On the Boston Marathon Qualifying Standards Debacle

The little blue-and-golden tickets that get a runner into the world’s most famous marathon just became a lot harder to come by.

I first heard it from Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point.  Having had my head in the sand for the past few weeks, my first thought was that it was an early April Fool’s joke (which actually happened last year when someone set up a fake Boston Athletic Association page announcing new qualifying times).

These suckers just became a whole lot more valuable.

But a look at the real BAA page confirmed it: Across the board, qualifying times for the 2013 Boston Marathon have officially been lowered by 5 minutes and 59 seconds.

The worst part

They had to do something.  Registration for this year’s race was open for all of eight hours before the race filled.  (I set about 30 alarms to make sure I didn’t miss it, and I was lucky enough to get a spot.)

The natural response, of course, is to make it harder to qualify.  I get that.  Amby Burfoot, who has a great article about why he doesn’t like the new requirements, cites an estimate that the new requirements will lower the number of qualifiers from about 57,000 down to 41,000.  (Thanks to Tim from Midpack Runner for pointing me to this article.)

Mission mostly accomplished.  But here’s what I hate about it.

Since this won’t completely alleviate the problem of too many people trying to register for too few spots, the BAA went one step further: Registration will now take place on a rolling basis, so that the fastest qualifiers in each group will have the chance to register first.  Only after they’ve had their chance will slower qualifiers be able to register, if spots remain open.

See the problem?

What this means is that a “qualifying time” doesn’t necessarily qualify you.

As someone who tried for nearly eight years before I finally ran a marathon fast enough to get into Boston, its clear to me that one crucial aspect of the Boston Marathon has been taken away here — the “journey” to qualify has lost a lot of its appeal.

If you haven’t been reading this blog for long, you might not know that its first six months were dominated by my mission to qualify for Boston on my new vegetarian diet.  Looking back, that journey was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever taken part in.  And the culmination, the rush of emotion I felt when I knew I had done it, when I first caught sight of the finish line as I entered the final “.2” with two minutes to spare, is something that still gives me chills to think about and which I’ll never, ever forget.

For anyone still looking to qualify for Boston, a moment like that will never happen.

Oh, they’ll know when they’ve run a qualifying time.  But they won’t know if it’s good enough to get in until months later, as they sit in front of their computers waiting for an email notification to tell them whether they can register or whether their “qualifying time” wasn’t good enough.  (True, in the past a qualifying time didn’t necessarily get you in if you weren’t quick to register.  But even in my case, when the registration was open for only 8 hours, I knew I’d get in if I made it a point to be at the computer when it opened.)

What else is wrong?

Well, putting aside the fact that the celebration of qualifying will happen at a keyboard rather than a finish line, the new scheme will go so far as to affect the way runners run their qualifying races.  Here’s how.

The fact that I qualified by only one minute (3:09:59, when I needed a 3:10:50) is no coincidence.  I paced myself to run as close to a 3:10 as possible, because I knew that’s what it would take to get in.  Any faster wouldn’t matter, but any slower would mean failure.  When I felt great in the first half of the race and had the urge to really push it, it was easy to talk myself out of it, because there was nothing to gain by going much below 3:10.

Not so anymore.  Now, a runner who is right on pace for their qualifying time halfway through the race has got to wonder: Will that even be enough?

And so she”ll speed up.  She’ll feel good for a few miles at the new pace, but within a half hour or so she’ll crash.  I know because I’ve done it plenty of times.

And in some cases, that initial pace probably would have been enough.  Yet because this poor runner didn’t know exactly what time it would take to get in, she won’t even run a qualifying time at all.

What they should do instead

I understand that this was a hard thing to do.  When more people want to run a race than that race can handle, somebody has to be left out in the cold.  So I sympathize with the BAA for being faced with such a difficult decision.  (And I can admit that I’m probably being naive here, as I’ve thought about this for an hour while they’ve thought about it for months or years.)

So I apologize for complaining, when it’s easy to complain and criticize when you’re not the one on the hot seat.  So at the very least, I’ll offer my own solution, naive or not.

