Marathon now tougher to get into

Meg Reilly ponders the changes, announced yesterday, to the Boston Marathon's registration: Qualifying times are now almost 6 minutes faster; she wonders at what point do hometown runners get shut out completely of the local race.

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    Answer: Long ago. Unless you

    Answer: Long ago.

    Unless you have a sponsor organization, it's next to impossible to get numbers on your own. And it's only to get harder.

    surprisingly, there's no need for it any more with technological advances. Why not let everyone run, and give them a RFID serial number that charts their progress over checkpoints. Whats the real reason for limiting registration and "real running" now a days?

    A good number of "runners" can't even hit six minutes

    To trivialize six minutes is a bit silly. I know lots of runners who will never hit a six minute mile, let alone improve their overall marathon times by six minutes.

    If the BAA is pushing out slower runners, why not get rid of the really slow charity runners too? The roads do have to be reopened, and the volunteers can't be expected to sit out there until someone averaging twelve minute miles finishes.

    I work at the Boston Marathon every year, it's amazing how snobbish the race is becoming.

    Hey,..

    as a Boston Marathon volunteer for the past three years and hopefully this year, I stayed at the finish line till a bit after 5:00p. By that time, most of the runner were done. We do not hang around till every runner finishes but I nevertheless cheer on the slow pokes as they are the real winners in my book.

    No comprehension error

    It is true the six minutes, isn't a requirement per mile. That six minutes must be made up elsewhere in the race though. This means if you average your time out, you'll be running in the area of fourteen seconds faster per mile (in the male 18-34 age group). It doesn't sound like much, but it does add up. Just ask anyone who is running races at a highly competitive level. Those races can come down to milliseconds.

    Also, just imagine how hard it is for slower runners to improve by fourteen seconds. Then imagine how hard it will be for them to do it every mile for 26.2 miles. I know a lot of people running nine minute miles, and are really trying hard to run anything below nine minutes.

    I run just under 5:30/mile, having to knock fourteen seconds off of that is really challenging, and I truly feel for the slower runners out there.

    Boston isn't a race for

    Boston isn't a race for slower runners. There are tons of marathons all across the state and New England for the slowpokes. Boston is THE marathon, the reward of rewards, for the best of the best. It shouldn't be welcoming to the slow, it should be an accomplishment to brag about.

    So Boston is...

    the oldest marathon in the nation. It has some bragging rights due to that fact. But it is still 26.2 miles, just like a host of other top marathons and some would consider more prestigious than Boston: New York, London, Berlin, Chicago to name a few.

    I say, go with the lottery system.

    Really...

    well, I am also in the "running community", as a runner and past three time marathon finisher, and I can safely say that those marathons that I listed carry weight of prestige with those that I run as well as being written up in multiple publications which state them as such. It is all a matter or perspective.

    among the sponsored

    among the sponsored runners/elites, those are definitely better. Among semi-elite/post-collegiates, New York gets mad props for their faster qualifying time. But in the more casual running community, Boston is the only one where you can only get in by qualifying or being a charity runner. That gives it a distinct position among the marathon majors.

    All that said, I would have lowered the qualifying times even further, 3:00 for men, 3:20 for women (in the under-35)

    Well...I really think you are on to something...

    Here is what I suggest: You and Terri should write the BAA and suggest they change all their PR materials to say: Boston Marathon: Only for the Best of the Best and not the Rest! Or something catchy like that.

    I mean, really, go for it! Suggest they cut out all those "slow" and "fat" charity runners, those that purchase their number (ala travel packages from overseas), the numbers given out to running clubs (heck those people are fast enough to qualify, right?), all that sort of silly stuff...the bandits would be a problem, though. Maybe hire security thugs along the route to pull out anyone not wearing a number or, heck, pull them out at the starting line. That also includes those fools wearing costumes.

    Then all of you elitist types would have nothing to bitch about, I know, but heck, if Boston is the holy grail, then only those anointed should be able to run it, right?

    Yep

    if Boston is the holy grail, then only those anointed should be able to run it, right?

    If by "anointed" you mean qualify, then yes.

    That is what I am saying...!

    then, I think you should really take your task to pen and email the BBA and say that only qualified runners should be let in. No charity cases, no circus types, nobody "buying in", just a small group of souls who can run really fast will be the only people we will let run Boston.

    I think this will solve many of the current problems.

    And please let Adam know the reply you get so he can update us.

    Thanks.

