Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Boston Marathon qualifying rant

 On one of my long runs in central park I noticed a girl running in the opposite direction, and though she was not what I would call fat, but she wasn't what I would call exactly fit either and I'm sure no one was mistaking her for a runner in her street clothes.
So why is that annoying? She was doing what I like to call the Boston brag. That's when you wear the famous blue Boston Marathon jacket that brags about your running prowess, maybe you're even sub elite fast. I don't know about you but I know zero men wearing that Boston jacket that don't at least look like they're fast runners. But I've seen one too many female runners qualifying for Boston that don't look all that fit. "But Mark Boston has qualifying times and chubby or not she qualified"
Qualifying times, just what do they mean anyway? The qualifying times are harder for the New York Marathon but no one seems to care about those qualifying times, and who's wearing that jacket? But Boston seems to be the holy grail for runners, a right of passage, as if qualifying for the Boston marathon and wearing that blue jacket makes you a 'real' runner. What's worse is that once runners get a taste of that Boston cred. They want to keep on proving it and showing others year after year "yeah I got into Boston" And my answer to that is, congrats, and so what? Now you're going to show me your medal?

Now don't get me wrong Boston is a fun marathon to do but there are 100's of other fun marathons to do as well and unless you actually live in Boston I see no reason to want to do it year after year considering travel and expenses and so on, why not do something completely different? Oh wait I know, your ego.
Now I'll admit I never officially qualified for Boston but that didn't stop me from running it any way. Every year Boston expects hundreds of people to bandit the race and in 2008 I was one of those bandits "oh no not a bandit, that’s so wrong you must qualify.." let me cut you off before you start screaming at your computer. The head of the BAA ran his first Boston Marathon as a bandit. And like I said they are well equipped for it anyway I only ran the last half to pace my friend Cara and had probably the most fun I had at any race, mainly because there was no pressure and that only happens when you bandit races, so much fun.

A Boston Bandit in 2008

Well that's my Boston marathon and I'm fine if I never do it again even if I do qualify. Question is do I even want to qualify? The answer.. Of course, I want to qualify and then some but only because it'll mean I'm getting faster but I tend to run multiple marathons and sometimes back to back and that’s probably the worst way to try and qualify for Boston.. Unless you're a girl.
Oh no you didn’t! Oh yes I did, Most men I know that qualify for Boston are running about 60 to over 100 miles a week and not just running but training hard and being obsessed with the process, not only because they have to but because they want to PR. Here's a shameful fact. To qualify for Boston, Men 50 to 54 has to have posted a time of 3:35 or better. That time is five minutes faster than the time required for women 18-34. Well if that still seems OK to for you think about this. To make Boston, a 54-year old man has to run faster than the nation’s youngest and fastest women.
Now I'm not sure but I think if I suggested to a female athlete in her early 20's that she's not as fit as a 54 yr old man I might get a punch in the head. But when I mentioned this on facebook it stirred a vicious debate with women fighting for the 3:40 even some that could crush a 3:40 marathon thought it was OK because "women are just slower" What happened to the women’s right movement? I thought women wanted to be equal and didn't want to be treated as the lesser sex? I'm from generation X and we grew up being taught women and men were equal, so when I see this kind stuff it makes me nuts, and to make matters worse there's no proof women are slower!

Cara qualified by running a 3:30 marathon for Steamtown in 2007, she had no training plan, in fact she hardly even trained.

Before Katherine Switzer ran her first Boston Marathon as K. Switzer, why? Because women were didn't run marathons, in fact it was believed that if a woman ran more than 6 miles her uterus would fall out, (wha, wha, waaaat?) maybe you want to read that again because in the 60's it wasn't just here say, it was fact, or at least they thought so.
Now I've heard the stories about women aren't as efficient runners as men because of their hips and so on. But I'll tell you about the fastest runners I know. Both men and women are far from chubby and they train like animals. The goal is always a PR not getting into to Boston by a few seconds. I know a 46 yr old female runner who ran a 3:10 in New York last November her fastest marathon yet. I know a long time runner but first time marathoner, a 25 yr old female who ran a 3:06 she was 2 minutes off her goal of 3:04. These are runners to be admired, not because they are some how born fast, but because they train like most fast runners I know, hard. They know how to train they have their goals and will do anything to get there many I know even hire online coaches. Anyone running a 3:40 marathon in there 20's are just not training hard enough, period.
Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal that backs up what I'm saying
Honestly who cares if you ran Boston? If you had a jacket from Berlin or London I'd be more impressed. Prove how fast you are by running fast, nine out of ten times you're going to be asked how fast you did your marathon in anyway. Why worry about Boston?
It seems that Boston are raising their qualifying times for 2013 but not just for women for everyone. My guess is everyone will just get faster if they really want to run this race. But it still won't change the fact that BAA thinks a 54 yr old man is more of an athlete than the fastest women more than 1/2 his age.

Cara may never know her true potential as a runner because she doesn't like speed work and she's not concerned with a PR, she just wants to have fun. And that's just fine with me.

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