The Boston Athletic Association finally came out with it: getting into the Boston Marathon is now much harder. You can read a full explanation of how they did it here. In this post, I'll just stick with how it will affect me.
The time standard for getting into the Boston Marathon in 2012 (the first year I'd theoretically have a shot) won't change. It remains 3 hours 45 minutes for a 35-39 year-old woman. BUT they have introduced a rolling entry process that gives first dibs to people who beat their standard by 20 minutes. So to be allowed to sign up on the first and second day of registration for this race (Sept. 12 and 13 of this year), I would have to run (hold your breath) a marathon in 3 hours 25 minutes, which amounts to 7:49 per mile. To be allowed to register on the third and fourth day (starting Sept. 14), I would have to beat my standard by 10 minutes, or run the race at 8:12/mile. If the Boston Marathon still hasn't filled at that point, on Sept. 16, I would be allowed to register IF I ran a 3:40, or 8:23/mile (five minutes faster than my standard). And only if the race hadn't filled in one of those earlier stages would I be allowed to try to register with any time between 3:40 and 3:45.
For the 2013 running of Boston, the plot thickens further. In addition to keeping the rolling registration process, all the time standards for both sexes and all age groups will get 5 minutes harder. Which means that even as a 40-year-old I will still be shooting for 3:45 or better.
When I first read this, sitting at the quiet reference desk with the spring-like morning sun shining through the skylights, it took my breath away. But ever since hearing that they were going to be doing *something* with the standards, I've known that it certainly wasn't going to get easier. And now that I know exactly *how* it's gotten harder, I can adjust my game plan.
Here's what I've come up with so far--and there are some questions in here so if anyone out there has an opinion please voice it!
1) I think it's safe to say that the 2012 Boston Marathon is out of reach. It was probably never in reach anyway--my original goal for this year's marathon was merely to beat four hours--but even if a miracle occurred and I ran a qualifying time in October, the new registration window will have closed by the time I hit the starting line.
Still, I'm tempted to ramp up my timetable and try to get a marathon in before Sept. 12. Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors only the prepared mind." It probably favors the prepared body as well. What do you think? Should I try to find an early September marathon? At worst I'd be beginning a new training cycle in the fall--which is a great time to train anyway.
2) In the likely event that it's 2013 I'm shooting for, I'd choose a winter marathon with a reputation for speed (perhaps a return to Houston, where I ran my first one). And after that, I'd just keep entering marathons as needed until registration for the 2013 race opens on Sept. 10 of next year.
3) I need to remember that even if I don't actually get into the race, the title of this blog is BQby40, not BostonMarathonby40. This is a key distinction given the new registration process. It means that if I run a 3:45 or better, I will have met my goal, regardless of whether there were enough faster people to trump me in the queue to sign up. Semantics? Yes. But correct semantics!
4) Whether or not I hit 3:45 by my 40th birthday, I will move on at that point. Perhaps in that event I will be doing a blog again in twenty years with the title BQby60. But once I turn forty, I know I'll want to put Boston to rest for a while and accomplish some other things with my running.
One thing I will never do is run the Boston Marathon without qualifying. It seems to me there should be some things that are sacred. Even if this training proves only that I don't have it in me to run that fast, hopefully it will give me a deeper appreciation of those who do.
I would love to hear from everyone about this new wrinkle, whether you have advice for me or are sharing your own stories and impressions. Those of you who recently qualified, for instance, but didn't get into the 2011 race...I can only imagine how you must be affected.
Tomorrow I have the first run in my program in weeks where I have permission to run slow and easy. It seems appropriate somehow!