When I first qualified for Boston in 2005, it was the middle of January. Hoping to get a slightly better time, I waited until the middle of March when I lowered my time to a 3:07 at the Little Rock Marathon. I immediately came home and registered. However, even though that was just five weeks before Boston that year, I don't think I was the last one in.
That is not the case anymore.
|Not too many chaps make me look short. Thanks, Chris!|
For this year's Boston, registration closed even earlier. Sometime in mid-January the gates closed and hundreds of runners who were shooting for a late January race as their final BQ were shut out.
Now, on November 13th, 2009, Boston closed its doors for the 2010 race, a full two months faster than it ever had before. What exactly is going on?
There is no doubting that the average times for marathon finishers has gotten decidedly slower in the past 20 years. In 1980 the average marathon time was about three and a half hours for men and about four hours for women. Today, the averages are 4:16 for men and 4:43 for women. This increase in the average time is obviously because so many more marathoners are simply out their running marathons. However, this rise in marathon runners (first timers and multiple marathoners) has been steadily increasing for over a decade. Why has Boston been filling up so fast in just the past four or five years?
|The startline of the 1979 Boston Marathon.|
Over time the qualifying standards have gotten a little softer to where they are now presently. So, have they gotten so soft that the race can close almost as soon as it opens when just a few years ago it took months and months to hit that plateau? If so, should the qualifying standards be changed? Should they reflect the changing times and be made more challenging?
A great deal of work and thought have gone into the current standards. Revisions have been proposed often and in many differing ways including age-graded tables created by the World Masters Association (WMA), which use world-record times and "age factors" to calculate "equivalent" times for all race distances for every age between 8 and 100. Regardless, it seems the time has come that something should be done.
If Boston is to remain the race that we all aspire to participate in as runners, shouldn't it be a little more difficult to get into then it currently is? Perhaps, after all the talk of the death of American long-distance running because of "walk-runners" and charity runners, Americans are once again getting faster. We have seen the rise of Ryan Hall and Dathan Ritzenhein (and to a lesser extent Brian Sell, which is in no way meant to put Sell down) who, while not having won any major races outright, have become good enough that they have to be entered into serious discussions as potential winners.
And maybe the rest of America is following suit. The numbers, especially the most recent ones involving the quick filling of the Boston marathon, seem to be pointing that way. If that is the case, why not make it just that much more difficult to make it to the place where it all starts?