    By the way, I am assuming you are one of those qualified runners that ran a qualifying marathon to run Boston. Congrats! Did the slow pokes really bother you that much? Or do you feel less than a special person that you have to share the road with those not as fleet of feet as yourself?

    Or maybe you got cut off by one of those slow runners (but I can't see how because you were probably in the shower by the time they all finished, right?)

    Bitter?

    Someone has anger issues and I don't think it's me. Someone fast pass you during a race or something?

    BAA doesn't need my endorsement. Changing the qualifying times indicates that it wants to keep it an "elite" race. Guess that keeps you out, eh?

    I think you don't get it

    The Marathon needs the support of the community to happen. It needs volunteers, it needs willingness to shut roads and provide security, and all the support from the areas of impact that it can generate.

    Tough entry times won't buy that. Alienating the everyman who wants to accomplish something - however slow - won't accomplish that.

    Explain how it would work if a city or town along the route just said "forget it - we aren't getting anything out of this - just total hassles for the sake of a bunch of rich people from out of town" and didn't close the route? Not like the BAA can make them do it, now can they? How do elite runners run fast times if they are dodging traffic and there aren't volunteers handing them water?

    The Marathon ultimately runs on good will - not destination travel, not fast entry times, good will.

    The BAA needs to remember who makes this event possible when it decides who can and can't run in it - and think about what would happen if those same people lost interest in and tolerance for their yearly party.

    State roads

    It starts on Rte 135 in Hopkinton. Continues on Rte 16 in Wellesley. Then goes up Comm Ave, which is Rte 30. Then Chestnut Hill Ave for a couple blocks to Beacon Street at Cleveland Circle. I think Beacon street might even be a state road (Boston.com claims it to be "Rte 9a" but that's the first I'd heard of it).

    I'd associated state roads with state jurisdiction only because...they're state roads. I really don't know about the police jurisdiction.

    Ah ok.

    I'm pretty sure the state and cities and towns have agreed on which ones are state roads in terms of who maintains them and policies them. I believe the "state roads" are ones which the state (Mass Highway or the DCR) pays to maintain (VFW parkway, Rt. 128 or the MA Pike) and where the state police patrols.

    Route 16 in Wellesley is Washington St. and the town of Wellesley pays for all of the upkeep (policing, snowplowing, paving, cost of traffic lights). Although the bridge on Rt. 16 and Rt. 9 was a state project so there must be some agreement there.

    I also know Rt. 9 is different in each town in terms of which police agency would respond to car crashes and do the details. MA highway does all the road work and snow plowing and traffic lights but the police in some towns have juristiction (Brookline, Wellesley and Framingham) but in Newton the State police responds to all car crashes and does the details.

    I'm not sure what there is to

    I'm not sure what there is to get here. The BAA has historically actively managed qualifying times. The qualifying times have in the past been even lower and more "elite" than the new ones just established.

    You may not like the traffic or the "yearly party" but the "yearly party" exists not because everyone runs but because Boston's qualifying aspect elevates it above other US marathons.

    The origins of the Boston Marathon are as a "race" with an elite aspect to it and the BAA feels an obligation to uphold that.

    Otherwise, we'd just be the Houston Marathon. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but you're missing the point about why Boston holds a special place compared to other marathons.

    People mostly (of course not all) want to run Boston because it represents an accomplishment of athletic achievement that they're proud of reaching.

    Good luck with that boycott

    The BAA needs to remember who makes this event possible when it decides who can and can't run in it - and think about what would happen if those same people lost interest in and tolerance for their yearly party.

    Seriously, has anyone (volunteer, city councilor, mayor, etc.) threatened to pull support of the marathon because of qualification times? Somehow, I don't think BAA is really concerned about this boycott you're proposing. They're doing this because of an excess of demand.

    And the qualifying times for the Boston marathon are fast, but they are not elite times. An elite running time is usually a sub-3 hour marathon. There are plenty of average joes and joannes (many from the New England area)who can run a 3:05 or 3:35 marathon.

    Who said anything about a boycott?

    I guess you can't read, either.

    I merely point out that there will be decreasing interest in this event locally if the BAA wants it to be an elite playground to the exclusion of the community. Continuing a trend toward excluding entry-level marathoners will, over the years, compromise the event because a world-class marathon cannot happen without the support of the community.

    And I merely point out

    And I merely point out that you're talking out of your ass. You're making statements based on your own personal bias about the marathon. Where is this "evidence" that keeping entry-level runners out will compromise community support? Exclusivity hasn't hurt it yet, but it's only the oldest marathon in the world. I guess any day now, huh?

