Runners: trying to tune your training plan? Read my article, “Your One True Plan” in the November/December issue of Level Renner. My advice, like the magazine, is Free, and worth more than twice that amount.
Boston.com has published my article, “2014 Boston Marathon begins with a race to the starting line“. The story covers how marathons in the summer of 2013 were affected by runners’ desire to make it to Hopkinton for the start of the 2104 Boston Marathon. You’ll find data from summer races and interviews with runners who were motivated to qualify or improve upon their existing BQ time after the bombing at the 2013 race.
There’s also a sidebar, “Increased 2014 Boston Marathon field will have 500 more qualifier spots“, explaing how the BAA divided up the 36,000 entries into the race among qualified and non-qualified runners.
Everyone expects that there will be an increased demand for entries to the 2014 Boston Marathon after the events on the most recent Patriots Day. Back in May, I wrote that because of weather and time constraints, I didn’t expect to see a massive increase in the number of runners trying to qualify in the summer. While we all wait for the BAA to announce the size of the 2014 field, I thought I’d take a look at whether the numbers back me up.
Using the Boston Qualifying (BQ) data from MarathonGuide.com, I was able to compare the results for 2012 and 2013 from 12 races occurring between Boston and the time when registration for the following year opened.
What’s interesting is that while the number of finishers increased from one year to the next, the percentage of runners who qualified increased at a much higher rate. A mathematician certainly wouldn’t call this data statistically significant, but it might indicate that those who ran summer marathons were more focused on hitting their BQ time.
(Update: The numbers for Santa Rosa and Via have been added and the BQ count for Vancouver (BC) has been fixed since the original post.
84% of the increase in finishers in these 12 races is due to runners flocking to the last/best chance races of Santa Rosa and Via.
Keep in mind that Marathon Guide tracks finishers - the numbers don’t show how many runners dropped out during the race, and how many never showed up at all. I talked to officials at Santa Rosa and Via, who reported about 30% no-shows, well over the typical rate of around 18%. Apparently, lots of registrants knew they had no chance to BQ, so they didn’t bother to run.)
Want to help the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing? All proceeds from sales of The 27th Mile go to The One Fund Boston.
The 27th Mile is a new anthology full of articles, stories, and poems about running and runners that extol the spirit that first got us out on the roads to run, that brought us to Boston on a sunny spring day, and that will bring us back to Hopkinton next year. It’s not your typical running book, but I think it speaks to something we all share.
Yesterday, the BAA announced that approximately 5600 runners who were unable to finish the 2013 marathon would be invited to register for the 2014 race. I’m happy that the BAA decided to make that offer, and I hope the opportunity to run again will help heal some of the emotional wounds left behind after the events on Patriot’s Day. But that decision will have consequences for an even larger number of people, both runners and non-runners. By adding extra runners to the 2014 field without saying how they will fit them in the race, the BAA created more questions than they answered.
No one knows how the BAA intends to make room for the runners who accept their invitation. Maybe the race will get bigger in 2014, but all they’ve announced so far is, “No decision has been made on the maximum field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon, including the number of qualifiers and invitational applications available.”
The BAA has to finish working with local officials in the cities and towns along the race course to determine how many people can run. If the field doesn’t grow by at least as many runners as get waived in, then those numbers have to come from somewhere, either from charity bibs or from the numbers available to qualified runners.
After the BAA introduced more stringent qualifying times for 2013, everyone who qualified by the time registration opened in September was able to get in, but that might not be the case for 2014. More qualified runners than usual will be competing for the number of available slots, however many they may be. If the field isn’t big enough to include all qualified runners, inevitably someone who had a bad day in 2013 and dropped out of the race well before the bombs went off will get a number that could have gone to a 2014 qualifier.
Charities may see a bigger impact. If the field doesn’t grow, they could see a reduction in the number of numbers they have to hand out to their fundraising volunteers. But even if the charities get as many numbers as they usually do, there will still be consequences.
Since most of the 5600 people who will be getting waivers were charity runners, the pool of fundraisers the charities have to draw upon will be significantly smaller. In a normal year, there are always some charities looking for runners at the last minute. With as many as 5600 people taken out of the pool, some of them hard-core repeat fundraisers, even more charity numbers may go unclaimed.