Raise the price.

Make it really expensive.  Maybe 250 dollars.  Maybe more, maybe less — certainly with some testing and research they could get it right, so that if running Boston is really what you want to do, you can almost certainly get a spot if you qualify and you buck up and pay for it.

What would this do?  From my perspective, it’d make Boston a one-time thing.  Something that I could justify paying for a single time, as the reward for eight years of sweat and determination.

But then I wouldn’t do it again, because it wouldn’t be worth it to pay that much a second or third or fourth time.  And then — wait for it — someone else gets a chance.  Magic.

The race wouldn’t lose its prestige, as the current qualifying standards would still give it that.  They’d still have plenty of first-time qualifiers eager to pay the inflated rate to run it once.  And they’d have a lot more money, which, if they were really worried about how the price hike would affect the public perception of the race, they could give away to help financially-disadvantaged runners afford decent shoes and equipment.

Would this exclude some people who can’t afford it, even once?  Probably.  But making it harder and harder to get in excludes people who aren’t fast enough, so either way, somebody’s getting excluded.  At least the higher price wouldn’t detract from the journey the way the new system does.

Cliche time: It’s the journey, not the destination

Less than two months from now, I’ll be running Boston for the first time in my life.  For me, it’ll be a celebration of what I accomplished, and I’m really looking forward to it.  (I didn’t run it last year because my son was born two days before the race.)

But it will probably be the only time I get to run Boston.  Yes, I know that with some considerable effort I could get my marathon time down to 3:05 or maybe even sub-three hours.  But if my only motivation to run that fast a race is to get into Boston again, I have a hard time imagining that I’ll find the drive that’s required without knowing that I’ll qualify if I run a certain time.

But once will be enough for me.  As the cliche goes, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” and that’s absolutely the way I’ve felt about this whole mission to get to Boston.

I just hope that for runners who haven’t yet qualified, the magic of that mission isn’t gone.

What do you think?  Do you like the new system?  Have a better one?



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  1. greg diamond says:

    So instead of forcing people to actually run a fast marathon and qualify for the only race in the country you need to qualify for, they should make it a race you need to have enough money for. Seriously?

  2. I somewhat agreed with you – I don’t know that I really like the rolling system where somebody can qualify and not really know if they qualified.

    However, a friend of mine that just qualified this past year and is running his first Boston says he likes the new rolling system because as somebody that spent 6 years trying to qualify and finally making it, he now has motivation to try to get even better so that he can be more likely to guarantee himself a spot by getting into one of the earlier registration tiers.

    I think his point is that Boston didn’t change the qualifying standards by 5:59, they changed them by 25:59, with provisional entries allowed up to a 5:59 faster standard. Realistically, I expect that anybody that can get registered in that first week (at least 5 minutes below the current standard for 2012 or at least 10:59 below the current standard for 2013 on) is likely to have a spot without worrying too much.

  3. Don’t you think the uniqueness of BM is that you actually have to be a fast runner, not rich? Not to be rude, but maybe working harder and training faster is the ticket. Clearly, 40,000+ runners aren’t having a problem reaching these qualifying times. Heck, I say LOWER the cost and RAISE the times!

    • Raise the prices?, really? You know what happens when they raise the prices at the Boston Marathon and people pay for it? Every major marathon will follow. scratch that every single marathon will do the same.

      I say people who run Boston run it because they have to be special to run it, as in faster than the average runner. So if you’re going to sport that nice blue jacket with the BAA logo on it and walk around like a sub elite you should at least earn it.


  4. I think that lopping off 5:59 for EVERYONE was a little too much. It was well-known the women’s qualifying times were too lenient, yet they made it tougher for all to qualify. It doesn’t make sense to me. Even though I run nowhere near a BQ time, I feel they should have just worried about the female qualifying times for now and see how that went. My boyfriend is trying to get down to 3:10, but soon, it will be 3:05… agh!

