The Boston Dagger

Oh it hurts so bad. Can you feel it? The dagger from the Boston Athletic Association just stabbed me in the face. They took the holy grail of running and made it even harder to reach. What does this do to a runner like me? Not much, besides crush my spirits and seemingly invalidate all my hard work up to this point.

Now that the appropriately overly dramatic stuff is out of the way I’ll clue you in to the details. For starters, the Boston Marathon is the only marathon that requires qualification to even be eligible to enter. Based on your age bracket, you would need to complete another marathon within the time limit set forth by the Boston Athletic Association. The qualifying standards have always been extremely lofty for the average runner, making Boston something of the aforementioned holy grail of running. For me (18-35 year old male) I would need to complete a marathon in under 3:10:59, which works itself out to a 7:17 min/mile pace. Each subsequent age bracket was gifted another 5 minutes to qualify.

As of today, the BAA has made changes to their qualifying standards and overall registration process. For each age bracket, the qualifying times have been made more difficult by 6 minutes! What!? So, for me to qualify, I’d now need to run a 3:05:00 marathon (i.e. 7:03 min/mile pace). And this is where the futility in my training comes in. Since my first marathon, I have improved from 3:53:42 (8:54 min/mile) down to 3:22:34 (7:43 min/mile). That’s over 30 minutes of improvement! As of yesterday, I was only 11 minutes 35 seconds away from qualifying. Now it’s 17 minutes 34 seconds. That’s an enormous bump.

Additionally, the registration process will favor the fastest individuals in a rolling registration. On the first day, runners who beat their qualifying time by more than 20 minutes can register. The third day opens up to those who beat their time by more than 10 minutes. The fifth day by 5 minutes. And finally on the eighth day, anyone who qualified will be allowed to register (assuming there are still spots left). I don’t really have a problem with this, but I think it’s overkill to have the rolling registration AND more difficult qualifying standards.

So at this point my eye is on retirement, and by retirement I mean when I turn 65 years old. That’s the next age / qualifying time combination that I see myself being able to hit: 4 hours 10 minutes. Expect a blog post when that rolls around (in 39 years).

If there’s any silver lining in this, I’d say that my situation could be worse. In various forums there are people posting how they qualified for the 2012 Boston Marathon with the old standards and those results will not grandfather them into eligibility to register. When those individuals crossed the finish line by mere seconds ahead of the cut-off, they “did it”. Now the BAA is saying “not so fast”. That’s just cruel.

It looks like I chose a good time to change focus from just running (goal: qualify for Boston) to doing triathlons (goal: Ironman?). For now, boys and girls,

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it looks like the lofty goal of qualifying for Boston just got a bit loftier and completely out of my grasp.

New Standards:


Age Group Men Women
18-34 3:05:00 3:35:00
35-39 3:10:00 3:40:00
40-44 3:15:00 3:45:00
45-49 3:25:00 3:55:00
50-54 3:30:00 4:00:00
55-59 3:40:00 4:10:00
60-64 3:55:00 4:25:00
65-69 4:10:00 4:40:00
70-74 4:25:00 4:55:00
75-79 4:40:00 5:10:00
80+ 4:55:00 5:25:00

PS- For those wondering “why now?”, it has to do with registration for the upcoming 2011 Boston Marathon. In previous years it took months for Boston to fill up. Then it sped up to only taking weeks. Last year it took 8 hours. It was full before some people got home from work to register.

6 thoughts on “The Boston Dagger

  1. I was a little discouraged as well when this came out. Ultimately though, it’s a step in the right direction. I completely agree with staggering the registration to accommodate faster runners.

    Unfortunately for me, I have to figure out a way to shave 20+ minutes off my PR to qualify now.

    • Mike says:

      I agree, I think it’s a good thing overall. It should be a challenge, not just something runners are entitled to just for putting in the work. It should be thought of more as the Olympics rather than just another turkey trot. It needs to be on a pedestal.

      And all you need to do is maintain your current PR and wait ~15 years 🙂

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