Today marked the first day of registration for the 2011 Boston Marathon. For the first day in history, it also marked the only day for registration for the 2011 Boston Marathon, as registration sold out in a matter of a mere eight hours. Eight hours. That’s nuts! Last year, everyone was shocked when it filled in about two months, leaving runners with late November and December marathons out of luck for the coming year. This year, anyone who was still weighing their decision to run Boston in April had their decision made for them. This includes anyone who was hoping to qualify at any of the big marathons still to come, as we are in the midst of fall marathon season…NYC marathon, anyone?
But why did it sell out so quickly? All the hype from last year’s early sell out? Clearly runners who were shut out from last year’s Boston Marathon were quick to sign up at 9am this morning, as their qualifying time still holds them for 2011. It seems so odd that two years ago, you could register for Boston in February, but now runners are lined up at their keyboards waiting for registration to open.
Is that how Boston is supposed to be? Should it be harder to register for Boston than it is to qualify? I’ll be interested to see what the Boston Athletic Association does as a result of today’s situation. Rumors have always been flying about tightening up the qualifying times, especially for the women. With more people running marathons and more people setting Boston as their goal marathon, logically less spaces exist for more runners.
Last week, an article in the Wall Street Journal, “It’s Time for Women to Run Faster,” discussed how many people believe the standards for qualifying for Boston should be tighter for women, as they are currently thirty minutes slower than the men’s times. I agree that qualifying for Boston is a much more attainable goal for women than it is for men, but does that mean the times should be tighter? It’s easy for me to say that they should be given my most recent marathon time of 3:22…after all, I probably wouldn’t be affected by higher standards. I would probably come off as elitist (and I’m far from elite) if I were to say that the times were too soft, but here’s my opinion:
Why do people put the Boston Marathon at the top of their list? Exclusivity. Not everyone can run it. While some people are gifted enough to qualify on their first try, others spend many years chasing their dreams. (Third time was the charm for me, and I like to think I’m a pretty good runner.) Would so many runners aspire to run Boston if it didn’t have qualifying times? I’m going to say…no. Plenty of other large, exciting urban marathons exist, but Boston has such history and culture partially due to the fact that not everyone can run it. While I have not yet run the NYC Marathon, I imagine it to be fabulous with tons of spectators and running through all the different parts of the city. Could New York become like Boston if it imposed qualifying times? It’s already near impossible to get into without some work, and one of those ways is to qualify via time…with a time much faster than Boston. (3:23 for women, to be exact.) What would happen if they made this the only way to run NYC? What do you think people would do?
In my opinion, if Boston were to impose faster qualifying times, people would simply…run faster. While I have not researched where the numbers 3:10 or 3:40 came from, I imagine that it wasn’t a super technical standard. If you had to run 3:35 to qualify for Boston, that would be the new goal. Many people run a marathon with the goal of qualifying for Boston…I did in at the Wisconsin Marathon in 2009, specifically telling myself not to go out too fast because all I wanted to do was qualify for Boston. Not see what I could. Just hold back and get my qualifying time. If that qualifying time was 3:35, I would have set different goals for myself.
Am I against the BAA tightening their standards? Not really. Like I said earlier, this is much easier for me to say than as someone who has run 3:42 and barely missed qualifying. I do think it’s something to open up for discussion, and it will be interesting to see what the BAA does in the coming years.
I did not register for Boston this year, which was planned in that I’m qualified for 2012 if I want to run it then. In the meantime, I’m entertaining the ideas of other spring marathons.
What are your thoughts on Boston filling up in one day? Do you think the standards should be higher? I’m interested in hearing opinions from both sides of the fence…both those who have qualified and those who are trying to!