Back in February the Boston Marathon changed its qualifying and registration guidelines making it more difficult for the average runner to make it to one of the most prestigious marathons in the world.
It seems the move came in response to the fact that the 2011 race sold out in a record 8 hours, 3 minutes and many qualifying runners weren’t able to register.
Since the announcement was made in the middle of February, for some runners who have their eyes on Boston this isn’t new information, but it does affect everyone who has aspirations to qualify for the Patriot’s Day classic, and from my view, that’s a lot of Utahns.
I’ve spent enough time on a second-grader-sized school bus listening to the conversations of my fellow runners to know that Boston is on the radar of many, many runners. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a race where I didn’t hear some reference to the Boston Marathon. Most of the time, I am unavoidably eavesdropping on numerous tales of runners hoping to break through their respective qualifying times.
I, too, have taken part in those conversations, but I am curious to know what effect these new guidelines are having on the local running community.
Essentially, race officials have devised a plan allowing the fastest runners to have preference over their slower counterparts in their respective age categories.
Here is the wording from the Boston Athletic Association website:
2012 rolling registration dates
Day 1 (Sept. 12) — Qualifiers who have met their age and gender qualifying standard (3 hours, 10 minutes for men aged 18-34 and 3 hours, 40 minutes for women 18-34) by a margin of 20 minutes or faster may apply for the marathon.
Day 3 (Sept. 14) — Qualifiers who have met the standard set for their age/gender by a margin of 10 minutes or faster may apply.
Day 5 (Sept. 16) — Qualifiers who have met their age/gender qualifying time by a margin of five minutes or faster may apply.
Day 8 (Sept. 19) — Open to all qualifiers to register.
Day 12 (Sept. 23) — Registration closes for qualified applicants. Registered qualifiers will be notified of their acceptance by Sept. 28.
To my knowledge, the number of non-qualifying runners who participate instead to raise money for one of the approved charities hasn’t been reduced.
The comment boards on the blog of the Boston Globe are all over the place. Some state the new standards make the qualifying times invalid, while others are saying the number of charity runners should be reduced. Others are praising the efforts of the race committee, stating that if someone wants to run an elite race, he or she should have to run faster.
Personally, I feel a little disheartened by the measure since I am trying to make it back to Beantown while my brother is still attending Boston College. From the looks of things, I’m going to have to pick up the pace a bit to assure a spot. And 2012 may be the best year to try since the 2013 qualifying times have been moved up about five minutes in each category with the same “rolling registration” dates in place.
Last time I qualified for the race, I only beat my qualifying time by three minutes. In this new scenario, I likely wouldn’t have made it. A lot has changed since I ran the race in 2008 when I casually signed up several months after registration was opened.
With that said, I’m curious to get your thoughts. In looking at the changes, do you feel good about the decision? Are you trying to qualify and are now reconsidering? Or are you one of those speed demons who have nothing to worry about?
Brian Nicholson has completed marathons from Boston to Beijing, a host of Ragnar relays, and has developed a keen taste for all things Gu.