    Marathon is a pain in the arse

    If you have to get to work because you have to work that day, it is a major headache. It hardly makes one feel special to have to detour and route around it on a workday.

    That said, I love that it exists because it is something special for the city, even if it can be a nuisance. HOWEVER, inflicting that headache comes with some responsibility on the part of the organizers to let more than just Elite Special Ultra Super Awesome Runners compete. The inconvenience and the need for volunteers to make it happen demand that organizers must make steps toward inclusion of the very people who are being seriously inconvenienced by the event.

    People volunteer because Uncle Joe and little Bobby are running and they line the route to catch a glimpse of their friends and coworkers running by. Turning it into an elite sandbox will just turn these key people off of it - it is the combination of top competition with family and community ties that allows this to continue, not the opportunity to serve a bunch of people with enough time to train and money to travel.

    Personally, I'm against the marathon

    It was cool up until the point when it became less a New England event and more of a showcase for yuppies from all over (I place this point in the early 80's; you can place it wherever you like). All it does for me is crowd the city for DAYS with rich unattractive people (more than usual, I mean), and then all day on an otherwise good holiday, you can't get across the city to save your life, or get to work for that matter, because those same scrawny sweaty folks have blocked off the roads. It's like one of those dreadful charity walks which block up the Charles River every other warm weekend, except those are shorter and accomplish something, and the people involved are generally far less self-absorbed.

    Marathon helps charities, too

    I used to work for a non-profit that made more from our Boston Marathon team than we did from our Walk. Plus, walks are extremely staff-intensive and usually require a year-round team dedicated to putting it on. The Marathon program managed charity runners for Boston, NYC, Chicago, Disney, London and Berlin with fewer employees than the walk. Much more cost effective.

    Also, if the Marathon wasn't happening on Patriot's Day, what are the chances anyone except state employees would have the day off?

    There are two Boston

    There are two Boston Marathons - the elite race, and everyone else. The 'everyone else' portion became a joke decades ago. You could cut half the registered runners and still have people 'finishing' five hours after the start. Boston is an elite event for the professionals. For everyone else - it's an amateur hour party. Which is not different from other major marathons - they've all been turned into circuses with all the charity runners and funny hat guys.

    When I was considering the

    When I was considering the marathon and trying to calculate what it takes, it seems the story is pretty congruent to what I found.

    The Boston Marathon's qualifying time was originally meant as a way to deal with demand and size. However, it created an unintended effect that only the best runner can run it. Which lead to increase prestige that lead to better times and more prestige. It is more that just perspective, in the greater number of marathon runners, the Boston Marathon is the marathon. The marathon that many people that spends years in vain to gain the ability to run at pace to run such a race. New York, Chicago, and etc prestige comes from the city it is associated with, Boston's is because only the few are able to quality.

    It is not exactly snobbery, though I guess any competition that only the best can compete is inescapable with the quality. I guess it is now the decision to keep the qualification time is not a conscious decision rather than the accidental act that started it back then. Anyways, in my opinion, I think it is cool to keep it the way it is. There's competition for all levels, why not let Boston be the one for the best of the best (and that does mean I will be able to qualify). Though perhaps opening it up for more runners (so a bit lower requirement) would be good without damage to the reputation it acquired.

    Do BAA members still get free numbers...

    ...and sell them to out of towners for big money?

    It used to be that way. It was a perk for they BAA guys. You know, a way for them to pick up some cash in exchange for all the volunteer work they do. Then, if they happened to sell it to a talented runner, they BAA member's name would be in the official results with that time, and they could show all their friends what a great runner they were.

    Anybody know if they still do that?

    Why not change it entirely?

    Why not accept all registrations with a lenient qualifying time (say, 3:30:00 for this example) over a certain period of time, say 3 days.

    Then, once all of the registrations are in, you announce the size of the registered field that will be given bibs and cap it based on their qualifying time that they registered with.

    So in practice: If 15,000 people sign up with times under 3:30:00, but you decide you only have room for 4,000 in the field, then the best 4,000 qualifying times will get bibs, the rest will have to try again next time or get an unregistered/sponsored/fundraising bib.

    This over-complicated "well, if you did 30 minutes better than 3:30:00, you can sign up today...then tomorrow, if you did only 20 minutes better, you can sign up..." system is just going to be confusing and lead to people missing their signup time and get annoyed. In the end, it'll give about the same result as above anyways...but still lead to the server-slamming "first come, first served" problem that the current system has (because you don't wanna be last in line when they decide they finally got enough even though you have a better time than someone else who got there first that day).