Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Boston's New Standards are Right On

Major props to the organizers of the Boston Marathon, who today announced new qualifying standards that will surely leave many angry and yet others (me included) jumping for joy. Among the changes:
  • A new rolling admission system that puts the fastest runners in every age group at the front of the line. If your qualifying time is 20 minutes or faster than your age group standard, you can register on day one! If it's 10 minutes or faster than the standards, you get to register a few days later.
  • All qualifying times for both genders have been reduced by 5 minutes.
  • That extra 59 seconds for all times, which have gotten many to Boston in recent years, will be gone for the 2013 race!
You can read the details here. Unfortunately, while the Boston Athletic Association gets major props for its changes, it get a grade of F for its Web server. The BAA's Web site has been so overwhelmed by traffic today that it's crashed. Unbelievable, especially when you consider that its servers also crashed on day one of registration for the 2011 race. The irony is almost hilarious.

In recent years, the Boston Marathon has reached a point where demand has clearly outstripped the available 25,000 spots. The 2011 race sold out in less than a day (see my commentary on that here). The new standards announced today, which begin to go into effect in 2012 and will be in full effect for the 2013 race, are a step in the right direction for the greatest marathon of all. The standards ensure continued excellence and a high-quality field, of which I intend to always be a part.

For me (and that's how many runners are looking at this today--"How does this affect ME?!?!?!?!?!"), the new standards mean that if I can continue running a sub-3-hour marathon (which I've done in the past three road marathons), I should be able to get into Boston. We'll see. If I run below a 2:55 at the Eisenhower Marathon this April, I should be golden for the 2012 race since that'll be 20 minutes faster than my age-group qualifying time of 3:15 (qualifying times for the 2012 race will remain the same; the 5-minute drop goes into effect for the 2013 race, which means my BQ time goes down to 3:10, but then I'll be 40 in 2014, when my BQ goes back to 3:15).

The Larger Issue at Work
When you look at American society, it seems everything has gotten too big. It used to be that the Boston Marathon was almost always accessible to those who qualified. Not that long ago you could enter a month or two before the race! There used to be quite a few "last chance before Boston" races that were run a few months befor the big race, but recently became useless and charmingly anachronistic. The days of registering when you got around to it are over. The days of driving to just about any race on a whim and paying at the table are over, too. This trend has hit ultrarunning in a big way. But, in a larger sense, everything has gotten too big.
  • Neighborhoods are now sprawling developments.
  • McMansions are everywhere (many foreclosed on). There are now closets the size of small houses.
  • Shopping malls are huge, expansive and repulsive magnets for all-day shopping, excessive spending and wasted time.
  • There's either a Starbucks or McDonald's on every corner.
  • Food portions are out of control (have you ever seen the portions at Cheesecake Factory?).
  • Our bodies are now bigger than ever, creating a health and obesity crisis, the likes of which we've never seen. Bigger bodies=smaller lifespans.
  • Google and Facebook have gotten so big that they're now the most sought-after collectors of consumer information.
  • Corporations are now colossal multi-national enterprises, and, in some cases, "too big to fail."
  • The government is so bloated that it can't even move anymore. It's just stuck.
Everything--from the Boston Marathon to the fries you get at McDonald's--is bigger. But here's the news: Bigger is rarely ever better.

So props to the Boston Athletic Association for bucking the "bigger is better" trend and opting instead for quality and excellence.

The take-away from today's announcement: Don't like the new standards and afraid you'll never get back to Boston? Then work harder! Run more miles! Get to the track more for those intervals! That's a hard message for a society so coddled and used to mediocrity.

May the BAA's example serve as a bellwether for others.

1 comment:

  1. I wasn't happy that I couldn't reg for 2011 only because I forgot to put the day on my calendar. This will be a good change to allow the faster to get a head start on registration.