Most of those dedicated volunteers who return year-after-year will still work to support their charity. But they may not collect as much. There’s a big difference between “I need $5000 to get in” and “I’m in, but it would be nice to collect a few bucks, too.” Are there enough additional runners who will collect the full amount to make up the difference?
And the task of collecting donations may be harder for those runners who do volunteer for a charity number. Already, there have been charities who have noticed reductions in donations because money is going to the One Fund to assist the victims of the bombing.
It will be interesting to watch and see how it all plays out. The BAA has a tough job ahead, trying to balance out all the competing interests. Let’s hope that all parties cooperate and allow the size of the 2014 field to grow enough to make the job easier.
Update: The BAA has announced that 2013 runners who made it past the half-marathon but were unable to finish will get first shot at Boston 2014. No word as to the size of the 2014 field.
After the events of Patriot’s Day 2013, everyone anticipates that there will be significantly higher demand for entries to the 2014 Boston Marathon. It’s probably too late for hordes of additional runners to qualify, but a higher percentage of already-qualified runners will choose to apply, charity runners are eager to do their part to help the victims, and there’s a petition, signed by almost 30,000 people, asking the BAA to let the 5700 runners who were stopped short of the finish (most of them non-qualifiers) in.
The BAA, along with local officials from the cities and towns along the marathon route, will have some tough choices to make. I have a history of obsessing over the Boston qualifying process (there’s a reason one of my books is called Overthinking the Marathon), probably because I’m usually I’m right on the edge between ‘in” and “out”. I’m sure that the BAA is eager for my opinion as to what they should do (not).
I wouldn’t be too upset if the field size and the registration process remained unchanged for 2014. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that if we let the terrorists force changes then they win, but it does seem fair to keep the rules the same for everyone, whether or not they made their qualifying attempt before or after the bombing.
But it would be great if we could open up the field. The BAA managed to fit almost 40,000 people on the course in 1996 for the 100th marathon, even with everyone starting at once. With wave starts, they might be able to fit even more runners into the race in 2014. On the other hand, there would be less time for the advance planning needed to prepare for the crowds, especially when you consider the inevitable increase in security precautions.
Coincidentally, since I missed my BQ-5 by 36 seconds, a larger field can only help me get in.
If they do increase the field size for 2014, I would recommend that they register people in this order:
1) ALL qualifiers (as of the date registration for 2014 opens)
2) Everyone who couldn’t finish in 2013
3) …and then fill out the field with charity runners
My favorite idea: With 40,000+ runners, there won’t be enough room on the course to race once you get past the elites. Since that’s the case, why not seed runners according to their charity donation? Maybe, as Amby Burfoot suggests, the process could target the One Fund Boston and other nonprofits that clearly benefit Boston’s public well-being. Even qualifiers would have to kick in, if they didn’t want to start behind the 6-hour sloggers.
However they do it, I hope the BAA finds a way to open up the race to as many people as possible. The bombers attacked the race by hurting the spectators, our fans and loved ones. In 2014 we owe them a pageant, the bigger the better.
My article, Slim window of opportunity for runners hoping to still qualify for 2014 Boston Marathon, was published on Boston.com today. It explains how the qualifying period for Boston 2014 is already essentially over (unless the BAA opens up the field).
Since I wrote the article, the Vancouver, Providence, and Eugene marathons have been added to MarathonGuide.com’s Boston qualifiers lists for 2013. In 2012, the three races totaled 1214 Boston qualifiers. In 2013, there were 1131. The lack of any increase may not prove my point, but it definitely doesn’t contradict it.
Ruth and I ran with the pooches at the Little River State Park in Waterbury, VT in the Central Vermont Runners’ 3-mile Mutt Strutt.
It was a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon when Ruth and I visited the Boston Marathon Memorial.
The May/June edition of Level Renner is now available. It begins with a section dedicated to those affected by the events at the 2013 Boston Marathon that includes my short tribute to the BAA finish line volunteers.
I also have a short story, titled “We Were Awesome”, later on in the issue. The story isn’t relevant to what happened on Patriot’s Day, but the title is.
I want to express my appreciation to the runners, volunteers, spectators and first responders who made the 2013 Boston Marathon special, and who kept the tragedy from being any worse than it was.