    The rolling registration I don’t mind, since those who REALLY want to get in will make sure they register as close as possible to when they are able. Hence, I don’t think people who qualified close to the cutoff time will likely be shut out…

    • I’m curious what the ratio of men to women are in the BM. If they target just the females, wouldn’t that make it a male dominating sport. I know I wish I could qualify since I am Bos born and raised, but even with the old standards, I am long way off.

  5. I’ve got to agree with Greg Diamond: If Boston is going to be unfair to anyone, I’d prefer it be unfair to slow runners rather than to ones who don’t have a lot of money. But there might be a another reason I see this issue differently, Matt: I never got BQ fever the way a lot of runners do. Sure, I wanted to run Boston, but my goal was always to run (because I love running); to train hard (because that gives the running added texture); and to race as fast as possible (because I find great satisfaction in discovering what I’m capable of doing). That’s my journey, always, with running. Nothing Boston does could change that.

  6. Along with you, I was a bit taken aback by the new qualifying system. Not so much the time drops, but the pre-registration process. But the more I have thought about it – I like it. With maybe just one change.

    Boston is a major goal and to accomplish making it there should be something to be proud of. But, it is a race that you have to QUALIFY for. And it is a RACE. The new system forces people to run the fastest race they possibly can. But, people are still going to shoot for 20, 10, or 5 minutes less than their qualify time to give themselves the best opportunity to get registered.

    The new system makes this a true qualifying event. You post your time and ultimately hope that it is enough when the time comes. Raising the price just makes it less of a physical accomplishment. The one change I would suggest though is that once registration opens to everyone, not just those that beat their time by 20, 10, and 5 minutes, it should go to the first come-first serve system. Someone shouldn’t be rewarded for waiting to register just because they ran fast.

    Anyway, my two cents. Thanks for all the great posts, Matt!

  7. I have mixed feelings about the new changes. As someone who hasn’t yet qualified, it certainly makes things harder. But as you said, something had to be done, and I don’t really know what else I would have suggested.
    While raising the price is definitely a good idea, it might really limit who can actually take part in the race. If you don’t live near Boston, getting out there and finding a place to stay can be expensive enough, add a massive fee on top of that and some people just wouldn’t be able to do it. Then again, I guess that is your point, a one time expense you are willing to pay that keeps people from wanting to come back.
    If I were Boston, I might have just started with the tougher qualifying times and seen where that got me.

  8. I like the new system, as it will push runners to be the best they can be, rather than a “fast enough” 3:10:59 marathon finish. I know I would train & race harder if I was unsure if 3:10:59 would be good enough to actually earn a spot.

  9. Ok, revised solution…how about only charging extra money for the second time and beyond? This way it’s still cheap to run it once but there would be less total demand for spots.

  10. You raise some very good points. I am very bummed about the changes as it pretty much blows any chance I had of running Boston out of the water. Lower the qualifying times is fine, but the rolling entry is a bad idea.

  11. Actually, the new rules make sense to me (the implementation of the rules is a different topic, about which we can talk some other time). Suppose you run a 2:30 marathon, but you get shut out of Boston because of all those 3:08/3:09/3:10 dudes. How would that feel? If Boston wants to make entry dependent on running ability, then this is the correct way of doing it, rather than a blanket “run this fast and you’re in”.

    Here is another way of looking at it: suppose that you want to apply for an NSF grant (or a Rhodes scholarship, or…). All those funding bodies want to give their money to the best scholars in the country, in the same way that Boston wants to give marathon spots to the best runners in the country. Now, the NSF doesn’t say “if you meet requisites X, Y, and Z, then you will get one of our grants”; it says “this year, we have so much money to give away, and we are going to give it to the best people who apply, and we are doing this with the knowledge that many scholars are going to be turned down because, while they are good, they are not good enough”. I really don’t see why Boston should do things differently.

    Then, maybe I’m only saying this because I really don’t have an urge to qualify.

  12. I’m not sure that this is the best possible solution, but I think it’s a pretty good one. I guess it will be easier to see how it works once it actually goes into effect. It doesn’t bother me much because you’d have to have a hungry dinosaur running behind me to make that qualifying time and I’ve never had dreams of running Boston.

