To Boston or Not to Boston?

To Boston or Not to Boston?  That is the question. 

Well, I was surprised to find out last week that I may have actually qualified for the Boston Marathon and not realized it!  I am currently 38 years old, and being a runner who had recently developed hopes of running Boston one day, I knew that for a female 35-39 years old the qualifying time is 3:45:59 or less.  That was the extent of my knowledge on the subject.  I ran the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10 and came up a little short of my goal, with a time of 3:47:23.  Yes, it was a little disappointing to fall only 84 seconds short of my BQ time, but it was a very warm day, and I felt really good about my time considering the conditions.  I figured I would try again for my 3:45 on hopefully a cooler day next year.

In doing some research into 2011 marathon possibilities, I stumbled across an asterick that may have changed the impact of that 3:47. “Accuracy of these qualifying times is not guaranteed, as an individual’s age group is determined by their age at the time of the Boston Marathon in which they compete.”  Hmmm….

Immediately I went on to the BAA website to verify…yep, it seems your qualifying time is based on the age you will be at the time the Boston Marathon is run.  Now, I will only be 39 at the time of Boston 2011, so I did not qualify for that.  However, I will be 40 (by only a matter of days) when the 2012 Boston Marathon is run on April 16, 2012.  Well, the qualifying time for women 40-44 is 3:50:59, hence a 3:47 would be good for the 2012 race.

Now the next question is:  will a time posted in the 2010 Chicago Marathon count for 2012 Boston Qualification.  Well, this is where the “may have” comes in.  In the recent past, yes, two years worth of Chicago times would qualify you for the Boston Marathon.  For example for 2011 Boston, you could use a qualifying time from 2009 Chicago or 2010 Chicago.  In fact the cut-off date for qualifying races was September 23, 2009, so Chicago 2009 which was run on 10-16-09 was definitely in.

Apparently prior to last Monday, the BAA website indicated that for 2012 the cut-off date would be September 20, 2010, making the 10-10-10 Chicago marathon good as well.  However, last Monday was a historic day for the Boston Marathon, in which registration sold out in a record 8 hours!  Many qualified runners were shut out from registering for the 2011 race.

This record registration began a whirlwind of questioning for the BAA about their registration process, as well as qualifying times and the cut-off date for qualifying races.  Rumors are flying about the BAA perhaps changing the qualifying standards (particularly tightening up the times for women, which have been criticized for being too lenient for women compared to men).  There are also indications that the date window for qualifying will be tightened.   Even the BAA website, which now instead of stating that “September 20, 2010” is the cut-off date for 2012, now states “the date is under review”.

So basically, I am in the same boat as many other runners, who are uncertain, whether they have qualified for the 2012 Boston Marathon.  It will likely be several months, perhaps not until after the 2011 running of the race that we will know for sure.

Would I like to have my Chicago time stand?  Sure, but the truth is I believe I can run another race in 2011 equal or better to that (especially now that I know I only have to break 3:50 again!).  A bigger concern is that I will officially qualify and still not be able to register, like so many other thousands of runners who were SOL last Monday.

Another question is:  will the BAA make the qualifying times harder for women, and by how much?  A five minute adjustment would still be realistic for me, but beyond that it’s hard to say.

Does this make me mad?  Not at all.  The Boston Marathon is a private, by-invitation-only event.  This is why everyone wants to do it!   The BAA has made adjustments to the qualification standards in the past, and has the discretion and right to do so as needed.  There are a lot of faster runners than myself, who would also like to run Boston, and should be able to do so.  Another thought is that the BAA may need to go to a lottery system to fairly accommodate the number of qualified and interested runners.  Then you would need not only speed, but luck!

In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy running by myself, with friends and racing occasionally,  and see what happens.  There are so many interesting local races and exciting travel opportunities to plan around running.  I won’t lie; it would be amazing to be able to celebrate my 40th Birthday by running the 2012 Boston Marathon.  In reality, I am thrilled to be able to even be having this discussion.  When I ran my first marathon 5 years ago I was much slower and plagued with injury, and a BQ was not anything I ever thought was remotely possible.  Thankfully ChiRunning has allowed me to run without injury and with better times than I ever thought possible!

Happy Trails,


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