Recently a coworker asked me why there was so much hype around the Boston Marathon. My answer was basically that human begins are competitive and as soon as you make a race exclusively available to those that can run a certain time, it’s going to get increasingly popular. However, I was still prompted to do my own research and thought it would be an interesting blog topic to share with my readers especially since the 2013 Boston Marathon is next Monday and in less than 3 weeks I hope to qualify for the 2014 race.
The Boston Marathon is always held on the third Monday in April which is Patriots Day. The race was first held in 1897 (1896 was the first marathon race in the Olympics) and is the world’s oldest annual marathon. The 1897 race had only 18 participants and was a free event (it continued to be a free event for many years). In the 1980s the race began offering cash prizes for the professional winners however even before then it became competitive enough to require a certain time.
The reason that the Boston Marathon began having qualifying times is the race logistics. It was getting too popular yet the race can only logically accommodate around 25,000 entrants (still seems like a lot to me!) due to fact that it begins on the narrow streets of Hopkinton, Massachusetts. The goal of the qualifying times wasn’t to challenge runners to race harder to get in, but in the end, that was the result.
Human beings love a challenge and as soon as the Boston Marathon put qualifying times on their race, people worked harder to get in. The “BQ” as it is commonly called became a quest and a bucket list item for many.
The original standards required men to run the marathon in under 3 hours and the women in under 3 hours 30 minutes, regardless of age. In 1980 the times changed for allowances for age, since it was very rare for runners over 40 to qualify with the current standards. In 2012, the standards changed again, dropping by 5 minutes and eliminating the 59 second safety window (i.e. you used to be able to qualify if you were a 29 year old woman with a time of 3:40:59 or less and now it is 3:39:59 or less, a 6 minute difference).
Other than qualifying, there are ways to get into the Boston Marathon. There are a certain number of slots allotted to runners who raise funds for charities. Otherwise, you have to run a qualifying time before mid-September before the race you wish to run in. Two years ago the registration process changed by allowing runners who qualify by over 20 minutes to register first, followed by those with times over 10 minutes and 5 minutes faster. Last, those who qualify by less than 5 minutes may register. Since this new process has been introduced, no runners have been shut out who qualified but it is possible that even with a qualifying time there will be no slots left for you to run (say for example the registration fills up after allowing 5+ minute qualifiers in).
Qualifying times for the 2013 Boston Marathon are (according to baa.org)
|18-34||3hrs 05min 00sec||3hrs 35min 00sec|
|35-39||3hrs 10min 00sec||3hrs 40min 00sec|
|40-44||3hrs 15min 00sec||3hrs 45min 00sec|
|45-49||3hrs 25min 00sec||3hrs 55min 00sec|
|50-54||3hrs 30min 00sec||4hrs 00min 00sec|
|55-59||3hrs 40min 00sec||4hrs 10min 00sec|
|60-64||3hrs 55min 00sec||4hrs 25min 00sec|
|65-69||4hrs 10min 00sec||4hrs 40min 00sec|
|70-74||4hrs 25min 00sec||4hrs 55min 00sec|
|75-79||4hrs 40min 00sec||5hrs 10min 00sec|
|80 and over||4hrs 55min 00sec||5hrs 25min 00sec|
So there you have it. Boston Marathon is competitive because people love a challenge. And you know me – I LOVE a challenge. Hopefully I will be at the start line in Hopkinton next April to run the oldest marathon in the world.
Have you qualified for the Boston Marathon? How long did it take you to qualify?