Ever dreamed of running in the most prestigious road race in the world? Better pick up your pace.
In February 2011, The Boston Athletic Association announced new qualifying times for the famed Boston Marathon. Not only are the times lower, but there is a rolling registration: The fastest runners get in first with registration staggered over a few days. Even if you have a Boston qualifying time, it doesn’t guarantee a Boston Marathon race number.
Just how much faster do you have to be?
In order to qualify in 2012 as a 36-year-old female, you will need to run a 2011 “certified marathon” in 3 hours, 40 minutes or less. That’s a consistent pace of about 8:20 per mile for 26.2 miles. To qualify for the 2013 Boston race, you will need to run a certified marathon in 2012 in 3:35. Only five minutes faster? Big deal? Actually it is. Your race pace will now need to be about 8:10 minute miles. Much tougher.
Why the need for a change? When registration opened in October of 2010, the race was filled up in a record 8 hours and 3 minutes. Thousands of qualifiers didn't get it.
"Our new registration process takes into consideration the many comments we received from runners this past fall and winter, most of whom urged the B.A.A. to institute a system which recognizes athletic performance above all else,” said Tom Grilk, the B.A.A. executive director.
Who knew so many even wanted to run 26.2 miles? Early bedtimes, early morning long runs before a full day of work, weekly mileage charts, and complex carbs dominate life. Yet for so many runners, the marathon remains one of those ultimate athletic goals.
Despite being an April race, when training has to be done during the winter months, Boston attracts thousands of competitors. Some 25,000 runners and 500,000 spectators are estimated to participate. Runners speak of the amazing “feeling” surrounding the event, the cheering crowds the entire 26.2 miles, the history of the streets like Commonwealth Ave., and of knowing they are doing something hardly anyone in the world can do. It's often said, “You’ve got to run it someday.”
But getting in? Runners Sarah Lester and husband Brian Reynolds of New Hampshire said they don't love the higher standards, but both agreed they were fair. "I think they figured out what they wanted Boston to be, and set the qualification standards to match that," Brian said. Sarah said she would only change one thing: "Make a golden ticket. You qualify at Boston, no rolling admission. You're in for next year."
Maryn Barrett has qualified and run the Boston Marathon twice, but doesn't like the rolling admission either.
"I am afraid the new system will leave many runners qualified yet with little chance of participating," Barrett said.
In contrast, the nationally ranked professional triathlete Robyn Asbury, also of New Hampshire, fully supports the new qualifying times.
"There are so many marathons that anyone can register and run in," Asbury said. "I admire those who accept the challenge of completing a marathon, but...The Boston Marathon is a uniquely historical marathon with a challenging course. Let's have a few more marathons with a more competitive field, another opportunity to reach for one more goal."
According to MarathonGuide.com, other than the Olympics and various championships races, Boston is the only marathon in the United States that requires a qualifying time. Perhaps that’s part of the allure.
The 2010 winner and course record-breaker was a farmer from Kenya named Robert Cheruiyot with the time of 2:05:52. That’s sub-5 minute miles. Insanely fast.
Cheruiyot used his $175,000 prize money to buy cows for his farm. He is the elite.
Want a shot at running with this guy? You better qualify.
Amy Makechnie is a writer, runner and full-time mother from New Hampshire.