  13. Running is a competitive sport. Sure, there are plenty of marathons out there who cater to the average runner regardless of their anticipated finish times- mainly due to the start-up and overhead costs involved with these events and the need for registration money to help cover those costs. Boston doesn’t suffer from that issue- hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of people train with the hope of qualifying for Boston every year.
    Like every other sport, there comes a time when the highest level will simply not be accessible to the majority of its’ participants. Millions of people play hockey and are extremely passionate for the sport, but does that mean anyone can play in the NHL? No, you have to be a freakin amazing hockey player. Can anyone become a qualifier for the Boston Marathon? No- you need to train, and train hard and you need to race and race smart to get the qualifying times. These new rules are simply a reflection of the growing popularity of our sport and the need to up the anty in order to ensure they have the top athletes competing in this race. Boston wants record setting times, and they want the best marathoners out there competing in the sport and this is probably one way where they can achieve that.
    PS I know I just totally stereotyped myself as a typical Canadian with the hockey reference but it’s the first sport that came to mind.

  14. I say dont let ANY charities in until everyone who has qualified has registered. Charities are taking up valuable spots just because they can raise money. Boston is supposed to be prestigious, and they let walkers in if they can pay for it.

    • Jon Weisblatt says:

      the slots for charities and waivers is a non-issue. Those are separate and don’t affect the qualifier’s spots.

      • But they kind of do… I mean, every charity spot is still a body on the race course, right?

        • Jon Weisblatt says:

          ya, but our local running cult gets 10 waivers and even though they didn’t even get in the club’s hands until after registration already closed, those 10 people were able to still get into the race. I believe, and I could be wrong of course, that there are a limited overall number of waiver and charity slots that is a separate from the BQ folks. Worth some research. For my 2 cents, as great as Boston was, I enjoyed NYC even more and I’m registered for the Marine Corps Marathon, which I’ve heard is like no other.

          • Jon, I just did DC… WOW!!! And I like that anyone can run as long as you have the $ and sign up before it fills up. The Marines provide fabulous support. It was my worst time for a marathon but I had the best time ever! I recommend that anyone ever thinking about doing a marathon, do DC.

            Megan, I was just about to write the same thing. If this is to be a race for the best of the best than have the charity run on a different day.

  15. I might be wrong about this, but didn’t they also change the qualifying window and registration shifted up to September? That means that almost all Fall races are out, and who wants to run their fastest marathon in the dead of summer! I think this shift alone will knock a lot of people out of qualifying.

  16. Hey, Matt!

    It’s an interesting problem, isn’t it? You can’t fit everyone on the course who has trained hard enough to qualify. But what’s the most fair solution?

    Mark Remy, who originally pointed me to Amby’s response, had a few tongue-in-cheek suggestions on how to address the problem.

    Joking aside, I don’t see why they couldn’t do something like extend the race into multiple waves run over, say, a 24 hour period. Especially having grown up near Boston, I can’t think of too many people who would object to a 24 hour marathon party.

    Or maybe a mandatory biannual (or triannual) registration restriction?

  17. my take on it? once you’ve run it, you should be excluded from being able to run it again for a few years. right across the board, regardless of age group, qualifying time, money raised for charity, etc.

  18. Implement the new system with a first-time runner exclusion. Basically, if it’s your first time running the race, you can register immediately no matter your qualifying time. For anyone who has run the race before, the faster times get to register first.

    They limit the field, up the competition, but still allow first time qualifiers a guarantee of knowing they qualify once they run a certain time. Everybody’s happy.

    • Matt, that might be my favorite idea yet.

    • matt, I think even first timers need to qualify. That is what makes Boston… well, Boston! Boston is why we set such difficult goals and train harder than we ever thought possible. By qualifying you are a winner before the gun goes off. And whether we want to run BOS or not we still gauge our finish times with BOS qualifying times. Its just fun like that 🙂

      • I think you misunderstood my suggestion. I agree that first timers have to qualify. My solution is that if it’s your first time running the race, you can register immediately as long as you qualify, no matter if you beat the qualifying standard by five seconds or an hour. That gives first time qualifiers that ‘guarantee’ that seems important.

