Thursday, February 17, 2011

Boston Marathon Announces New Qualifying Standards and Registration Process for 2012/2013

The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) has announced new qualifying standards and a registration process for the 2012 and 2013 races, largely in response to the 2011 race filling up in less than 8 hours. Here's how it's going to work:

For 2012, the qualifying times will remain the same but the registration process will change to a rolling registration to give the "fastest" runners a chance to register the earliest. The more you "beat" your qualifying time, the earlier you get to register. On the first day of registration, those who beat their qualifying times by 20 minutes or more go. The next day it opens to those who bettered their time by 10 minutes or more. After a week of this, registration opens to the general public.

So, for example, I will be a 42-year-old male for the 2012 Boston Marathon qualifying period, so my qualifying time is 3 hours, 20 minutes, and 59 seconds. If I have a great run at the Napa Marathon and run a 2:55, I will be 25 minutes under my qualifying time. So I would get to register on Day 1. It's kind of like an "A" standard. Here is the rolling registration schedule:

Date registration opens for runners with times...
September 12, 2011 20 min., 00sec. or more below their qualifying time (based on age/gender)
September 14, 2011 10 min., 00 sec. or more below their qualifying time (based on age/gender)
September 16, 2011 5 min., 00 sec. or more below their qualifying time (based on age/gender)
Second Week
September 19, 2011 All Qualified Runners
September 23, 2011 Registration closes for qualified applicants
September 28, 2011 (appx) Qualifiers from entry during second week of registration are notified of their acceptance.

For 2013, they will have the same process and also reduce all qualifying times by 5 minutes and 59 seconds, so the previous 3:10:59 qualifying time for Men age 18-34 is now 3:05:00. No surprise here - this is the simplest way to reduce the field of applicants.

I give a Tip-O-The-Hat to the BAA for coming up with a unique system to address the needs of the rather vocal minority of fast runners who didn't get a slot. This could have gone a number of ways, and I like that the one race that has qualifying standards leaned towards honoring the fastest runners. I find myself looking at the new process and realizing I have two BQ goals - the minimum standard, and the "register-on-the-first-day" A standard. It's asking me to push myself harder. So for that, I thank the BAA.

Not all agree, however. Former winner Amby Burfoot is not a fan, pointing out that you can run a Boston qualifying time and still not get into Boston if it fills up with faster runners . Of course that could happen now if you weren't fast enough to register on the first day. But I see his point - this system loses transparency, and there are no guarantees even if you hit a "qualifying" time. I can imagine this could be frustrating for someone who's life goal is to do this race. Amby doesn't provide any suggestions (WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?), but I get the sense that the BAA will continue to tweak the process.

Curious to what you guys think...



  1. They did the right thing. And it was not a knee jerk response either. Fair deal!

  2. I think it was the correct decision. With demand so high, there will always be unhappy people no matter what you do. The only tweak that I would suggest is the final registration block (for runners who are between BQ and BQ-5) become a lottery. Then if you make BQ, you've at least got a decent shot. Depending on demand, Amby is correct, just making BQ won't be good enough.

  3. Dang! I'm not gonna be able to run this race until I'm 80!

    But I really have no complaints about the process.

  4. what sean said- :O) btw.. laughing uncontrollably at "who moved my cheese" ref.. awesomeness:o)

  5. They made a reasonable decision, but the whole thing is getting kinda crazy.

    [BQ-ing is a very unlikely prospect for me, and I don't mind one bit. ]

    I really would like some more imaginative challenges out there though...e.g. marathon maniacs has some fun goals that aren't just speed related..more about endurance.

    Or there could be racing series events that would weight total time across a number of races run in a certain time.

    Anyway, my point is that having only one holy grail achievement for the entire US marathoning community is kinda limiting and boring.

  6. I like it! If you are going to have a race that requires you to qualify, the faster runners should get first choice. Don't want them to qualify before you? Beat them!

  7. I still think that they should have made just the female times more strict. I'm female myself, but I found the initial requirements kind of unfair and patronizing to women. I really hope my boyfriend can get his 3:10 quickly!!

  8. Phillip Hamilton2/17/2011 03:50:00 PM

    I think the changes are reasonable. Sort of screws with my plans for the year (no, Scott, I'm not going to be running a *&^%$#@! 2:55), but I think it's fair. I also agree with the poster above me and think they should tighten the women's times, but then again, I'm not a woman.

  9. The old standards were going to be a stretch for me, though I thought if I worked hard at it, I might make it during my 55-59 age group (a few years from now). But 3:40 is less likely than 3:45 was going to be.

