Archive for February 18, 2011

The running world was quite abuzz on Wednesday as a press release from the Boston Athletic Association informed Boston Marathon hopefuls of the changes they would be making to the qualification and registration process over the next two years.

In case you missed it there was a huge backlash this year when registration for the 115th Boston Marathon to be run on April 18, 2011 filled in just one day.

One day.

Thousands of Boston qualifiers were on the outside looking in as they simply did not have a chance to log on to the internet and get their application in before all of the spots were taken.  It used to be that you needed to be a fast runner to qualify for Boston.  This year you also had to be a fast typer.

On Wednesday the B.A.A. announced that they would be tightening the qualifying standards beginning with the 2013 race (more on that later), but for 2012, they would be moving to a “rolling registration process”.

Registration will open on Monday, September 12, 2011 for the 2013 race for runners who had surpassed their qualifying time by 20 minutes.

Two days later on Wednesday, September 14th, registration will open for those athletes who surpass their qualifying time by 10 minutes.

On September 16th, runners will be able to register who bettered their qualifying time by 5 minutes.

If there are still openings available, all qualified runners will be able to register beginning on September 19th.

By September 23rd, registration will close and runners will be notified of their acceptance by September 28th.

This will really put the onus on runners who are hoping to not only qualify for Boston but to actually “RUN” Boston to better their qualifying times by as wide a margin as possible.  This will allow for earlier registration and a chance at locking up one of the 20,000 +/- spots that will go to qualifiers.

The remaining 6,000 +/- spots will be held for sponsors, charity runners and corporate partners.

More on that topic a little later.

In 2013 the qualifying times themselves will get tougher, and the rolling registration process will remain intact.

2013 Qualifying Times (effective September 24, 2011)

18-34 3hrs 05min 00sec 3hrs 35min 00sec
35-39 3hrs 10min 00sec 3hrs 40min 00sec
40-44 3hrs 15min 00sec 3hrs 45min 00sec
45-49 3hrs 25min 00sec 3hrs 55min 00sec
50-54 3hrs 30min 00sec 4hrs 00min 00sec
55-59 3hrs 40min 00sec 4hrs 10min 00sec
60-64 3hrs 55min 00sec 4hrs 25min 00sec
65-69 4hrs 10min 00sec 4hrs 40min 00sec
70-74 4hrs 25min 00sec 4hrs 55min 00sec
75-79 4hrs 40min 00sec 5hrs 10min 00sec
80 and over 4hrs 55min 00sec 5hrs 25min 00sec
*Unlike previous years, an additional 59 seconds will NOT be accepted for each age group time standard.

The impact of this is significant.

My qualifying time heading into the Austin Marathon on Sunday remains, 3:20:00 or 7:37 min./mile pace.

To essentially guarantee entry into the 116th Boston Marathon in 2012, I will need to better that time by 20:00 minutes, or achieve my pie in the sky goal time of 2:59:59 or 6:52 min./mile pace.

That will allow me to apply for the race on the first day of registration and lock up a spot in the field of Boston Marathon participants.

Should I be able to run a time under 3:10:00, I would be afforded the opportunity to apply during the second “wave” of applicants and most assuredly still gain entry into the race.

A time slower than that, and now it is starting to slip out of my control and into the control of others.

There will be other small changes such as removing the :59 second “grace allowance” that allowed runners a full :59 seconds above their qualifying time to still be eligible.  Essentially making my qualifying time 3:20:59 instead of 3:20:00.

That may not sound like a big deal, but over the course of the marathon that is more than :02 seconds/mile of leeway that is no longer available.  It does come down to that for many runners chasing a stretch goal.

What I think is going to happen over the course of the next two years is that runners who are serious about running Boston are going to set their sights on times that are 5 and 10 minutes faster than the qualifying standard and train to hit those race goals.

We will see “fastest ever” qualifying fields and make Boston an even more prestigious road race.  Perhaps the most prestigious in the world.

Good.  That is what it should be.

Where I have problems with the decision of the Boston Athletic Association is that they did nothing to address reducing the amount of non-qualifier spots held for charity and corporate entries.   Keep in mind that I am in fact a charity runner.  I get it.  But if you are going to hold yourself out as the preeminent Marathon in the world, with qualifying standards to receive entry, than more than 25% of your spots should not be held for non-qualifiers.

That is simply too many.

Have you ever heard the joke about the golfers who are playing behind a foursome at the Country Club?

Well, the joke goes that the foursome up ahead is hitting balls left and right out-of-bounds, into the woods, into the lake, sand trap, over the green and sometimes just swinging and missing.

It takes the group close to 45 minutes to finish just the first hole.

Two golfers waiting behind them on the first tee ask the starter what in the world is going on up there?  How can they let those guys out on the course, it is going to take them all day to finish their round.

The starter looks at the two men and says, “Relax guys.  They’re blind”.

To which the golfer replies, “Oh.  Well let them play at night.”

I’m all for the charities, sponsors and corporate partners getting a chance to run the famed Boston course from Hopkinton to Boston.  It remains one of the greatest experiences of my life.

That said, let them run later in the day, on Sunday instead of Marathon Monday, hell, let ’em run at night.

But if you are going to hold yourself out as one of the rare marathons that requires a qualifying time for entry, then don’t let more than 25% of your field onto the course without having to meet those same standards.

As for me.  I plan on being back there in 2012 and will be fighting tooth and nail on Sunday for every single inch, every single second to get my chance to exact a little revenge on that Boston course.

I’m not trying to return to Boston for the experience.

I’m hoping to return there and reclaim what that course took from me last April.

The fact that I am a better marathoner than Boston is a tough course.

It will have taken me at least two years, thinking about that race every day until I get back there.

When I do, I plan on leaving no doubt.