The Boston Marathon is always held on the third Monday of April. With all other major marathons held on the weekends (usually Sunday morning), this Monday date (which is also Patriots Day for the state of Massachusetts) is truly unique.
This race holds a special place in my heart.
(See here for the story of this tattoo!)
I competed in ’97, ’98 and ’99. To this day, just thinking about those races still gives me shivers of excitement! I set a PB on the course in ’98 (3:00:46) which is cool, but even more special? The happy memories I have of our travel to and from Boston each year (we drove out and back each time, B, our friend Brian, and me) and the actual running – fortunately, I had great races each time.
This past Monday October 18th was also a special Monday in regards to the Boston Marathon: at 9 a.m. EST, registration opened for the April 18, 2011 event. In unprecedented fashion, registration closed at 5:03 p.m. EST – yes, a mere eight hours later – because all spots had been filled. That’s upwards of 27 000 spots gone, just like that. (To put this time in context, last year it took two months for the race to fill. A few years ago, it would take until approximately late February until registration maxed out).
As you can imagine, having the field filled in record time set off quite the uproar in the running community. If you’re interested in some of the debate (not to mention griping), you can check out these links:
“I will never get to run Boston” – Running Room website, online forum
“Boston Registration HELP!” - Running Mania website, online forum
“Boston Marathon Registration” – Runner’s World website, online forum
So what happens now? While each runner seems keen to pronounce their fix (I’ll get up on my soapbox in a moment,) the general consensus is that the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) will amend its current qualifying and/or registration procedures. The second point of agreement is that the BAA should announce such a decision in as timely a manner as possible (ie. sooner rather than later) so that runners know what they are up against in terms qualifying and registering for the 2012 race.
As I remember from Econ 101 in University (OK, pretty much all I remember from that course!) the laws of supply and demand apply here: this marathon is a hot commodity, so as a business model, should the BAA mess with a good thing? With demand exceeding the supply of available registration spots, why diminish the furor surrounding “getting into Boston?”
Here’s what I propose in order to allow more runners a fair chance of getting into the race:
- tighten the qualifying times – if you read some of the forum threads, above, you’ll see debate questioning the adjustment of men’s vs women’s times, and of age group divisions. I’d take five minutes off from each age group, both women and men, and from all age groups.
- take away the “0:59 grace period.” Let’s say you’re a 40 year old female (haha!)…your qualifying time right now is 3 h 50 minutes. Thanks to the 59 second rule, you can run 3:50:59 and it’s considered you met the required time. In my proposal, the slowest qualifying time you could run would be 3:50:00. End of story.
- shorten the qualifying window of marathon race dates. For the April 2011 race, you could run a marathon between September 20, 2009 and the end of registration (October 18, this year). So that’s over 12 months for the qualifying window. Other years, runners could marathon in October or November, qualify to run Boston six months later, register before the end of the year, and be A-OK. Make the qualifying window twelve months, exactly. This time period would still benefit both spring and fall marathoners, but would get rid of the “double qualifying race” option. A local example is the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon: with its late September date, this race permits runners to use their time for two years of Boston qualifying. For example, if you ran Scotiabank in 2008, you could use your time to apply for both the 2009 and 2010 marathons.
Lastly, I’ll give you my most controversial proposal…eliminate all charity spots allocated for the Boston Marathon. Currently, runners who participate in the Boston Marathon to raise money for a charity do not need to qualify for the event. Yes, these charity spots raise huge amounts of money for highly worthy causes. Yes, raising money for charity has a deserved role in marathon running. Instead I would:
- allow qualified runners to fundraise and participate as part of a charity team OR
- add on a $50 fee ( what’s another $50 added to the already overlyhighpriced entry + travel costs?!) for each runner and that amount would go directly to local Boston charities. FYI – a Canadian runner going to Boston in 2011 paid the International registration fee of $175 US that was charged this year. Fundraising organizations like Team in Training offer exceptional running + travel experiences for those runners interested in other big-city, hoopla-filled competitions.
Proposals I have read that I would reject: allowing first-time participants a more lax qualifying time (every single runner trains hard; it should be a level playing field for all, regardless of prior experience); using a lottery system (extra fol de rol that only serves to complicate the qualifying process and create a snowball effect of mass complications); opening up more spots (races like the Chicago Marathon can accomodate 45000+ participants) because it’s true that the roads of the Boston course cannot easily accomodate more runners.
We’ll stop there for today. As I said, this is a huge debate topic in the running world. I can’t wait to see what changes – if any (?) will unfold. Stay tuned!
I started a 4th page of recipes today! Thirty-two down and eight to go! For recipe #32, see the 4th page link over there. <—-
If you missed Recipe #31, Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake, click here. Trust me, ya don’t wanna miss that one!!