April 16, 2011


On Monday I'm going to enjoy this year's Boston Marathon. I'm rooting for Kara Goucher, Ryan Hall, and Joan Benoit Samuelson to all have an excellent day. The international field is very strong with both of last year's winners returning and some wildcard debuts as well. It is going to be an exciting race.

My marathon PR is a 4:04:27. For the last several years, I've considered the potential goal of running the Boston Marathon. Until this year, my Boston qualifying time was 3:40:59. Based on some of my speed workouts in past years, when I've been at my fittest, I think it probably would have been possible for me to hit that time if all things went well, but I haven't made the lifestyle rearrangements and training commitment to make it happen.

This year was supposed to be a magical year -- because I will have switched age groups, I'd only have to hit 3:45:59 to qualify. My original plan was to get back into shape for the Coeur d'Alene Marathon and try to PR. Then, if I felt strong and motivated, I'd try to qualify for Boston at CIM in December.

Unfortunately, things have changed in Boston that make this plan less likely to be successful than I had hoped.

First, Boston registration has hit its max number of participants in record time in the last few years. Historically, you could register as late as February for the April race. But, 2010 registration closed in November 2009 (ahead of CIM in December). And, 2011 registration closed in just 9 hours when it opened in October.

To address this, the Boston Athletic Association has changed the way registration works. First, it will be open in September and will close two weeks later.

In other words, CIM BQ times run in December must be used for the Boston Marathon two calendar years after the calendar year of CIM. Or, in my case, no magical qualifying age-group boost from CIM this year.

Second, registration will now be in tiers. Athletes with a qualifying time of 20 minutes less than the BQ will be allowed to register first, 2 days later, those with 10 minutes to spare are welcome, then those with 5 minutes to spare, and finally open registration for all comers with a BQ who haven't yet registered.

If I am honest with myself, achieving a BQ time has always been a long shot goal for me (even with the now-unavailable magical age-group boost). Doable, but close.

My guess is that this year's registration will be full before the open registration period begins. I think the Boston Athletic Association thinks so too, because in addition to tiered registration, starting in 2013, the qualifying times will be 5m59s faster than their current levels (or, despite the new age group, I'm right back up to 3:40 again).

Additionally, Boston will now confirm people's times and register those in each tier in order of speediest qualifying finishes.

I belong to one of the most populous demographic groups in marathon running. So, I'm guessing the actual qualifying and registration time cutoffs for those in my group are going to be *MUCH* faster than they have been.

I guess what I'm saying is, it looks like if I want to qualify for and actually register for the Boston Marathon, it's going to be a much larger commitment than I originally expected.

I'm not sure how I feel about that, for me. I think it'll make for a much more competitive and prestigious race. But I'm just not sure that level of performance and the sacrifices it would require are attractive to me.

I think I'll just focus on Coeur d'Alene for now -- 6 weeks to go and I'm definitely getting back into shape. I checked my running logs and my 6 miler this week was faster than anything I've done in more than a year (including faster than runs I did 7 pounds lighter!). This has been a step-down week of 33 miles and I've got a 10K tomorrow, so after the race, I should have some good feedback on speed and fitness to help me reassess my marathon pace goals.


Arvay said...

Wow! It's awesome that you're even close! I totally admire you! Me, I'm still poking along, slow as can be. My marathon PR is well over 5 hrs. I think 5:40 something? Anyway, I am consistently in the bottom 1st percentile for my age group. :) Nowadays, I'm probably even slower, because I'm used to getting a canine boost. You're awesome!

bt said...

Thanks Arvay.

Of course, I've run with you in recent years and you keep quite a quick pace for 6+ miles.

So, I'm guessing if you tried to run a faster marathon, you'd be able to do so without any problems. Of course, it would hurt quite a bit more than doing it just to finish and sometimes the joy of the run is just the run, not the speed.