Much was made this week when the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A), revised the qualifications to run the Boston Marathon. Starting in 2012, there will be a rolling registration process and in 2013, new qualifying standards lower every age group/gender by 5 minutes. These changes while not out of left field, clearly caused much dialogue on various social media sites expressing discontent and outrage over how could the "Unicorn" go and change times like that? Simple, it's their race.
How could they go and change the times and registration like that? Over the past couple of years, the registration has closed earlier and earlier with the 2011 edition closing within 8 hours. Of note, approximately only 10% of people who run marathons actually run a time that is a BQ. Discussion ensued over why is there only 80% allotted for people who have actually "BQ'ed" and 20% for charity runners. Why don't they shrink the number of charity runners and let more people who "earned" it run? Simply put, it's their race.
When the news hit, I sent text messages to my neighbor who ran his first two marathons last year and missed a BQ by 16 seconds in his first under the old standards (note: the 59 second buffer will no longer be extended) and a minute plus on his second. It was required that we have pizza and beer that night as the kids played to discuss. As he put it to me, "Five minutes is a lot of time in a marathon" and his wife who has run one Boston (2010) and qualified for another( at Boston) but deferred in 2011 said "What if that was my only chance" in response to the rolling registration based on how much faster than the BQ you were.
Yes, I have had the opportunity to both see the start of the Boston Marathon as a child and run it last year. Yes, it is a cool experience and I have stated that I would like to go back again. But was it any cooler for me than running on the Appalachian Trail last year, or getting a chance to plan and run my own little adventure in the Rockies? If I put it in perspective, I don't think so. In both of the latter cases, I made the choices on where and how long to run. I decided what the qualifications needed to be and what the cut off times were.
The people that made the changes made it on the basis of what they felt they needed to to do keep the "Unicorn" not in the rear view mirror of runners, but just in front of the headlights so they keep chasing. People will grumble for a bit and may have to shift their racing plans a bit, but for those that are truly committed to capturing the "Unicorn" the chase will continue. For others that thought they had a chance with the old qualifying times, there is a fork in the road.
Simply put it is their race. Which race are you going run?
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