My first reaction to the changes to registration for Boston Marathon 2012 and beyond was relief. I expect (hope?) to qualify for many years to come, and don’t want to relive the experience I had this fall. Like many other runners, I logged on at 9 am, only to find that the pages didn’t seem to be loading. I almost decided to just try again later that week, but tried again at noon, happy to be registered. That happiness was compounded just after 5, when I heard that Boston was full. Many of my friends were not as lucky, and found themselves shut out, even with excellent qualifying times.
I am empathetic, though, to the plight of those who have been steadily working towards a qualifying time, only to have it drop by 5 minutes. I am even more empathetic to those who have qualified, but who will have to wait for days while faster runners get registration priority.
Boston is many things to many people. For example, my boyfriend in graduate school begrudgingly ran a marathon so that we could run Boston together (in exchange for me playing ultimate Frisbee; I’m not sure what we were thinking.) From Brookline, Boston held a special place in Will’s heart. He had an older Boston jacket, yet it hung in his closet because he hadn’t run the race yet. The Brookline Hills? His high school training grounds. We ran up Heartbreak, just so I could see the hill likely to haunt my future. Will trained his ass off, and ran Myrtle Beach with tendonitis in his Achilles and knee, literally held together by tape, pre-wrap and Flexor patches. He ran a 3:10 and change, good enough to get him into Boston. I still remember screaming madly at 26, when I realized how close to the line we were. I later screwed us up by insisting that we had plenty of time to register. The race closed in mid-November and we were shut out. I keep trying to convince Will to qualify again so we can run Boston together, but now not only does he have to run a 3:05, he probably has to run a 2:50 to be guaranteed a spot. Similarly, two of my best friends have been steadily working towards 3:40 with the hope that the three of us can run it together one year. These new standards put a lot more pressure on KC and Emmy, especially with the priority registration.
My second reaction was that the organizers chose the best possible solution. Nothing was going to make everyone happy, so they had to find a way to relieve the pressure, while staying true to the tradition of Boston. As anyone familiar with Boston knows, it has become less and less of a challenge to get in over the past few decades, which when coupled with the explosion in recreational marathon running, caused a major bottleneck. Add in some hype about an early sell out and well, we are where we are.
Is it a permanent solution? I’m not convinced. I think the goals of Boston need to be carefully considered. Boston is a totally different marathon from New York or Chicago, which also sell out annually. Boston is a mecca. There are pictures of me from childhood (I’ll dig some up), dressed in my “marathon Monday” outfit. I’ve studied the Boston course unlike any other race, because I know that the downhills at the beginning can crush me going into Brookline. I get teary thinking about coming out of the scream tunnel. I can’t wait to have my own Boston shirt.
What do you think? Did the BAA do the right thing? Make it worse? If you were in charge, what would you have done?