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Boston Marathon qualifying and registration are revised
February 18, 2011 9:27 AM   Subscribe

The Boston Marathon has made it harder to qualify, by lowering times by 5:00 minutes across the board, and also by eliminating the 59 second grace period.

According to the new qualifying times, a 40 year old male would have been able to register with a time of 3:20:59, which will be lowered to 3:15:00 starting for the 2013 race.

However, registration has also been altered beginning for the 2012 race, with rolling registration dates, where registration opens first to people with faster times and then gradually opens to people with slower less fast times. This means that many runners who trained hard for a Boston Qualifying time in another race may still be denied the opportunity to register, which is understandably causing some outrage.

The changes are in response to last year, when registration filled in a record 8 hours and 3 minutes.

Official press release of the BAA covering the changes.
posted by I am the Walrus (40 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Will this cause more people to run as bandits? Maybe it'll make the bandits more bandit-y, mugging hapless runners and stealing their numbers.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:30 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Probably the right move, still that just means it's one more sporting primarily for elite participants.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:32 AM on February 18, 2011



Probably the right move, still that just means it's one more sporting primarily for elite participants.


You can run a marathon anywhere you want, any time. If you're gonna shut down streets and block passage, then by all means, restrict it to the fastest runners so that we can get back to normal ASAP.
posted by explosion at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can't really get worked up about this. The way distance running events combine a race with, uh, whatever everyone outside the elites is doing is kind of a weird setup anyway. There are plenty of other opportunities to run. I bet in most areas you can find more than one marathon a year, albeit not as big.
posted by ghharr at 9:39 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty much every high-demand athletic event I know of has online registration problems. You have people crushing web servers because some bike races let riders line up in the order they registered in. I like the idea of rolling registrations to stretch it over a span of weeks instead of a tiny window of people reloading browsers over the course of a few hours.

And honestly, I thought if you weren't doing sub-three hour marathons in the bigger 30-40 year old classes, you didn't stand a chance of getting a spot.
posted by mathowie at 9:39 AM on February 18, 2011


I could enter if I ran in the 74 years old and above category and trained much harder than I ever did for my only marathon. I'm 40.

It's an elitist marathon. Any why not? But more and more people can get a qualifying time thanks to better training programmes and the simple fact of more people running. They're just re-setting the standards back closer to what they were years ago to preserve their elitism.

All the huffing is from marginal entrants who in fairess, aren't the people that this marathon is all about.

It's no different from a golf club upping its fees because more folk could afford them.
posted by dowcrag at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2011


You can still raise $3k and run for charity. Boston is not an elite race.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:47 AM on February 18, 2011


This is a shame, because the rest of us only have hundreds of other marathons to choose from.

Seriously, this is only a good thing. Marathons are demanding, hard races and having an elites only race will make for a better race. What this decision shows is that more and more people are competing and that the field is getting faster. I hope the qualifying times are revised regularly and I mostly hope I live to see someone break 2 hours.
posted by rh at 9:48 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a BU student, I strenuously object. Faster runners=shorter race=less drinking time.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:57 AM on February 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


This will break many runner's hearts but speaking as someone who could never make the Boston cut, I think it is overall a good thing for running. It is the truly exceptional runners who inspire all the rest of us, and they do deserve a race reserved for them.

Also, fond memories of watching these fleet people go by, cheering for them, and handing them oranges and glasses of water when I was in college. Love this classic race.
posted by bearwife at 9:58 AM on February 18, 2011


Maybe it'll make the bandits more bandit-y, mugging hapless runners and stealing their numbers.

I think they'll have to catch them first.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:01 AM on February 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Meh. When I marathoned in the very early 90's you mailed a paper check with a registration form. It was inconceivable that a race would 'sell out.' There just were not that many runners. Fast forward 20 years, a lot more people want to 'run' a marathon. Qualifying times are fine, and adjusting them is fine, too. When I work the Philly Marathon I drive a SAG van. When I ran in Atlantic City in 1991 if I couldn't finish I would have had to hop on a jitney. It's a different world.
posted by fixedgear at 10:10 AM on February 18, 2011


backseatpilot: Will this cause more people to run as bandits? Maybe it'll make the bandits more bandit-y, mugging hapless runners and stealing their numbers.

TheWhiteSkull: I think they'll have to catch them first.

I'd pay to watch that.
posted by mikelieman at 10:11 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't get it. You take applications through a certain period, then the fastest X runners of each category are invited to register. Is this hard?

Doesn't matter if you apply on the first day or last, what matters is your time. The qualifying time disappears, because the real entry is "were you among the X fastest runners in your category?" -- and someone with a faster qualifying time isn't eliminated from the race because someone with a slower qualifying time applied first and took the last slot.

There is the issue that different races are on different courses -- the Chicago Marathon, for example, is considered a very fast track, without hills and usually run on a cool day. So, you take the top fifty winners in each category in each qualifier and average them. You then do the same with the last Boston Marathon and compare the times. The times are used to adjust the qualifying time to match the Boston course, so someone running a 3:05 in Chicago doesn't edge out someone running a 3:06 in the more difficult New York Marathon.