        After you’ve run the race, you’re subject to the rolling admissions standards whereby faster qualifiers can register before slower qualifiers. Everyone still has to qualify, but if it’s your first time running, you can still register immediately even with a ‘slower’ qualifying time.

  19. I have no problem with the faster race times (although I just read an article in Running Times about how women marathoners are getting slower). However, my heart goes out to the runners who do qualify but the race gets filled up by faster times before they can register. I would be devastated.

  20. Just for clarification based on a few of these comments…when you register doesn’t matter under this new system unless the field fills up from people that are at least 5 minutes under the qualifying standard (that is, the field fills up in the first week) or if you wait until after the second week of registration to put your name in if the field doesn’t fill up in the first 2 weeks.

    They are basically taking the fastest times up to the field limit from that first two weeks, so if you register on day 10 and have a faster time than somebody that registered on day 9, you go ahead of them in the queue. No more rush to the computer.

  21. Boston is a prestigious marathon for a reason. It is not every runner’s right to get to do it. Yeah, it’s going to be harder to qualify now. So let’s all work harder and be better runners than we ever thought possible. It might take more tries to qualify than before, but aren’t we running for the lifelong joy it brings rather that just checking a race off our to-do lists?
    To the BAA, I say bring it on!

    • No disagreement that it’s not everyone’s right to run Boston. And I’m totally down with the stricter qualifying times, as the sport gets more popular. I just hate that we don’t know exactly what it takes to get in. You could choose a target time, train hard for it, make it, and then find out it wasn’t good enough. That sucks.

  22. I’m not sure what the best solution is. I don’t know whether I would ever have qualified, but I think you’re right that this detered a lot of people. I could have seen myself pushing myself for years to qualify, but with the new rules I don’t know that I’ll ever actually go for it. There are plenty of other marathons in the world that I can run. Even on my best day I’ll never be an elite marathoner, so qualifying in itself would be a great feat. But since I have no idea whether that would get me in or not I’m not sure it’s something I’ll reach for.

  23. I think this is a great solution. I wouldn’t have thought it was a great solution when I first qualified with a 3:09:48, but that was because I trained only hard enough to run 3:10. I disagree with Matt’s argument about a runner feeling good halfway and then pushing too hard. I think, realistically, people will be shooting for marathon times more than 5 minutes under the BQ times to guarantee themselves a spot. I think it will push people to train harder than the bare minimum, which is great. I totally disagree with raising the price.

    And Boston can’t have a 24 hour marathon party, as it’s not cheap to pay for the police to stand at all the required spots. It’s just not that simple. It would be near impossible to find volunteers to cover the entire race and it would also create serious traffic issues.

    The reason the women’s qualifying times were not adjusted was to try to split the field 50/50.

    My only issue with the new process is the super early registration date. I think that they should change it to Mid-November to allow Chicago and New York participants to qualify.

    • Good point about the 24-hour party. My first thought was “Why don’t they make it two days, or multiple heats?” But obviously, that’s just not feasible with an event of this size.

  24. Hmmm, I don’t know if I’d even have a shot at the new qualifying times. But then again, I can’t remember the last marathon I ran! Good luck Matt, you’re an amazing athlete!

    • I’m an amazing athlete? That might be the first time I’ve heard that one. 🙂 So what does that make the people who can run a marathon an hour faster than me?

  25. Great post Matt! My goal is to eventually qualify for Boston, but I never plan on running it. Strictly for what you said – MONEY. Boston is expensive in the first place, and then add in travel expenses and the fact that it’s on a Monday in April (not convenient for a teacher like myself), it’s just not feasible for me to ever actually run Boston. I just want to be able to say “I QUALIFIED!” And now, that’s gonna be a tad bit harder – since I have to take 16 minutes off my time instead of just 11!

  26. It’s not a bad suggestion. After all, people pay top dollar for certain experiences: A meal at a restaurant with a top chef or a pair of jeans with a specific brand on the label, for example. I suppose if we are going to look as Boston as “name-brand,” then we assume people will pay name-brand prices for entry.

