was it all for nothing?

Yes, you all knew I was going there. That imma be blogging about this week’s hot topic.

Unless you have been living in isolation with no access to Facebook, Twitter, internet forums…hell, the Internet in general, then you know that registration for the 2011 Boston Marathon closed almost as fast as it opened.  8 hours and 3 minutes to be exact-unbelievable.  And honestly, I predicted it would fill fast.  I had a feeling that those running NYC and even MCM would get shut out for 2011.  My guess was that it would close in a week.  But a day?  Whoa.  Yep, I know there were medical deferrals from last year, spots reserved for Europeans who couldn’t make it to Boston due to the volcano, then everyone who qualified in Philly (or other late fall marathons) and even those who qualified in NYC and didn’t register in time were not gonna make that same mistake twice.

I know what you’re all thinking-I have my BQ time for 2012, I don’t need to fret-right?  Wrong. 

Who knows what is going to go down for the 2012 race.  Tightened qualifying standards?  Adjustment of the qualifying period?  A lottery?  All of the above?

Tightened qualifying standards…I may not like them right now, but I completely accept that it may have to done to control the field size.  That said, if it does happen, I believe 2012 (if I get in) may be my one and only chance.  This is working on the assumption that any time modifications are made in 2013 and not 2012.  But who knows?

The one that really gets to me is the adjustment of the qualifying period for the 2012 race.  Originally, the FAQs said that September 25 was the beginning of the 2012 qualifying period, now it says the period is “under review.”

I do feel for others who may be screwed, but I’ll get to that shortly.  I’m gonna be selfish and focus on ME for a minute.  I can tell you right now, if one or the other happened for 2012-I will be very unhappy-because it’s like my fate wasn’t in my own hands.  I have full reason to believe on October 10, 2010-at the time of the race I ran a legitimate BQ time for 2012-as I did meet the following criteria:

Qualifiers must meet the designated time standard that corresponds with their age group.   The qualifying times are based upon each athlete’s age on the date of the Boston Marathon in which they are participating. 

Check-as I will be 35 on April 16, 2012, my BQ time is 3:45:59 or better.  I actually finished almost 3 minutes under that particular standard.  (and for those who don’t think it’s fair that I ran my qualifying time when I was still 34-please tell me when the hell I’m allowed to run my qualifying marathon for the next age group.  Or maybe I should yell at my dad for not getting my mom knocked up sooner in order to give me a birthday earlier in the year than September. )

Before the FAQ page was updated on Tuesday,  the rules on October 10, 2010 (and even a few days after!) stated this: “The qualification window for the 2012 Boston Marathon opened on September 25, 2010. Any marathon run on a certified course after that date is eligible for application into the 2012 Boston Marathon.”

Check-ummm last time I checked a calendar, October 10, 2010 was after September 25, 2010.

So on the day of the Chicago Marathon, I had every reason to believe that I had qualified for the 2012 Boston Marathon.  I qualified fair and square, no ifs, ands or buts.  You all know me, and know I did my homework to confirm that would be the case 🙂  But now there is a possibility of that privilege being taken away from me-and that I didn’t know soon enough to adjust.  If I knew then that a 3:45 would have been no good, and that Chicago wasn’t gonna be my day for 3:40 (or faster if need be), I at least would have had the option of dropping at the half and trying again the following weekend.  Or if October 10 was going to be before the qualifying window for 2012, picking a different, later race with enough notice to train appropriately or even to sign up before it gets closed out!

This quote was from someone on the Boston Marathon’s Facebook page:

“But there is nothing like the thrill of finishing a marathon KNOWING that you have BQ’d.

So this time around, if all goes well and I finish on schedule then the full exhilaration will be watered down as I will not know if I did or did not qualify for the holy grail.”

I feel it relates to me in a way.  As happy as I was on race day, now I’m honestly feeling down about this.  Like I put in all this work and it very well may have been for nothing if the rule changes eliminate me from contention for 2012.  I feel like it’s a lose-lose situation for me.  If the standards don’t let me in for 2012, I lose because I miss out.  If I do make it in for 2012, I get to feel guilty for being there for being “too slow” (even though again, as of October 10, 2010-I did have a legitimate qualifying time.)  Tell ya’all what, I’ll asterisk my Boston time if it’ll make you feel better…mmmmkay?

