A Leaner, Meaner Boston

Last week, on Wednesday February 16th, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) revealed their new qualifying standards for the 2012 and 2013 races. Runners had been anticipating this news ever since September 2010, when the 2011 marathon online registration sold out in about 8 hours. Clearly, the registration and qualifying procedures needed a revamp.

The most efficient way to relay the updates is to give you the link so that you can read the BAA press release for yourself. So, to get the information “straight from the horse’s mouth,” click here.

If you’re feeling lazy, or frankly don’t give a toot, here’s what I took away from reading (and re-reading! *geek!*) the statement:

~ the BAA is introducing a rolling/tiered admission procedure starting with the 2012 Boston Marathon. The faster your qualifying time, the earlier you can register

~ the BAA has tightened qualifying times by five minutes for every age group, beginning with the 2013 race.

~ to reward longevity, the BAA lets those who meet the qualifying standard AND have run at least 10 consecutive Bostons to register at any time (ie on the first day of registration).

As you can imagine, the reaction in the running community has been mixed. I laugh a little, because I truly believe it is just human nature to resist change. So any new initiatives, regardless of what they are, are going to be met with skepticism by some/most people.

If you’re interested in reading feedback, here are a few links to check out:

~from the Runner’s World Forum:


(grab a coffee – as I am posting this link, there are 309 posts in this thread!!)

~from the Running Room Forum:


(in typical mild-mannered Canadian fashion, there are only 23 replies to this thread!)

~an article from the Marathon Guide website:


Now for my own thoughts…

I am 100% in favour of these new initiatives, and commend the BAA for decisively and boldly updating both the qualifying and registration procedures.

I, like a few of the commenters at the Runner’s World link (above) agree that runners should use these stricter standards as positive motivators in training and racing. Just run faster! Train harder! Dream bigger! Race smartly!

Boston is the only marathon in the world for which a runner must qualify (excluding charity runners). It truly is an “elite” racing experience for the masses. With demand being at an all-time high, it IS time to tighten standards and redefine what is an “elite finishing time” for the non-professional runner. 

Some people argue that women have it easier then the men in terms of their qualifying times. Maybe, maybe not. But in the interests of being fair, the BAA had to take away five minutes from everyone. Simple and just.

While Boston is an absolutely fabulous race experience (Sidenote: I ran Boston in ’97, ’98 and ’99; my PB was set on this course in 19998: my net time was 3:00:45) with a thoroughly enjoyable and unique course, it is not the only memorable or unique or fun marathon out there. Paris, Disney, New York, the Great Wall of China…there are exotic marathons, unforgettable routes, once-in-a-lifetime/Bucket List choices out there for everyone…you name it, you want it, you can find it in terms of a race experience.

By issuing the new standards in February, six months ahead of registration for 2012, the BAA gives runners the opportunity to wrap their heads around the new process. People like time to adjust, think about, whine about, debate new initiatives. I can’t wait to see how these changes improve both the registration and race experiences.

By the way…only 56 days to Boston 2011!

my race bib from 1997!

scrapbook of all things related to the 1998 race trip!

posing on the finishing line (not the day of - haha!) of the 1999 race!

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  • Holly  On February 21, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Wow — I just checked out the qualifying times — thank goodness I’m a woman — I get “extra” time! 🙂

    I had no idea you ran Boston that many times — 3 hours??? You are FAST!

    And I agree — the race is becoming so popular that you need to tighten things up and change standards — I hope lots of runners see this is an opportunity to push themselves even harder.

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 21, 2011 at 10:14 am

      you know, i DO think women get it a little easier in terms of qualifying times (sh!) – the women’s times are what i would consider achieveable, with solid effort and training. the men’s times?? they really have to be *fast.* i WAS fast – haha! not in 3 hour shape right now!!! 🙂 is the grandma’s marathon course that you will be running known for being a “good” boston qualifier course? i’m not that familiar with the race…although i’d do grandma’s just for the cool name on the race shirt!

  • Zo  On February 20, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Wow. I had no idea how complicated these races are…I guess I knew that the New York Marathon had some sort of lottery system, but beyond that…as I said, no idea.

    Are you running Boston 2011 or hoping to run 2012? Also, am I understanding that your personal best was basically 3 hours? Wow. Wow you’ve run marathons and wow.

    • 1970kikiproject  On February 21, 2011 at 5:28 am

      yes – MOST marathon registration is simple: first come, first serve, no qualifying, the race is open to anyone who wishes to register. boston is the only one where you HAVE to qualify, unless you’ve been granted a spot as a charity runner (that’s a blog post for another day!). New York DOES have a lottery system, a “three time loser” rule OR you can qualify…again, quite complex but not every runner MUST qualify.

      i’m not running boston 2011 nor do i have plans for the near future. in a few years?! YES!!! likely my 3 hour days are farrrrr gone…but i look forward to setting new challenges and goals!

      • Zo  On February 21, 2011 at 10:04 am

        more wows from me. I’m just in awe. I just started working my way up from 2 miles to 4 on the treadmill (and that took me 40 minutes!)…I think maybe one day I would try a half, but can’t imagine 26.2 (can’t even imagine 5 at the moment!)…

      • 1970kikiproject  On February 21, 2011 at 10:14 am

        good for you, zo!!! small steps is totally the way to go. we all start somewhere! i started running at age 19 with my dad, and always had to walk up this very big hill. bit by bit, you make progress – just stick with it, if you enjoy it! if you can do 2 miles, you could totally participate in a 5 k event!

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