If the goal is an elite race -- which I'm all good with, there should be a race for the best of the best to compete -- then make performance be the tell, not who merely hits "submit" on a webpage.
posted by eriko at 10:11 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Boston Marathon and early Red Sox game make Patriots' Day pretty much my favorite day of the year. And sometimes it's my birthday too!
posted by SpiffyRob at 10:13 AM on February 18, 2011


Tommy Wiseau weighs in.
posted by Eideteker at 10:16 AM on February 18, 2011


That sounds like a good idea at first eriko, but what an administrative nightmare that would be. Also, "fast" courses can turn not-so fast depending on weather conditions so it's impossible to map a true difficulty level for the courses when compared to each other. However, it used to be that point to point downhill courses with more than a certain net elevation drop would not work for qualifiers. Not sure if that's still the case. I'm glad they are tightening up the qualifying standards again. Those standards have fluctuated over the years that the race has been run, and in the more distant past they were far more stringent than they are now, even with the new rules.
posted by stagewhisper at 10:19 AM on February 18, 2011


rh: "This is a shame, because the rest of us only have hundreds of other marathons to choose from.
...and I mostly hope I live to see someone break 2 hours.
"

Being unaware of marathon times, especially at the elite level, I seriously thought this was something along the lines "I mostly hope I live to see a world where everybody gets a flying car on their 16th birthday." Then, when I learned that the world record is only 4 minutes above 2 hours, I was out of breath just reading about it. I don't know why I think this is so much different than where I thought the record was -- maybe it's the ease at which I can divide 26/2 and get something that I can't even imagine.

But from this obvious outsider's perspective, the Boston Marathon should be really super hard to get into. I feel bad for people if their expectations are being shot -- but there's a solution: run faster. It might not feel fair, but that's how losing out is supposed to feel.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:23 AM on February 18, 2011


Also, "fast" courses can turn not-so fast depending on weather conditions so it's impossible to map a true difficulty level for the courses when compared to each other.

Seriously. I guarantee 99% of the people who ran both Chicago and NYC this past year did better in NYC.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:31 AM on February 18, 2011


"still that just means it's one more sporting primarily for elite participants"

On what planet is 3+ hours an elite marathon time? I think I would describe these times as way way below average for a somewhat dedicated marathon runner. You could walk a good bit of it and go under the 4/5+ hours for older runners.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:39 AM on February 18, 2011


On what planet is 3+ hours an elite marathon time?

Depends on your age and gender. 20 year old man? Not so much. 50 year old woman? Absolutely.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:52 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The sub-2 hour marathon is a fascinating subject. Take a look at the world-record over time, and it's clear that 2 hours really looks likes the limit of what is physically possible for a human.

The two big gains were in the early part of the century and again in the 60s and 70s. The first gain was probably due to people started taking athletics seriously and the second I assume was the development of sports sciences. Nowadays, gains in marathon times are minimal, and even the very, very best runners think it will be decades before anyone gets close to shaving off those 4 minutes, which would require running each mile of the race something like 9 seconds faster, which means asking someone who's able to run a 4:43/mile 26 times in a row to now run it in 4:34/mile.
posted by rh at 10:52 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Correct links:
...world record over time...
...very best runners think it will be decades...
posted by rh at 10:54 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


They ruined the marathon a few years ago by staring the elite runners befor the rest. No more Rosie Ruiz-like attempts to jump in. This is supposed to be a spectacle. Where's the spectacle in that?
posted by Gungho at 10:55 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is supposed to be a spectacle. Where's the spectacle in that?

You will always, always have Bay To Breakers.
posted by mykescipark at 11:11 AM on February 18, 2011


The two big gains were in the early part of the century and again in the 60s and 70s.

Why hasn't blood doping and EPO helped marathon runners as much as it did cyclists and cross country skiers?
posted by Chuckles at 11:37 AM on February 18, 2011


Cross country skiers and cyclists have a much tighter relationship with their equipment. I'm not sure why that makes a difference in terms of blood doping and EPO, but a fairly dedicated marathoner I know told me that's why it doesn't make as much of a difference. Something about there being a much harder limit to what the human body can actually do even in the most 100% of ideal circumstances. Whereas, with the cycle and skiing, there's a bit more leeway with being able to push the equipment further. Maybe someone else can come along and expand on my hazy understanding of what I was told.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:55 AM on February 18, 2011


My pastor ran the Boston Marathon, twice, in the last several years. Not bad considering he's around my age and pastors a megachurch.

I'm thinking the new rules will make those his last Boston attempts. Not that he wouldn't be physically able to make the times but yeah, he kinda has a few other things to do besides train.

I'm not a runner myself but it is kinda cool to see all the interest in running events pick up like they have. I can understand why the Boston Marathon would need to retweak their application rules, as a result.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:59 AM on February 18, 2011


Whereas, with the cycle and skiing, there's a bit more leeway with being able to push the equipment further. Maybe someone else can come along and expand on my hazy understanding of what I was told.

I can see this being significant, but... The idea, I think, is that their equipment helps them to stay near the threshold of cardiovascular output for the entire competition. So moving the threshold just a little bit makes an enormous difference.

