In the world of marathoning this week was a pretty big week. Boston Marathon Registration began on Monday.
The increase in runners seeking one of the most competitive and dare I say, prestigious race bibs in road racing caused the Boston Athletic Association to make changes to not only the qualifying requirements to gain entry to the race – but also to the way that the registration process itself takes place.
Back in 2009 when I came through the chute of the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 2nd with a time of 3:17:43 – I KNEW – that I was on my way to the starting line of the 2010 Boston Marathon. All I had to do was wait for registration to open, log on to the website, fill out my information, submit my qualifying time and boom. I was in. After a few weeks a confirmation message was sent to me from the B.A.A. that my time was verified and I was in.
When registration for the 2011 Boston Marathon opened two years ago all hell broke loose. People logged on at a furious rate when registration began, computers crashed, the site went down for a time, there were locusts, floods …. o.k., maybe not locusts and floods, but it was close.
Many runners who had worked so hard to run a “Boston Time” ended up being shut out during the registration process. It had taken over a week to fill the 2010 field back in the fall of 2009. The next year it took less than 1 day and all of the bibs were accounted for. With the exception of the charity runners – which is an entirely different topic for an entirely different post.
The B.A.A. responded to the debacle by tightening up the qualifying standards by 5:00 minutes meaning a 40-44 year old Male Marathoner would now have to run a 3 hour and 15 minute marathon or better to qualify instead of the 3:20:00 that was required just one year before.
The other change was that the fastest runners would be allowed to log on first. If you ran a time 15 minutes or faster than your qualifying standard you could register the first week, 10 minutes or better the second week, 5 minutes or better the next week, and then if there were still openings in the field, everyone else could register.
These changes made the process run much smoother and allowed the fastest qualifiers to make their way to Hopkinton, MA for the race last year, while those runners who ran a “BQ” or Boston Qualifying time – but only narrowly – were left on the outside looking in. The cut off was approximately 1 minute and 30 seconds. If you made your time by more than that amount you were good to go. If you only beat your qualifying time by 90 seconds, you were shut out. I expect it to be even more difficult this year with some of the runners who deferred to run last year due to the high temperatures being “grandfathered” into this year’s field, and the ever-increasing attempt by runners to improve and run faster qualifying times.
There was a time when Boston was one of the biggest goals out there for me. I thought about it on my training runs, I trained harder for that race than any other and really wanted to turn Boston into my statement race as a marathoner. Last year’s 87 degree race day removed a lot of the mystique about the race for me – proving that really, it is your performance and preparation that makes a race special …. not so much only the course on which it is run and the history of the event.
Having run Boston twice now, perhaps that is easier for me to say than someone who has never made their way to the starting line in Hopkinton or across the finish line on Boylston Street. That’s fair I suppose. But in truth, I’ve moved on past Boston and have other goals in sight.
Proof is in the pudding they say, and as registration opened on Monday for the 117th running of the Boston Marathon next April I was sitting on a qualifying time 17 minutes under my requirement. I was golden. A few clicks of the mouse, a credit card number and we were in.
Boston is going to be great once again this spring. It’s a tremendous event, a huge stage for the best marathoners in the world to compete on. It is also an amazing event for the amateurs to literally run in their footsteps for 26.2 miles. The same race won by legends like Alberto Salazar and Bill Rogers. But that Monday I’ve decided I’m going to take the day off of work, let Landry play hooky from school and we’re going to go on a picnic to the park or the pool if it is warm enough here in Austin.
I’m going to think about running of course that morning. Might even go out and post a few miles on a usual off-day for me, but we are not going to be part of the race this year in Boston, we’ll let somebody else toe the line in our place. Hopefully a first-timer who worked as hard as we did to earn our spot.
Instead when I think of the word “Marathon” the first thing that comes to mind is Houston.
Houston this year on 1/13/13 IS my Boston Marathon. It is my “A” race for the year that I am going to train for harder and smarter than any race that has come before it.
There most likely will not be an Air Force flyover at the start, ESPN Cameras shooting me cross the starting line, screaming coeds lining the course at mile 16 and no famous turn from Hereford Street onto Boylston and perhaps the loudest, most intense 1/4 mile in road racing carrying me to the finish line. Houston won’t have any of that.
But what it will have hopefully is the sight of a 45-year old amateur marathoner thundering down the course and into the final mile.
The clock will still be ticking under 2:52:00 at that point and hopefully with a glance to my wrist I will know exactly the amount of time I have remaining to cover the final 1 mile, 385 yards.
Legs pumping, soreness creeping in from all sorts of places, feet trying to defy gravity for just a few more minutes – hang on just a little bit longer to reach that finish line with a time of 2:59:XX.
At the end of the day if the race goes the way I am preparing for it to go, it won’t make a bit of difference if it happens in Houston, TX, Boston, MA or anywhere in between.
We will be a “Sub-3 hour guy” at that point, and nobody will ever be able to say anything different.