The Mystery of the Boston Marathon
Several weeks ago, all 21,000 participants in next year’s Boston Marathon registered for the race in just eight hours — 65 times faster than last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Five years ago, “it took almost seven months to fill the same number of spots.” Interestingly, the development was not unexpected — race officials warned in advance that registration could fill up rapidly this year.
I wish I could say I was surprised when I heard this. I was not.
Instead, my first reaction upon hearing that Boston had filled up in RECORD TIME was this:
I don’t know who started this “filled in one day” rumor, or even when, exactly. All I know is that I heard whispers as far back as Wednesday (“Boston might fill in one day”) which became murmurs by Thursday and Friday (“They say Boston will close in one day!”) and exploded into full-blown frenzy by Sunday (“OMG! BOSTON IS GOING TO CLOSE HOURS AFTER IT OPENS!”)
Which, of course, it did.
Various other explanations have been offered. One interesting thought: too many eligible participants because of?outdated qualifying times, particularly for women. As?Kevin Helliker and David Biderman point out:
By all accounts, the running boom is being fueled by women more than men. Women made up 42% of finishers in the 2010 Boston race-a proportion that is higher than the percentage of all U.S. marathoners who are women. But according to gender rules instituted in 1977, the marathon times women need to post to qualify for Boston are 30 minutes slower than the times the men in the same age group have to run. The problem: There’s no evidence that women really need that much extra time.
The typical gap in major 2009 marathons between the world’s elite male and female runners was closer to 20 minutes than 30-and has been shrinking over time. For less-than-elite runners, these gaps have created some questionable benchmarks. To qualify for Boston, for instance, a man aged 50 to 54 has to have posted a time of 3:35 or better. But that time is five minutes faster than the time required for women 34 and younger. In a nutshell, to make Boston, a 54-year old man has to run faster than the nation’s youngest and fastest women
Guy Morse, the executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, has promised to review the qualifying and registration process. “We’re pleased with the interest, but not pleased when qualified runners are shut out,” Morse said.
What say you, readers? Does anyone have any good information as to why the Boston Marathon filled up so quickly? Or what can be done to avoid the same situation next year?