Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quite Fair: The Boston Marathon's New Qualification System

The running world is quite abuzz today, as the Boston Marathon announced its new qualification standards and rolling registration system late this morning (was happy they did so right before my lunch break so I could research it a bit). As I write this post, it's still difficult to get on the Boston Marathon's website, but the details are all over the internet and someone on the Runner's World message boards posted the complete lowdown, which you can read here.

Let's face it, whenever anything changes there will always be those who complain. However, overall the comments I've read on Twitter, Facebook, message boards, etc. have been overwhelming positive and supportive of the changes as a whole. That's good to see, as I think the running community knew changes were needed. It sounds like the Boston Athletic Association really did their homework and came up with something fair and it's hard to strongly argue against it.

For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on a couple of the key changes:

Rolling registration - This means the faster folks get in first. For 2012, it will be based on the BQ times as they stand now (more on the new 2013 times below). On the first day of registration (Sept. 12, 2012), those who qualified by 20 minutes or better can register. Two days later, those who qualified by 10 minutes. Four days out, 5 minutes. That's the end of week one. If you can meet the above requirements, and the race doesn't fill up, you are all set. You're in. You earned it. Done. You can relax and start planning.

Then week two registration starts on Sept. 19th and whatever spots are left go to those who simply qualified, but with a sort of catch. They'll have four days to register and it is NOT first come, first serve. At the end of the registration period, those applicants who are fastest in their respective age groups will get in, depending on how many slots are left.

That means you won't have to race to the computer, but will have to wait five days after the registration closes on Sept. 23rd to find if you made it in or not, and it's contingent on others' qualifying times. That'll no doubt be stressful if you're in the week two group, but it's a fair way to address supply and demand, in my opinion. Boston is supposed to be an elite race and this is a pretty unique and very fair system. The folks who run faster get in, not the folks who get to their computers faster.

Tougher Qualifying Times - This was a bit surprising. Starting in 2013, five minutes faster BQ times for each age group across the board (men and women). I, along with many others, thought they might make it tougher for older men and all women. It does get much easier to BQ for guys once over the age of 45, and looks like it'll stay that way, comparatively speaking. Many have said it's too easy for women in any age group as well (can't comment on that). But nope, the BAA decided five minutes faster for all. Personally, I don't have that strong of an opinion on the matter, but I imagine others might.

But actually it's not just five minutes. It's actually 5:59, as that bonus :59 time in the old system will now be done away with. And even with the tougher standards, the rolling registration system will still be in place. Good call.

What It Means For Me - For someone like me, it makes it tougher, but still not impossible. Technically, my MDI time could still get me in again for 2012, but I would be one of the week two folks and would have to keep my fingers crossed.

I'd rather not do that. So, I'm going to try to break 3:10 at Boston this April so I can be a week one registrant for 2012 and greatly increase my odds of getting in (3:10 would mean I BQ'd by better than five minutes). So that's the goal.

On a side note, I very begrudgingly took an unscheduled rest day today. Bad head cold, but I suspect I'll be good to go tomorrow. Already downed two cloves of raw garlic, chased by a big glass of OJ. That always seems to do the trick for me.


Anonymous said...

Nice write up. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

Robert Stuart said...

I was hoping to attempt a BQ at MDI 2011 with current standards. Change of plans. I have a lot of work to do for 2013.

dora said...

interesting...and fair too, i think.
thanks for your explanation.

Gretchen said...

Thanks for the summary! I think it sounds pretty fair, although like many others, I thought they would increase the standard for women more than for men. I don't think that would be uncalled for personally, but that's easy for me to say I guess since I will still qualify by 10 minutes under the new standard. The men's standard just sounds so much harder!

I hope there are plenty of spots left for the week two people!!

pathfinder said...

Wow.....Though I agree it sounds very fair, it crushes my hopes of qualifying and running it. 5:59 dosen't sound like much but it is huge for someone like me.....that being said, I have to admit to myself I am not an elite runner thus I should not expect an easy shot and shaving 15 minutes off my best time is probably possible, but being in the last group kills the chances of getting a slot.
I'm not complaining, just expressing disapointment, I will have to be satisfied with cheering you fast guys on..