    But I’m hearing over and over and over about how running is perceived as becoming a sport for elitists. So maybe this isn’t the best way. If the price is raised, I do like the idea of having a grant available for runners who can show financial need.

    My thought? Take a page from triathlon (C’mon! You knew I was going to go there – I’m the NMA Resident Triathlete!). The holy grail of Ironman Triathlon is the world championship in Kona, Hawaii. Each qualifying race during the year has X number of qualifying spots in each gender/age group. The top finisher(s) in each gender/age group are awarded the qualifying spot. If they accept, they go to Kona. If they decline or have already qualified in another race, their spot rolls down to the next best finisher. Bigger races have more qualifying slots. Smaller races, less. It’s about performing well on that particular course, on that particular day (as opposed to just an general time cutoff).

  27. I was unhappy to find out about the change because a BQ used to be a concrete goal. Now, I have NO IDEA how fast I need to run to qualify. As a woman, do I now need a 3:30? 3:10? 2:59? I guess we’ll get a better idea once we see the entry times that make it, but for now it’s disappointing not to have a goal time to work for.

  28. I am running Boston for a third time this April and the new registration plan that the BAA announced has me training even harder. While I understand the uncertainty of running a BQ time, but not knowing if it is good enough to get in, I like the motivation that the new process places on the runner.

    I would have liked to have seen the women’s BQ times adjusted beyond the overall 5:59 change for both sexes.

    As for price, considering NYC costs over $200, Boston has room to go with increasing their fee. I wouldn’t mind seeing them do that if the extra money goes to charity allowing more spots to be given to runners.

  29. I don’t think the new system is perfect by any means (it’s awful that registration ends before all the major fall marathons!) but I completely disagree that the answer lies in raising the price. I don’t think that Boston should be a race marketed only toward the wealthiest qualifying runners (just like I think it’s awful how many spots are given away to corporate sponsors every year). I don’t mean to sound elitist, but runners aren’t “entitled” to get to run the Boston Marathon. It’s an accomplishment based on being able to run a fast marathon time. So people are always going to be excluded – it’s unfortunate but that’s just the way this particular marathon is set up. I just don’t see how excluding them based on cost is more fair than excluding based on marathon time??

    I also don’t think Boston should be a race to the computer on registration day, like it was this year. There were a lot of worthy runners who worked just as hard for that BQ, yet were denied a spot in this year’s marathon simply because they weren’t lucky enough to get to a computer when registration opened.

    In an ideal world, everyone who qualified would get a spot. But since there will always be more runners who want to do the marathon than there are spots, the BAA has to have some sort of “race” to fill it. I like that now the race is actually based on how fast you can run, not how fast you can get to the computer. I know it makes it tough for runners who are on the edge (and I feel bad about that side effect of the changes), but like you said yourself – it’s more about the journey. Just because someone who runs a few seconds under the qualifying time might not get a spot, it doesn’t take away from their accomplishment – they still ran a BQ.

    I also disagree with your assessment about the faster times leading to worse performances. I have BQ’d several times and it was never about just running the bare minimum time. It was about seeing how well I could do. These new qualifying standards will give people another goal to work toward. I think a lot of people will see it as a challenge, and will just aim to run that much faster on race day. Yeah, it’ll be tougher, but it’s just another challenge to work toward. Over time, I hope that a lot of people will see it as motivational, instead of a negative thing.

    • There is a great point here: That the new qualifying standards will give people a new goal to work towards. Since I BQ’d, I’ve definitely lost a lot of the motivation to try to get faster (hence I’ve done more ultras instead). Running a sub-3 marathon is an exciting idea, but I haven’t been driven to do it the way I was with getting into Boston. Perhaps many unmotivated BQ-ers like myself will find new reason to train hard. Now, if only we knew what exactly we were shooting for…

  30. Roberta says:

    I say let first time qualifiers register first. I know people who have done it 5-6 years in a row and will still qualify with the new times. Looking at what I need to run to qualify I will make it to Boston when I am 70!!!!

