Thursday, February 17, 2011

Boston Marathon Plans Torpedoed

As you may already know, or not, the registration process for the Boston Marathon has changed. From the press release:

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) announced today a change in its registration process for the Boston Marathon, allowing the fastest qualifiers to enter the earliest and with a rolling admission system while also offering all eligible runners an increased registration period. The changes in registration are a response by the B.A.A. to greater than ever demand by runners to gain entry into the Boston Marathon and culminate more than three months of analysis, including input from the running industry. Rather than accepting runners who have met the qualifying standards on a first come, first served approach, a more systematic, performance-based process will be employed.

What does this mean for me? My race time from last November qualified me for the 2011 and 2012 events. Since 2011 was already sold out, I have to wait until September 2011 to sign up for the 2012 race, which I had planned on doing. Since the 2011 race sold out in eight hours, I figured I'd have to be at my computer as soon as registration opened.

Meanwhile, I'd train to improve my marathon time, in hopes to qualify again. But the bigger issue is 2013 on - qualifying times have been reduced by five minutes across the board. This was necessary, but the impact for me is significant. More about this below the rest of the press release.

2012 Boston Marathon
For the 2012 Boston Marathon, registration will extend for two weeks, beginning on Monday, September 12 and continuing until Friday, September 23. The qualifying times for the 2012 Boston Marathon will not change from recent past years since the standards had been previously announced and have been in effect since last September. However, the new registration process addresses the increased demand among qualified runners to participate in the Boston Marathon and will accommodate those who are the fastest qualifiers first.

Registration will occur on a "rolling admission" schedule until the maximum field size is reached, beginning with the fastest qualifiers. On the first day of registration for the 2012 Boston Marathon, those who are eligible for entry by having met the qualifying standards for their age and gender group by 20 minutes or more will be able to enter on the first day of registration (September 12). On the third day (September 14), registration will open for those who have met their qualifying standards by 10 minutes or more. On the fifth day (September 16), registration will open for those who have met their qualifying standards by five minutes or more. During this first week of registration, applicants will be notified as they are accepted and their qualifying performance verified.

If the field size is not reached after the first week and additional space remains, then registration will open to all qualifiers at the beginning of Week Two (September 19) and those who have met the qualifying standards by any amount of time will be able to apply for entry. The application process will remain open for the entire week, closing on September 23. At the conclusion of Week Two, those who are the fastest among the pool of applicants in their age and gender will be accepted. Accepted athletes will be notified on September 28.

Registration Process for the 2012 Boston Marathon First Week Day 1 (Sept. 12) Qualifiers who have met their age/gender qualifying times by
20 minutes, 00 seconds or faster may apply Day 3 (Sept. 14) 10 minutes, 00 seconds or faster Day 5 (Sept. 16) 5 minutes, 00 seconds or faster

Second Week
Day 8 (Sept. 19) Qualifiers who have met their age/gender qualifying times by any amount of time, including qualifiers who could have registered in Week One.

Day 12 (Sept. 23) Registration closes for qualified applicants

September 28 Qualifiers from entry during second week of registration are notified of their acceptance.
If the field is not filled at the conclusion of the two weeks, then registration will remain open and qualifiers will be accepted on a first come, first served basis until the maximum field size is reached.

2013 Boston Marathon
For the 2013 Boston Marathon, in addition to the new "rolling admission"
process for registration which will be in effect for the 2012 Boston Marathon, the B.A.A. will adjust the qualifying times by lowering them by five minutes from the times which have been in effect in recent past years. The adjusted qualifying times will go into effect on September 24, 2011, and are as follows:

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 and older 4:55:00 5:25:00

So what changes? The new registration process forces me to wait eight days to sign up, allowing faster qualifiers first dibs on the slots.

Fair? Sure. Am I bummed? You bet. But what really hurts is looking at it from my qualifying perspective. I am currently a blade runner qualifier. I made the cutoff by 35 seconds. That puts me in the last registration pool for 2012, meaning I probably won't get a slot. I can work hard in training, and cut off five minutes plus from my current PR (a questionable feat for the Carmel Marathon just three months away), but that would only improve my registration access by three days.

Worse, future prospects are even more brutal. My 2013 qualifying time has to be 3:25, which is five minutes better than my current PR. I'd be stoked to get 3:25. But for 2013 on, that puts me where I am right now - a bladerunner qualifier who has to wait until day eight to sign up for any remaining slots. In a race that sold out in 8 hours. For me to be able to sign up at day 3, I'll have to run a 3:20 this spring, or 3:15 in the fall.

That is an order of magnitude improvement that will require a completely different training strategy. Like a serious one. None of this figuring out what I'm going to do as I get my shoes on. A smarter, efficient approach. My time is limited like everyone else. My challenge is that training in the afternoon simply doesn't work for me, for many reasons.

So, that leaves before work and during lunch. And I don't really have enough time during lunch anymore, which brings me back to before work, meaning workouts need to be COMPLETED no later than 4:40am, leaving just enough time to stretch and shower, before heading to work. Though I like getting up early, getting up at 2:30ish to get a ninety minute run in gets old. I used to do this. And doing this creates family tension, as your level of commitment to the family is compared to the commitment to training.

In the end, I just want to run Boston for the same reasons as most everyone else. I want to train to do well in multisport, and the result will be better run times.