"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors."
--Old proverb of unknown (to me) origins
Well, it's official. The Boston Athletic Association, the "owners" of the Boston Marathon, came out last week and said they plan to modify the qualifying standards for the race, according to an article in the Boston Globe (which you can read here). The article states, "The final formula will involve a combination of adjustments to the qualifying standards, field size, and registration start date and window during which runners can qualify." The exact nature of these changes could be announced as soon as January--just in time for my 38th birthday.
This is the result of the fact that the 2011 Boston race sold out in a matter of 8 hours in October, with many qualified runners unable to get into the Web site at all. As you might expect with something that lots of people worked very hard to gain entry to, only to be denied at the last moment, this created some resentment, with various people blaming too many spots reserved for runners raising money for certain charities (these runners don't have to qualify), too-easy standards for women compared with men, and other factors.
There was a lot of discussion of this on Facebook last Tuesday when Runner's World magazine posted a link to the article. Both those who have already qualified and those who hope to proposed many solutions. There was one hurt charity runner in the bunch, but most people (even those who may find these changes totally kill their chances of ever running Boston) seem to agree that this race is special, that everyone who runs it should have to qualify (you can still run for charity, you just have to qualify first) and if the qualifying times for younger women, or any other group, are too lax, well, they need to be tightened up.
And I have to say, I agree with that. My current age group, and probably the one I will soon be entering, may be among those that will see a stricter standard. For someone of my abilities, it could mean this dream really will become impossible to achieve. But as someone who has seen too many highly sought-after prizes become easier to get and therefore less meritorious, I'd rather never qualify than be heard to whine about something valuable like a spot in Boston being made appropriately harder to win. After all, it's the difficulty of the quest that makes its achievement so alluring.
All I can do is keep on keeping on. On Christmas Day, I ran the same 9-mile course I had done the prior Saturday, but I did it nine seconds per mile slower. A combo of factors probably played into this, including still-too-late bedtimes, the lingering effects of my cold (though that's happily almost gone), a poorer diet this past week (shortbread, anyone? stuffing?), alcohol the night before and my body's waking up to the fact that we're training hard again and mileage is increasing. Nonetheless, the 9:02 pace was still spot on with what my training plan asked for (9:03), so I figured that was pretty good for a holiday.
Side note: It's so much easier to run with family here! Dan got out for his own run right after mine. Thanks to my brother John, his wife Jessica and my mom for all the help and fun this Christmas.