Will I get into the Boston Marathon? Maybe, if You Don’t Register…
In a few weeks, thousands of runners will begin registering for the 120th Boston Marathon, the oldest and arguably most prestigious marathon in the country. As many of you know, I qualified for this venerable race, but am not sure so I will actually be able to get in.
If you are one of the 10’s of thousands of runners who have run the Boston Marathon multiple times, I have a favor to ask;
Do not register for the 2016 Boston Marathon!*
*at least until after I do.
I know, I know… this is a HUGE favor, and I feel selfish for asking. You worked your tail off, and presumably love the event. I imagine it’s like gaining membership into an extremely exclusive club, and as long as you can, you don’t want to give it up.
Qualifying is Hard. Getting in is Harder
You may not know this, but lately, the qualifying time to get into Boston, isn’t actually the time you need. For the 2015 race, you needed a qualifying time of at least 62 seconds faster than your actual qualifying age group standard. For the 2016 race, it could be as much as 93 seconds.
For people like me, who qualified by a mere 28 seconds, we must sit and wait until Monday, September 21, 2015 – a full week after the fastest qualifiers register. Fingers and toes crossed, four leaf clovers in one hand and rabbit’s feet in the other, I anticipate it’s going to be a tense week.
To be clear, I don’t think the standards need to be changed, or the registration system altered to ensure first time qualifiers get preferential registration status (although that’s a pretty good idea, isn’t it?).
If I’m really being honest, I don’t know if I’ll be able to qualify again. Perhaps that’s just the pessimism talking, but as life continues to get busier and busier, the amount of focused training I put in last year seems like an impossibly tough hill to climb again.
I know everyone faces these dilemmas. PR’s get increasingly difficult to come by as we age. I could wait until I’m 40 and get an extra 5 minutes, but who knows if I’ll still be able to run that fast.
Now I sound whiny, but I’m probably not alone.
Too many Leftovers
In 2015, of the 24,000 runners who gained entry to the Boston Marathon through qualification, 1,947 qualified entrants didn’t make it.
With the United States in the midst of another running boom, more people than ever are running marathons. With excellent access to the top training information, times keep getting faster and making it more and more competitive to get into this most holy of holy races.
Here is how the Boston Marathon qualifying times got to be so fast.
A Brief History of Boston Marathon Qualifying Standards
In 1970, the Boston Athletic Association instituted a 4 hour qualifying time. The race grew more than 10 times in size between 1965 and 1969. With limited budgets, officials thought they couldn’t accommodate more than 1,000 runners without congesting the course, and ruining the quality of the event. This didn’t stop people from registering however. In 1971, one year later, they dropped that time down to 3:30. Back then, they took times from shorter races since marathons were so scarce.
Over the next few decades, qualifying times continued to get faster. Women, who weren’t allowed to run until 1972, were held to the same standards as men until 1977. This is also when they added age divisions. In 1987, they relaxed the qualifying times. John Hancock Financial became the title sponsor, which lead to, “greater volunteer support, and an increasingly sophisticated race organization. This led the B.A.A. to the conclusion that it could accommodate fields approaching 10,000 participants.”
In February of 2011, the B.A.A. announced that qualifying standards for the 2013 Boston Marathon would increase by 5 minutes for each age division. This marked the first time since 1980 that the qualifying times became more difficult. This is also when rolling registration allowed the fastest qualifiers to register first.
Ironically, this is the same year I started to “figure out” this whole marathon thing, and began to think a Boston Marathon could be in my future.
So Don’t Register
So this is just one runner to another, asking you to take a year off. Treat your significant other to a nice trip somewhere warm next April. Or, just spectate. Go to a Red Sox game, or spend a long weekend in the Bahamas. But please, if you’ve run it before, do not register for the Boston Marathon… at least until September 22.