If you haven’t already heard, today was a big day in the world of endurance sports. The Boston Athletic Association changed the qualifying/registration process for the Boston Marathon, making it harder still for people to run the race.
The qualifying standards have long been under scrutiny — claims that the women’s times are easier relative to the men’s, that they aren’t fast enough, etc. — but it seems that what really pushed BAA over the edge was the fact that all the spots for the 2011 race were claimed just eight hours after registration opened. That’s weeks faster than any previous year, and many people who were hoping/planning to run were left out.
Let’s face it — marathon as an event is growing, and more and more people are running faster and faster times. It’s the same idea that governs event records — people are only going to keep breaking them as knowledge about and dedication to training become more advanced.
The thing that is different about Boston is that you don’t qualify relative to your peers, as you would for Kona or the Olympics. It doesn’t matter how many people are in the race or who’s fast because you’re racing against a fixed time standard. In Ironman, if you happen to be faster than everyone else in your age group at a particular race, you’ll get the championship slot. If you were at a different race with a different group of athletes, you might not be so lucky.
Anyway, what BAA basically did is this:
–Starting with the 2012 marathon, qualifiers who beat the time standard by 20 minutes or more for their age group will register first, followed by those 10 minutes faster and 5 minutes faster, respectively. Any remaining spots will go to those who qualified, period.
–In 2013 and beyond, the same applies, but the times also drop by 5 minutes in each age group. Meaning my standard until I’m 35 is 2:35:00. No more 0:59, either.
This effectively means that you’ll have to qualify by 5 minutes or more and get in on early registration, because the number of spots left after that are likely to be few and far between. BAA did it to preserve the idea that the marathon really is for the fastest runners among us — an elite race — which I approve of and appreciate. I mean, the real allure of Boston isn’t quite there if just anyone can participate.
However, I’m very glad I’m in for this year. I’ve long said that one Boston probably will be enough for me, and since I’m focused on IM training for now, I won’t be working for a sub-3:20 marathon finish for awhile. And that’s ok. I’ll run the race I’ve been waiting to run for years and then switch things up a little bit. Maybe I’ll revisit the marathon later. After all, I’m super competitive and I can’t be outdone by a few changing standards.