  31. Jon Weisblatt says:

    Hey Matt,
    Dam! This means that now I have to run 40 minutes faster than my current PR instead instead of 35. As far as cost, the last time I ran Boston (yes, on a waiver) it already cost me $250. Hence, the money has already been a downer for me. Just one more person the elites didn’t beat that day. Good luck in April!

    • Why did it cost $250? What was the waiver for?

      • Matt,

        Charity and tourist bibs cost $250. Everything you pay on top of that is either to the charity or the tourism company.

      • Jon Weisblatt says:

        Our running cult (Cape Cod Athletic Club)gets 10 waivers a year.(see my above reply) Don’t really know why. I think it’s because some of our members volunteer Also, the local Police and Fire depts get a few waivers. They don’t always get used. Training here in the winter isn’t always the most fun.

  32. I 100% agree with you. The rush you get in the last mile or two of a marathon when you know you’re going to qualify is incredible. Now that that bar is really a floating one, it takes some of that joy away.

    • Yeah it does. The feeling at the end of a great race will be “I wonder if that was enough,” not necessarily “I did it.” As others point out though, maybe running should be more for the joy of running a great time than qualifying for Boston. But for me, it doesn’t work that way. 🙂

  33. I don’t care that they changed the qualifying time, but the rolling thing sucks. Let me know what I am shooting for so I can get in, give me a number that says if I get below THAT, I can register to run Boston (if I can type fast enough). What these rolling standards did for me was to go from wanting to BQ some day to not being interested at all.

    My thought is this – give me a solid time that if I hit or get below, allows me to (try to) register.

    I think also, if they made the rules so you can’t run Boston every year, it would open up a few more slots (so make it so you can’t run Boston in 2011 and 2012 and your Boston race can’t be a qualifier for 2012, which is how a lot of folks qualify).

    • Mandy, that’s exactly how I feel. I’m fine with them making the standards impossibly hard for me to reach, but at least I’d like to know exactly what it takes.

      Then again, the “if I can type fast enough” part of what you wrote is a pretty good counterargument to ours… in the past few years, you really didn’t “know” you’d get in even if you ran a qualifying time.

      • So just consider the standard to be 5 or 10 minutes faster than it is if you want to know you got in…or that it’s 20 minutes faster, and then you can be next to certain.

  34. I don’t have a problem with the times being lowered. I still have a goal to qualify someday. However, like you said, even if I have qualified, I still might not get in because my time wasn’t good enough compared to others that qualified. Not fair. Obviously, one has to be somewhat fast to qualify for Boston, but I think this registration on a rolling basis promotes a sort of elitism that is NOT what running is about. Actually, it is sort of disgusting to me.

    But, I don’t think we should raise the price either. I had a problem with this concept when I heard that you can pay $500 extra for an IM event just for the chance to register early. I’m certainly not made of money, and although triathlon is not a cheap sport by any means, I think it takes away from the true value gained from pushing yourself hard during racing to accomplish something great.

  35. JohnnyLos says:

    I agree with runnergirl “working harder and training faster is the ticket” . So here is the answer and the deal for BM qualifying times.

    1) There are no special handicap times for the girls anymore, you have to work hard and train faster. Same qualifying times for everyone.

    2) No exemptions for celebrities or auctions for charities where you can buy your way in cash donations.

  36. Good Grief!

    It’s their race and their rules. You don’t like it, don’t run it. There has been an uproar every time the BAA has changed the qualifying times, yet people still qualify. If BQ is your goal, then get out there and BQ. If you want a guaranteed spot after you qualify, forget it. There are no guarantees.

    So the fastest in each category get to register first. Imagine if you were a 2:30 marathoner who crushed his BQ time by over an hour, and business required that you were away from your computer when registration opened this year?

    Qualifying for Boston was to limit the number of runners. No one at BAA could have forseen that the number of qualifying runners would outstrip the number of bibs available to the extent that it occurred this year. So BAA created a three year plan to resolve this issue. I think they did a masterful job in trying to reward those athletes who were the fastest in their age groupings.

