Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fair is Fair

As most of us geeks who pay attention to the Boston Marathon, this year's race sold out in 8 hours and change. In response to the mad rush to register (and to the fact that fast runners with slow computers or, uh, had jobs to go to on registration day) got shut out the Boston Athletic Association announced that the qualifying process would undergo changes.

The changes were announced today, and while I am essentially guaranteed of never running Boston again unless I magically run faster and faster as I get older, I think the changes are fair.

Basically, runners who best the qualifying time for their age groups by 20 minutes or more get to register first in a few-day window. This group is followed by runners who qualified with 10 minutes to spare, followed by those with 5 extra minutes and then, if the race isn't sold out, for runners who met the qualifying standard by 4:59 or less. The qualifying times were also slashed by 5 minutes and 59 seconds for all age groups, meaning, for example, that a woman my age (33) would now need to run a 3:35 instead of a 3:40:59. A 3:35 would be the slowest possible qualifying time to get in. It wouldn't guarantee entry by any stretch -- just the chance to register if those who qualify by greater margins don't fill up the race first.

So, the fastest runners get in, those who are a little faster probably get in, those who are a little slower might get in and those who meet the maximum qualifying time probably won't.

My only issue with this is that it takes away the fun of crossing the finish line in a qualifying race and knowing that Beantown is in your future. That, and the fact that I would likely need to run a 3:25 to be sure of getting in, which is something I don't see myself doing at any point (I think I would have to put forth way too much effort at expense of just about everything else-- I struggled to get my qualifying time under the old standards to begin with).

It does seem fair. Why should slower runners get in just because they managed to get through to the BAA server first on registration day? It should be a race to the finish line, not a race to see who has the faster computer.

So what's my plan for Boston in the future? My plan is to not worry about it. There's more to life than Boston (although it is pretty damn fun) -- for now I'll focus on the other fun races out there -- adventure races, one day meeting my goal of a sub-20 5k (yeah, right), hopefully a 50k or a few in the next two years if I could just buck up and register for one and focusing on my half-marathon times to land myself in the NYC Marathon. And also duathlons and maybe a 50-miler. Or a 100k. Ok, not a 50-miler or 100k, ever. But more trail runs. And, you know, everything else out there that is fun.

11 comments:

greekmelie said...

Personally I didn't like the change. I am not BQ material and I don't think I'll ever be qualified or even try to qualify but this is... elitist to me. The lowering of the qualifying time should be enough. People need to train ridiculously hard to achieve it and then take all the joy away by saying that there is someone faster than them? There goes the entire "running is only a competition against yourself" attitude...

Laurie said...

I wouldn't say that I "like" the changes, just that I think that the changes are fair :)
To me, the faster qualifiers should get dibs, not the qualifiers with faster computers on registration day. I do agree that it does reek a bit of elitism, but I guess that's part of what makes the Boston Marathon the Boston Marathon.

Mallory said...

Yeah, I'm not thrilled about the changes. I don't think it's very fair actually. If you get the qualifying time, you should be able to have an equal chance of registering. I would have had a lot of improving anyway in order to qualify. I do enjoy being a spectator though :)

Julie said...

oh...is that all you have planned for your future athletic endeavors? :D
Sounds like a lot of fun to me!!!

Terri said...

Yeah, the changes don't matter to me. I do hope someone does an 'I Cant Qualify For Boston" run, because I would try to get to that one - just for the heck of it!

Laurie said...

Terri, I love your idea of someone starting a race based on the old Boston qualifying times... The Not Fast Enough for Boston Now But I Used To Be Marathon. I'd work to qualify for that!

ratherthecouch said...

Man...just hearing about these changes on your blog. I wouldn't say that qualifying for Boston was even a goal of mine. But it is a little bit of a bummer to hear that any remote possibility is now definitely squashed. The bad thing about these changes is it kind of takes Boston out of mainstream. Good, but real, every day kind of runners probably won't end up going. But I guess I agree with you that it's fair.

Larry Palazzolo said...

Laurie, I think you can still qualify for Boston. You're fast and strong. My question is, what are you doing for recovery? That's more important than your training regimen.

Laurie said...

Larry, I am recovering by not stretching. I also took about 4 weeks off from anything hard after running New York. And by eating spinach. And sleeping more. And mixing up how I train (easy to do since I am training for an adventure race).

shawnproctorfiction said...

I heard about this from Bill and was pretty annoyed. My scheme of training and running until my 35th birthday (thus gaining extra time for the BQ) is pretty well dead.

If only the BAA had taken time on its site to explain their reasoning as well as you did.

Any suggestions on how they could have kept the race open to committed but not exceptional runners?

Laurie said...

Mr. Shawn -- First, I wouldn't say that these changes close the race to all but exceptional runners, just runners who are well above average. No idea how they could keep the race open to more people (other than to increaes the number of runners participating for charity and decreasing the number of slots for qualifiers?). They really can't enlarge the field. The course is narrow in many parts, crowded enough as it is and the town where the race starts is approximately the size of a pea with one small road going to/from it. The start area is at a small high school, too. Historically the goal of the BAA is to have approximately 10 percent of marathon runners qualify. The five-minute (well, basically 6-minute cut since they did away with the 59 seconds) cut accounts for that and the tiered registration ensures that the fastest runners get in, which to me is also fair. I think that the allure of Boston is the challenge of getting in, not the race itself and that these changes reflect that. It's a race that was never intended to be open to everyone. That said, mathematically speaking, the NYC marathon takes about the same percentage (10 percent) of lottery applicants so it's just as hard to get into NY as it is into Boston.
Just run Steamtown ... it's a good race (at least it was when I did it and it still has a good reputation)!