I expected modern "sports medicine" to show up on those historical marathon time graphs though.. So I'm still wondering.
posted by Chuckles at 12:30 PM on February 18, 2011


My pastor ran the Boston Marathon, twice, in the last several years. Not bad considering he's around my age and pastors a megachurch.

You'd think the latter would work for him. I'm sure it does wonders for exercising the lung capacity.
posted by explosion at 12:55 PM on February 18, 2011


PEDs showed up in sprint events, but usually in the form of steroids to add muscle. Interesting question why EPO doesn't show up/doesn't help distance runners. My understanding of cycling and PEDs is that at the elite level everybody is so close (and equipment makes everybody a little more equal) that a tiny advantage is enough, i. e. in a solo TT.
posted by fixedgear at 1:09 PM on February 18, 2011


You can run a marathon anywhere you want, any time. If you're gonna shut down streets and block passage, then by all means, restrict it to the fastest runners so that we can get back to normal ASAP.

Define normal. The normal thing to do is to take a day off from the grind and recreate an ancient event by allowing people, en masse, the freedom to take a run down the street in the celebration of humanity in the face of tragedy. Not to mention the big bucks that said event brings in to the many people and business along the route. After a long, cold winter, Opening Day and Marathon Monday are bonuses to all those people in the service industry. Hard working bonus days spent serving piles of inebriated thirty-something juveniles, but bonus days nonetheless.

Like everything that can attract modern mass media, it has become a spectacle and with the monies involved now (police overtime, no doubt) the organizers have to have some form of justification to compensate for selling whatever rights they can in order to pay for it. So they're going to restrict registrations to those with the best times over those with the fastest internet connection. I have to support them in that. As boring as the damn thing is, as much as I enjoy drinking in the morning as I watch the Sox and wait for Team Hoyt run by, sorry, there's something in my eye, I wouldn't want to live without it and if the top runners in the world can't compete, it'll be just another event at a parochial backwater, which is what Boston is.

If you're upset that the streets are cut off for half a day for an event that brings in people from all over the region, then I sympathize with you, because I lived in the Back Bay/Fenway for over a decade. But you'd have to start restricting all the goddamn walks for hunger/cancer/literacy/satyriasis that draw only the participants, bring no money into the city and serve only to annoy the neighbors before you start complaining about the Marathon.

Thankfully, I moved to Southie where the streets are blocked off only one day a year and everyone's too drunk to care.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:35 PM on February 18, 2011


Kinda trivial?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:01 PM on February 18, 2011


I'm looking at that graph of world records over time -- I wonder what's the explanation behind the steep, steep drops? Doping? Shoes? New training methods? I have heard it said that whenever there are a zillion new world records set at the Olympics in any one sport, what it REALLY means is that there's a new PED that they haven't developed a test yet, but I also thought that PEDs were less useful for distance runners for some reason.
posted by KathrynT at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2011


haven't developed a test FOR yet.
posted by KathrynT at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2011


I'm looking at that graph of world records over time -- I wonder what's the explanation behind the steep, steep drops?

Some of the steep drops are the introduction of African runners to competitive marathoning.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:13 PM on February 18, 2011


Maybe it'll make the bandits more bandit-y, mugging hapless runners and stealing their numbers.

I think they'll have to catch them first.


If you outlaw running a marathon with a time of 3:15:00 or greater, only outlaws will have times of 3:15:00 or greater.
posted by Hoopo at 2:52 PM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm for it. Generally, I'm glad that Boston has qualifying times--as far as I know, it's the only major marathon that does, and there's definitely a special feeling that comes with being a Boston qualifier. Moreover, if it's inevitable that many more people will apply than the race can accommodate, I think that race organizers might as well favor faster runners, at least in this case. At the same time, I've read a lot lately about the possibility that the women's standards for the Boston marathon are significantly more lax than the men's. So I wonder if dropping all times across all age-sex groups by the same amount was really the best approach.

On what planet is 3+ hours an elite marathon time? [...] Depends on your age and gender. 20 year old man? Not so much. 50 year old woman? Absolutely.

Yes, but keep in mind that since 50 year old women belong to a different bracket than 20 year old men, they have slower qualifying times (4:00 vs 3:05). y6y6y6 is correct when he says that Boston qualifying times, however challenging, are well in reach for most dedicated runners.
posted by Maxa at 6:14 PM on February 18, 2011


“For us to tell people there was no room for them was a very bitter pill for us,’’ said Thomas Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, which manages the event. “We do not ever want to do that again.’’

Out of sight, out of mind.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:06 PM on February 19, 2011


This is supposed to be a spectacle. Where's the spectacle in that?

You will always, always have Bay To Breakers.




And then there's Maui's "Run to the Sun" ---with a qualifying 10 hours for 36.2 miles (most of which is run up Haleakala). As stated in the website:

A 36.2-mile ultramarathon starting at sea level and climbing to the 10,023 feet summit of Haleakala, the legendary “House of the Sun.” This challenging course is not for the novice marathoner. Entrants must be 18 years or older and rigorously prepared to meet the strict 10-hour time limit
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 2:34 PM on February 19, 2011


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