    For those athletes who are in the :59 group (qualifying within one minute of your age group’s BQ), you are in the exact same position you were in this year. When the registration opens, you’ll have to be faster to the registration than the next person if you want a spot. Will your chances of gaining a spot go up or down based on this year’s model? No body knows. My guess is that it’ll go up and that more people are within five minutes of their age group BQ.

    Be thankful that BAA hasn’t decided that if you don’t finish the race within your age group’s qualifying time limit, you aren’t considered an official finisher. If you take a look at finishing times, the vast majority of the runners complete Boston slower than their qualifying time limit. Wouldn’t that be horrific? But it’s their race, they get to choose.

    and to those people who still think BAA should eliminate the charity bibs – shame on you. Are you so elitist, so spoiled, so entitled to your bib because you ran someone else’s marathon faster than a randomly chosen time limit that BAA should not take advantage of their enormous presence in the running community to encourage people to raise money for charity? maybe it’s better if they eliminate the charity bibs and just require everyone to raise a minimum amount for charity. and if you don’t turn in the required amount, then you don’t receive your bib and forfeit your entrance fee. Doesn’t that sound better?

    it’s their race, it’s their rules. if you don’t like it, don’t run it.

    and to everyone who is now complaining that the usual ‘last chance to BQ’ marathons are after the registration date, you are forgetting that your BQ ‘status’ is good for 18 months. You can still run your favorite fall race to BQ, you’ll just be registering for the Boston Marathon that’s ‘two years away.’ No, that’s not ‘last chance’, and a lot can happen in two years following your BQ, but maybe BAA did that deliberately. Remember, their only objective is to limit the number of entrants. For the near future, they are also trying to ensure that the fastest of each age group have the right of first refusal.

    • Matthew says:

      Rob, Excellent post. I cannot agree with you more.

      The BAA is a private organization and they can do whatever they want. From personal experience, I have found that they work hard to put on a quality event and I give them credit for coming up with a major improvement to the registration process for 2012 and beyond. If you do not like what the BAA is doing, just find another marathon to run.

  37. This is an athletic event, not a finacial one. I vote for making the qualifying times tougher. Marathon times continue to creep down, and so should the qualifying times. For those who can qualify, it will be the journey just as you described. For those who can’t, well, try again next year or pick a different race. If I can’t qualify, that’s the way it is.

  38. Why not just go back to how they used to have it, a standard 2:50 across the board to qualify?

    • I actually would be okay with that, even though it would probably exclude me from the race. It’d still be cool to know that if I could run that time, I would be in. I suspect that wouldn’t be ideal for them, because I’m not sure there are enough 2:50 runners out there to fill the race every year.

  39. If someone needs to be excluded, I’d feel more comfortable it be done by running times, not by wealth, as you suggest.

  40. With registration just a week away, it has been interesting to read the comments on various websites regarding the Boston changes that were announced months ago. Having run 14 marathons in the past seven years, six of them in Boston, I consider myself on the bubble this year at about 7 minutes under my qualifying time, which puts me in the third of the four qualifying groups. I have my doubts that registration will go into the first Friday, let alone the second week. Still, it’s hard to complain too much about reserving spots for faster runners. My biggest disappointment was that registration was moved back to September after just one year in mid-October. I already had my running schedule mapped out for 2011, and the new rules resulted in my having to run a summer marathon for the first time, and to basically train nonstop for another marathon right after Boston. I have to echo the comments of a few other posters that crossing the finish line this summer was much less thrilling than before because a BQ doesn’t mean what it did before. I guess BQ needs to be changed to BE — Boston Eligible — because that’s all it is. For those who might be coming to Boston in 2012 for the first time, all I can say is be prepared to be amazed: by the experience and the crowd, but also the difficulty of the course and the expense. Those who say it shouldn’t be for the wealthy will soon learn it already is. However, you will enjoy it, no matter what. Boston is worth it!

  41. T-Roy Brown says:

    The fastest people should be able to go. if you are not fast enough well then you are just not fast enough try harder next time. but if i run a 235 marathon and i dont get in while some guy that happens to not be a broke college student runs a 302 and gets in, that is unfair

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