I think we all got spooked. Last year's record closing of the Boston Marathon registration caught a lot of people off guard. The marathon messaged to all past racers that this year, Oct. 18 would be a day to be watched. Most Boston qualifiers had it on their calendars. Some of them (like me) knew to treat today's 9 a.m. entry enough of a task to give it attention. Cause if you waited an entire work day, you would have had tough luck.
Funny then that after work, I arrive home, check my mail, and got this in my mail box.
The mega marathon is the party everyone wants to get into. They're widely popular, everyone wants to run them, and the organizers are now beating back runners. Marine Corps Marathon, Chicago, London and all the other big ones have differing standards on how they try to create some sort of level playing field. All of them these days fill up quickly.
NYC, for example, has really tough qualifying standards, a lottery (that I entered twice before getting in) and a few guaranteed entry options. On one hand, it feels so exclusive but the nature of the lottery system - three strikes and you're in -- that I don't feel bad that I'll probably only run it a few times.
Back to Boston. What to do about the most prestigious of marathons, where the supposed allure is the fact that you have to qualify for it.
Make it harder: BAA should consider looking at all times through all age groups and genders and level set. I may hate this (ie my 3:15:59 may become once again a 3:10:59 or faster) but if the bar has fallen low, then so be it.
Let qualifiers use one marathon once: I, and I'm sure quite a few others, am using my 2009 time for 2011. It's a pretty awesome rule that you can use a fall qualifier for the next two Bostons because of that 18-month window. A lot of us, then, don't feel the pressure to qualify once a year. It's a privilege to run and race Boston. I think we could support that even though I hate the idea of training every year to BQ.
Consider a qualifier lottery system: Lets say you qualified in 2010. You didn't get to register for Boston. You miss out again the next fall. Why not let a qualifier get a ticket in a lottery. Maybe a few unused tickets equals a guaranteed entry. Not really a deferment but a, hey, I qualified a few years but didn't get to even register.
A limit on straight Bostons: I know there are those who pride themselves on runnnig X consecutive Bostons. Maybe it's a small minority but why not allow people to take a breather. Would that open the field? Food for thought.
One thing I remember hearing at last year's race that the majority of the runners were newbies. So maybe it's a fact of life that since marathoning is becoming more mainstream, and more of us are running and getting faster, that we're in an era where Boston will inevitably fill up quickly. Maybe one day, getting in the front of the line at Boston won't be that different than an Ironman signup.
It's funny, that no matter how more popular a mega marathon is to run, to experience a great marathon, all you need is a great course, awesome weather, a corps of dedicated volunteers working on the back of a solid race organization. I've loved marathons, like yesterday's, where the cozy field of a few thousand meant you could pick out friends on the course. Easy for us to share that sentiment, but when that big party's going on, we all want in.
Update: BAA's Executive Director Guy Morse gives a little Q&A about the quick sellout. And yes, he mentions looking at solutions like tightening standards and reexamining the size of the field.