Monday, October 01, 2018

Bigger and Faster Field for Boston Marathon Results In Faster Qualifying Times for 2020

Since 2013, qualifying for the historic Boston Marathon has involved two steps.

First, you need to run a Boston-qualifying time ("BQ") based on your age and sex. The BQ standard is no joke - only 10.4% of runners ever clock a BQ time. It's one of the reasons that "getting to Boston" finds its way onto the bucket list for most serious runners at some point in their running career.

Second, you need to register for the race and hope the qualifying time that you ran beat the standard by enough that when they cut off the entries at ~24,000 runners, you have made it in. In 2014, you had to run one minute, 38 seconds faster than your BQ to be accepted into the race. In 2015, it was 1:02 faster. In 2016, it became 2:28, and suddenly the "squeakers" (those who just barely made the cut off) knew a new game was afoot. In 2017, it was 2:09. In 2018, it climbed to 3:23.

For 2019, it was 4:52.

This resulted in the largest number of applicants ever not making the cut off (7,384 of 30,458 total applicants), and an announcement from the B.A.A. that all qualifying standards would be raised by five minutes for all age groups for 2020 and beyond. For men age 18-34 (the fastest required qualifying time), it is now 3 hours flat. Hello, #breaking3 hashtag!

So how did this happen? Are runners getting faster? Well, it likely has more to do with the fact that the pool of applicants is getting bigger. Both last year and this year saw a 7% increase in applicants, well ahead of the typical 4% growth rate the race has seen historically. Qualifying times of new entrants are not noticeably faster, but by the nature of those times being evenly distributed, it is raising the overall cut off time.

Personally, I am excited to see the new BQ standards. Whether it is because more runners are getting serious, or we just have more runners in general, there is a growing global pool of people embracing their inner athlete and a committed healthy lifestyle. That's powerful. That is worthy of applause. My hat is off to all of you!

But I also understand for a lot of "squeakers", or those who have been eagerly pursuing a BQ for years, needing to find another five minutes is NOT what you wanted to hear right now (#finding5, anyone?). My hat is off to you as well. You are equally committed to a healthy lifestyle, you are equally as impressive, and there is no doubt you are doing the hard work. Less than 5% of adults exercise daily, and less than 0.5% of adults will ever run a marathon, so find solace in the fact that you are easily in the top 1% of your species. Don't let an arbitrary standard based on a constrained size of allowed runners on the streets of Boston cast a shadow on your devotion to your craft.

We all have our stretch goals. Perhaps the news from the B.A.A. will make you stretch a bit farther. If you're pissed off, that's great! Recognize the anger for the gift that it is - undirected passion. Then channel that passion proactively - get a coach, make a plan, share your goals with your friends and family and invite them to help, and then enjoy the journey, whether it is Boston or not. If you do that, you are SO winning. And it will feel that way, I promise!

Whatever your journey, I hope to see you on the road, on the trails, or anywhere outside when you are smiling with friends while covered in dirt, sweat, and blood. You know that's where I will be! And if you did make it to Boston for 2019, congratulations! I'll see you there. ;-)

Cheers, Scott

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