Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Boston changes the rules

We all knew this was coming, and here it is:

Rumors that the Boston Athletic Association would amend its qualifying times for the legendary Boston Marathon came true today, according to an article in the Boston Globe.  Following last October's record breaking sell-out in eight hours, the BAA has introduced what it calls "rolling admission" for 2012, and stricter qualifying times for 2013 and beyond.

Registration for the 2012 marathon will open on September 12, 2011, but only to those who cleared their age and gender group's qualifying time by 20 minutes or more.  On September 14th, registration will open to those who qualified with ten minutes or more to spare, on September 16th 5 minutes, and finally on September 19th runners with any qualifying time will be allowed to register.  In 2013, in addition to this new system of "rolling admission," qualifying times in all genders and age groups will be shortened by 5 minutes.  For example, a 45-year-old woman who previously had to run a marathon in 4 hours to qualify must now run in 3:55.

One of the biggest criticisms of the old system lay in the gender inequality. While a male in my age group had to finish in 3:10, the time for women in my age group was 3:40.  Female elites typically post times between 15 - 20 minutes behind the male elites, so it is generally agreed that a thirty minute gap in qualifying times is unnecessary.  Boston officials had the opportunity to address this issue with the new changes, but apparently did not see the need to do so.

As for the new system, the biggest complaint seems to be that registration opens in September, long before any of the major fall marathons which thousands of people have traditionally used to qualify.  The bandits and the charity runners have also provoked the ire of Boston hopefuls, and I hate to say that I agree.  If you complain that you could never qualify for Boston but never bother to try, then RUN SOMEWHERE ELSE.  If you're a charity runner, good on ya for raising so much money.  But still, run somewhere else too.  Run illegally somewhere else, raise money somewhere else, and leave Boston for those who actually worked to get there.

What does this mean for me?  In all likelihood, it could mean I won't be running Boston in 2012 afterall.  Under this new system, I may never get to run it.  Even if I run a 2:59 someday, which is probably at the outer limits of my abilities, it still only buys me two extra days ahead of all general registrants.  With demand steadily increasing each year, that may not be enough time.

Today, I may have watched my dreams of running Boston go down the drain. Quite disheartening, really.

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