And I’m sure the first thing everyone will say is to “just sign up for another marathon and BQ there.”  If you may remember, I would really like to take 2011 off from marathoning to give my body a break and to avoid burnout-to be honest I was feeling a little burned out just prior to the taper this time.  Maybe I look too long term/big picture, but that’s how I roll.  Secondly-I do not want to put down the money for another marathon now and have to eat the cost if indeed my Chicago time is good and running another marathon is not necessary.  That goes for others who are in my situation-running another marathon may not be an option…you can’t just assume that someone has the time and money to run another one-not to mention the body holding up.  Not all runners are made to run multiple marathons in a short period of time.  I am looking ahead to and do want to plan a race/training strategy for 2011-but everything is so up in the air now…

Plus-and as of now, this is the case for those running marathons this weekend, and MCM the next, NYCM the week after, etc…we still don’t know what the 2012 standards will be. (Or as I saw elsewhere…analogy is like trying to hit a moving target.)  Or if the race we run is going to be on a day that will be good for qualifying for 2012.  Or those who got closed out of the 2011 race and don’t know if their times will be good for 2012-which for some would definitely be a double whammy.  It just seems like everything is in a holding pattern right now, which is not cool. 

Finally-I do have to say I’m saddened at some of the things I’ve seen said or written this week.  I remember being told years ago (even before I really got into running!) that “runners are the nicest people ever”…hasn’t seemed to have been the case lately. I’ve seen more personal attacks on people than I want to see…between this person not deserving to run Boston, that person is too slow to run Boston, this person is an elitist, my friend didn’t make it in because of so-and-so who has no right to register and took his/her spot, its so easy to BQ so if you didn’t/can’t get it you’re not working hard enough.  You know-after Club Champs 4 years ago, I was interviewed by NYRR after the race, and I remember really feeling a great sense of community.  Like even though we run for different teams, in a way we’re all in this together.  I can’t say I’ve felt that’s been the case in the last few days.

All in all-I’m happy for those who did get in, and sorry for those who for whatever reason, couldn’t.  And thanks for letting me vent.  I’m sure this is gonna be a lively discussion…


11 thoughts on “was it all for nothing?

  1. I know I don’t have any problems in qualifying for Boston, but running with a million people doesn’t excit me any more. Yes i live in SA over the waters and all, but every couple of year my wife and I head off to see the world and i alway run the local marathon. But this isn’t about me, it’s about you and thousands like you. First you ran a marathon because the 26.2miles is the challange. Now you want those PR’s and that BQ, so don’t let things stand in your way. I know you can go faster in the marathon. a sub 3h30 is on the cards!!! you might need to up the training but I know you can do it.

    or forget Boston and head to Cape Town for the Two Oceans Marathon (56km) and a holiday, the city and the race will blow you away…

    • I guess being still relatively new to marathoning, I thrive off the crowd support-which was part of the reason why I picked Chicago this time around. The thing with the BQ is prestige, I guess.

      As for how far I can get my marathon time down-examining and tweaking training will definitely be part of the next go-around. That said, I learned the hard way last year that the human body does have limitations (as I suffered an IT band injury due to my training for MCM.) Obviously my goal will be to get a good a marathon time as possible as long as the body holds up!! 🙂

  2. i am pretty darn sure that you are going to be fine for 2012. i doubt that they would change the times for those that q’d within the 18month period or whatever it is at this point.

  3. As a non-marathoner, I feel a little weird commenting, but as an American, I have the right to comment on anything regardless of my expertise, so I’ll have at it. As it stands, my guess is that any different qualifying standards wouldn’t go into effect until 2013. Bureaucracies don’t tend to make big changes like that with only a year’s notice, and I can’t imagine there aren’t a ton of people in your boat who would be screaming if they had to run another marathon to qualify.

    That said, the standards seem inequitable. I know you addressed this earlier, but it seems that it takes a higher level of athleticism for a man to qualify than a woman. Again, I speak from zero experience, but if it’s the prestige that Boston Marathoners are looking for, then, well, make it truly prestigious vis a vis the standards. I don’t know what those would be, and hooooo billy! Am I glad I’m not in charge.

    • oyyyy I’m sure the BAA is working lotsa overtime this week. gotta put the coffee on.

      don’t feel weird commenting at all! hey this is the hot topic of the week 🙂

      as i said in my post-I may not like it if they change the standards, but I will accept that it is what it is.