    Knowing this was likely coming, I concluded that if at some point I qualify under the old standards but can't get in under the new ones, then using a fundraising organization to get in won't seem like a cheat.

  10. I like it. That being said, I probably will never want to put in the road miles to get to the point where I would qualify on the first day.. or even qualify at all. Having moved to New England recently I considered trying to make it in, but just can't stomach the road training. Plus, there is always the Don't Run Boston 50k/50 mile the day before.

  11. A good initial attempt at preserving the race's integrity. It was sorely needed.

  12. Seems to me to be a good solution. Who would have forecast the 2010 registration challenges? Instead of only changing the standards, it seems that the rolling registration would be good to implement from here forward. In that way the BAA is ensuring the highest levels of age group competition.

  13. I like it -- it seems like a thoughtful and creative solution that will preserve and strengthen Boston's special status. Hmm ... maybe I'd like to try to do it again, even though last time I headlined my race report "Boston: The World's Most Overrated Marathon" :-) Scott, I appreciate how you view Boston as a hallowed tradition and made me feel more positive about it after my grumpy experience!

  14. The slightly odd thing is that there are two advanced entry periods. Do they really think there's a risk of so many 10-under entrants that it warrants a 20-under round as well?

    Speaking as someone with a time (just) greater 20 under the BQ, I'm perfectly happy with the new system. Having been denied a run by volcanic ash in 2010 and missing the 8hr window in 2011, I'm looking forward to seeing what the fuss is about in 2012!

  15. Good stuff, everyone. Thanks for the comments!

  16. I know BAA had to do something, but I have to say that I believe this solution by the BAA "demotivates" unknown droves of marathoners. I am a former sub 3 marathoner who has run Boston. So qualifying is not my issue. However, I know many, many runners who have been in a collective funk since the announcement. People who have been on the cusp; a few minutes shy of qualifying. For them, the requirement to run 5:59 faster so they can qualify (sort of) for the Boston Marathon is the equivalent of asking them to summit Mt. Everest. The BAA announcement has forced them to take the Boston Marathon off of their bucket list. That's a steep price to pay.

    I would have looked to the BAA to add gender parity to the mix. The women's qualifying time is soft. I'm sorry, but it is. The difference between the marathon world record for women and men is less than 12 minutes. In addition, if the BAA is going to have the "tiered" approach. I would like them to have a lottery for those in the last tier who quite possibly never get a chance register even though they qualify. Something like Western States where you pay a non-refundable entry and, if you qualify, but fail to get in three times, you get an automatic berth.

    I love the Boston Marathon. Of all marathon's I've run, it is my favorite and my wish is that everyone who qualifies gets a fighting chance to run it.

    Eric Norton, Sacramento, CA

    1. I read this and I wonder if the women's qualifying time is soft...why are not the masters Women dominating or overwhelming the entrant pool. In fact the opposite has happened, in 2012 in the over 40 group men outnumbered women by 3:1 -- and in some specific age groups men outnumbered women 10:1. It doesn't make sense! see link

  17. I also think that a lottery for the last tier would be more fair, especially with the option of guaranteed entry after three tries.
    Also, for those looking for a challenge along the same lines, the New York City marathon has an option to skip their lottery with a qualifying time:

  18. I have a heart condition so I will never be within an hour of the cutoff, so this doesnt effect me but I think this is terrible. Lots of people will have to take Boston off their bucket list.

    I would hope they moved towards a lottery, or a 3x losers get entry rule. If Boston is only for people who run 2:40 marathons, I't wont be a stretch goal that most runners could shoot for, or an american running institution.

  19. Mike nailed it. It is really unfortunate that so many people will get excluded from a race that means so much to a lot of runners. Many athletes regardless of desire and dedication won't make that cut.

  20. I have no problem with the new requirements. I do think the timing of the announcement of registration date could have been better. Given that registration was Oct 18th last year I expected a similar time frame. I also paid $145 to sign up for Chicago marathon (Oct 9th race date) the first week of February along with 30,000 others only to find out two weeks later that registration will be Sept. 12th. Am I the only one that was hoping to use Chicago to qualify?


  21. I've been training for a 3:10 which I'm intending to run this month at the LA Marathon. When the announcement came out I have to say I was a bit bummed as my target time was now not a guaranteed. However Scott, your post brought a smile back to my face as I was under the false impression I needed a 3:10 to qualify for my age group. Either I just can't read very well or I think I'm younger than I am, but I'm 37 and that's = 3:15! Yay there is still hope! More determined than ever to break 3:10!

  22. You know, I did the same thing. Thought 3:15 was my mark for years, then found out it was 3:20. A crucial 5 minutes! But now you KNOW you can make it.


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