line of the B.A.A. 5K are the same as the Boston Marathon, giving participants the thrill of experiencing one of the most spectacular finishes in road running.  Fewer than 750 entries remain for this inaugural event.

Immediately following the B.A.A. 5K will be the B.A.A. Invitational Mile. Male and female professional athletes, as well as top local scholastic milers, will compete in the mile in a series of four races. Each section of the B.A.A. Invitational Mile also will end at the Boston Marathon finish line.

The professional races will be headlined by Marblehead, Mass. native Shalane Flanagan, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, while the scholastic races will feature athletes representing the eight host cities and towns along the Boston Marathon course: Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and Boston.

In addition to sponsoring the bibs, adidas is the official supplier of licensed Boston Marathon apparel. The recently released line, available at www.shopadidas.com, features the official 2009 race jacket and a limited-edition BAA Supernova Sequence, in addition to performance wear, t-shirts and more. The line also will be available at select specialty retailers and at the John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo April 17-19 at the Hynes Convention Center.

More information about the weekend’s events, the Boston Marathon and the B.A.A. can be found online at www.baa.org.