      As for what they should be-you know, without a lot of in-depth study, it’s really hard to say. Speaking from experience about my team-in 2005 and even 2006-it seemed like only a handful of people ran it, and it was indeed mostly male. Now in the last year or 2, the number has doubled, maybe even tripled and i think this past year the females did outnumber the males. What does this mean? I don’t know 🙂

      I do think one point that has to be looked at are the raw numbers versus the percents-as I’ve mentioned before, the numbers of marathoners are going up, and even if the percentages of qualifiers are staying the same, the raw numbers are going up. Probably related to the recent running boom? Or even the economy-if someone may have been laid off as a result of it, they may have more time to train and improve. (I know there was an article somewhere about it.) Does that mean if the economy improves (heres hoping 🙂 )-these numbers will go down to pre-recession levels?

      I just think there are so many factors at work, more than just gender and age roles. But yeah-I too am glad I don’t have to make the final call 🙂

  4. FG,

    I understand your plight. I am sure many will say, “oh yeah, I’m sure you understand,” as my time(s) are well below the standard to compete at Boston. Contact me and I will tell you my time. However, I do and agree with you. You’ve covered the reasons sufficiently.

    However, you touched on the running community and their attitude as of late. I am disappointed as well with the way people are discussing this topic and even in their attitudes towards each other.

    Although I have not done my research in a scientific manner, complete with(out) an assistant, I have taken notice of the remarks and attitudes of friends and fellow athletes. What I am hearing from the athletes who have made it in, is a complete and thorough understanding of those in your predicament. They come across as intelligent, well thought out, empathic, all with a positive attitude.

    Sure, you could say it is easy for them to have a positive attitude, especially if they have qualified for Boston, but many are not even marathoners. They are runners; probably the nice runners you may remember from several years ago.

    However, what I am also hearing are too many runners who are verbally beating up on runners who(again) are in your predicament. They are more strongly opinionated than the athletes already in at Boston. What I find to be ironic or perhaps idiotic is that most of these “sour grapes” runners have nothing to do with Boston. They have a strong opinion over something they know little about. When I say “they know little about,” I am referring to the fact they are not “on the cusp” of qualifying. They have never made it into Boston and I doubt they ever will.

    Does that make them a bad person. I sure hope not. But it sure makes them appear as incredibly jealous over their fellow athletes who have made it. Perhaps they are rooting against you and others so that they don’t feel all alone. I don’t think they understand how poor their attitude is and how it is poisoning other athletes who don’t have an opinion either way on the topic. Their toxicity is spilling over and is contaminating others as well as the running community.

    I’ve always wondered why those with the least knowledge on topics seem to “know it all.” We all have friends and relatives that seem to know so much about running and yet they have never run a lap in Central Park or have completed a “fun run.” In a way this is similar. We have fellow runners with so little knowledge of what it is to be qualified or “on the cusp,” and yet they are complete experts on the topic.

    So all I can say is “keep your chin up and stay positive” as you and others have the backing of knowledgeable athletes. Let the “naysayers” drink from their cup of poison and jealousy and waste their time on commiserating with each other.


  5. Your posts are always so thoughtful – great read! I do think that the BQ standards for women are a little softer than those for men, but I also appreciate how difficult it is for many runners to meet those standards. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I agree with the other commenters who think that any changes won’t take affect until 2013. No matter what happens, you should be damn proud of your Chicago marathon time!

    • Thanks 🙂 Part of the reason why I waited a few days after the initial chaos to post was to make sure my post wasn’t overly ruled by emotion. I have a feeling there is gonna be no one right answer for this any no matter what they do, people are gonna be upset. And I am definitely proud of my Chi-town time…but in a way it does feel a little bit bittersweet now.

  6. Have a lot of sympathy because I’m in exactly the same position.
    By April 16th 2012 I’ll be 45 – for which the BQ for women is or was 4 hours.
    Qualifying opened… or so we thought! … Sept 25 ’10.
    On 10/10/10 I ran 3:59:01 (not at Chicago – at another marathon – just as flat though!) and thought my plans for 2012 were settled. (If I’d not made it, I had backup plans involving a flat spring marathon… a flat autumn marathon… rinse, repeat…).

    After a few days wondering what on earth I could do for 2011 I took the plunge and entered Comrades.

    And a week later, it turns out that my BQ might not be a BQ.
    Never qualified for anything sporty in my life before and was so chuffed… and what happens if my BQ is DQ’d? Instead of spending the summer recovering from Comrades, I have to ramp it up again for an autumn marathon… a bit of an intimidating thought.

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