NEW Boston Qualifying Times or Why My Running Plans Have Changed

I know this news is a few weeks old, but if you somehow missed it, the Boston Marathon has just toughened up the qualifying times for the marathon. I totally understand why — runners are faster, shoes are better, supplements prepare your body, even clothes are more technical than when the race began. BUT I’m still bummed because my previous qualifying time of 3:40 has been updated to 3:35. Five minutes doesn’t sound like a lot to you, eh? Well consider: instead of running an 8:23 pace, it’s now an 8:12. My best half is at an 8:27 pace (it was hilly), so it was already going to be tough. Now it’s impossible for this year.

Here’s the new set-up:

2013 Qualifying Times (effective September 24, 2011)

Age Group Men Women
18-34 3hrs 05min 00sec 3hrs 35min 00sec
35-39 3hrs 10min 00sec 3hrs 40min 00sec
40-44 3hrs 15min 00sec 3hrs 45min 00sec
45-49 3hrs 25min 00sec 3hrs 55min 00sec
50-54 3hrs 30min 00sec 4hrs 00min 00sec
55-59 3hrs 40min 00sec 4hrs 10min 00sec
60-64 3hrs 55min 00sec 4hrs 25min 00sec
65-69 4hrs 10min 00sec 4hrs 40min 00sec
70-74 4hrs 25min 00sec 4hrs 55min 00sec
75-79 4hrs 40min 00sec 5hrs 10min 00sec
80 and over 4hrs 55min 00sec 5hrs 25min 00sec
*Unlike previous years, an additional 59 seconds will NOT be accepted for each age group time standard.

What this means is that anyone who runs a marathon before September 24 of this year is under the old guidelines. After that, it’s the new system. Okay so just run a marathon before then and squeeze in no matter how much you qualify by? They’ve stopped that too.

Last year the marathon sold out in about 8 hours. Many people who beat their qualifying time by a wide margin may not have been able to get an entry. To stop someone like me (who presumably would only make it by the skin of my teeth) from “taking” an entry from someone who passed by 20 minutes, Boston is incorporating another new standard:

For the 2012 Boston Marathon, qualifying times must be run on or after September 25, 2010. The acceptance of official race entrants will be based on qualifying times, with the fastest qualifiers (in relation to the qualifying time for their age and gender) being accepted first until the race is full.

Basically, they want to keep the race elite and be a true testament to runners who have really earned their right to be there.

I understand, but am still disappointed. It has, however, given me a chance to reevaluate my goals for this year. I may still do a marathon this fall, since it’s been a year and a half, but some of the pressure is now gone and I’ll be able to see how well I do on my terms — not trying to hit an arbitrary number.

Just like during a race, I have to be able to flex my plan when the circumstances change. Running has definitely made me more flexible and, in spite of pushing myself, it’s also let me go easier on myself when something is not connecting. Lessons learned on the road, right? 🙂

The next question is: What are your running goals this year?


2 responses to “NEW Boston Qualifying Times or Why My Running Plans Have Changed

  1. I agree with the change of qualifying standards… They had to do something, marathoning is growing like a bad weed. I think you could still reach your target, just do more speed work, intervals and tempo runs.. I am in the 310, best I have done is 328 so my goal this next one is 320… I am not even attempting to qualify this upcoming marathon…


    • Maybe next year! My last full was a 4:16 which was Oct 2009; my last half was Oct 2010 in 1:50. We’ll see how my June half goes — if I hit a 1:45 or less, then I may still have a shot at qualifying. Now, getting an entry seems pretty unlikely but at least I’d be able to say I qualified, right!

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