Disclosure: This post has NOTHING at all to do with lifting weights. The title just inspired this picture. It does have everything to do with running… please read Warning below.
Warning: If you do not run and/or have absolutely no interest in running this post may be extremely boring to you (it may also be boring to those interested in running).* *However, much of what I blog about is boring and you are back to read more, so press on…
I came across this quote this week
“You can tell who the strong women are. They’re the ones building each other up, not tearing each other down.”
I think you could replace “women” with “people”. Lord knows I have experienced both men and women that want to tear you down, as well as build you up.
A lot of tearing down was seen in the running community because of the B.A.A. cut off (must be 1:02 under your BQ) for the 2015 marathon. Almost 2000 qualifiers did not get a spot in the race. I am the first to say I would have been devastated, crushed even, were I to have missed that cut off. But would I have questioned the B.A.A.’s clearly spelled out rules or cut other runners down?
I don’t think so.
I guess I don’t know fully unless I am in that spot, but I knew my BQ was just a chance to get a bib for the race. I had read the qualification process that the B.A.A. posts on their website. I knew exactly what happens during the weeks of registration for the Boston marathon. I knew it well before I ran Chicago as my qualifying race.
Having it laid before me, I set my goals. When I set race goals I always set 3 goals. 1- “no doubt” goal, 2- “real world” goal, 3- “fuck ya” goal. I, then, set my training to reach that “fuck ya” goal. For Chicago, my “no doubt” goal was to get to the race healthy, my “real world” goal was to BQ (3:40), and my “fuck ya” goal was to BQ -5 minutes (to be 5 minutes under my BQ cut off). As the B.A.A. explains, those with -20min+, -10min, and -5min under the BQ times get earlier registration. Then it opens to the squeakers, those of us just making that BQ cut off. It is a totally fair process for a race that is all about the fastest runners running it. So I trained to run at least a 3:34:59.
When I qualified with -1:38 under my BQ I knew it was close. I knew there was no guarantee. In fact if the topic of qualifying ever arose I made sure to tell people that it didn’t guarantee me a spot. I knew that for 2014 the exact cut off was 1:38. I would have REALLY squeaked into that one. My hope was that some of the popularity of wanting to run Boston would wane as time passed after the bombings. Luckily, I was right.
But some people who either don’t take the time to understand the process or don’t have the intellect to understand the process got upset about the B.A.A.’s way of fairly filling the race spots. These are a few of the arguments I have heard about why the qualification system and the registration process are unfair:
- Charity spots take away the qualifier spots. Wrong. Charity spots are separate spots. Most people who fill these spots did not quality for Boston to begin with. That means their running pace is significantly slower than the large pack of runners. That means it is SAFE to add them to the pool of runners. They will not be adding 4000 runners in the 6-8 min/mile runner group. The B.A.A. and city of Boston have to ensure that those running the race have a safe environment. Too many runners would not make for a safe environment. Congestion can lead to trampling. The B.A.A. also commented that they want to continue the tradition of their racers having an amazing experience. Regardless of whether I made the cut off or not, I wouldn’t want to FINALLY make it to Boston, only to be packed like sardines and unable to reach pace until miles into the race because there were so many runners. I love that the B.A.A. is protective over this race that people are so passionate about. That protectiveness is why the race is still around and still so sought after. Besides why try to end a REALLY good cause that raises over $10 million a year for charities.
- Young males are at a disadvantage, tighten up the older standards. Before age 45, the time standards give you an extra 5 min per 5 year age groups. So, right now I needed a 3:40 to qualify in the 35-39 age group. Upon entering the masters division and turning 40, I get 5 more minutes and will need 3:45 to qualify. Then at age 45, I get 10 minutes added on to my standard (3:55). Some say this is unfair to the younger runners. All you need to do is look at a chart on how average runners show marked decline (7% per decade starting at 40) in their pace as they age. The young runners that feel so disadvantaged now, will feel even more disadvantaged when they are 45 and still not able to make their time. And then they probably will be complaining that the standards need to be loosened up for their age bracket.
- Females have too much of a qualifying difference from their male counterparts. This one aggravates me to no end. It is usually said by someone who has no idea what they are talking about. Usually said by someone who looks at the average elite male marathon time (about 2:05) and the average elite female time (about 2:20) and think ‘Oh, a 15 minute difference. So, it should be a 15 minute difference across the field.’ They fail to understand that 15 minute difference at that fast pace is a 15% detriment that females have to their male peers. When you look at elite (and average runners) finish times across all age divisions this 15% gender difference is consistent. So, what does a 15% detriment look like for the average runner in my age group? Well, if 35-39 yr old males are expected to run 3:10, 15% of that is 28.5 minutes (making 35-39 females average 3:38.5). That seems pretty damn close to the 3:40 I am expected to run. If you do the reverse and take my 3:40 BQ time and look at 85% (discounting the 15% gender differential) you end up with 3:07. So a few minutes with one calculation benefitting males, a few minutes using a different calculation benefitting females… it all evens out. The same is true for the other age groups, by the way. Let me close by saying, women would LOVE to be able to compete fully with their male peers and try and kick some ass. Unfortunately our muscle, fat, and skeletal make up just doesn’t quite allow that.
- Standards need to be cut again across the board. Hmmm… I am not opposed to this one, but I don’t quite understand what this would solve? Those who were a minute under are still not going to make their cut off. Unless they train harder and run faster, which would get them a spot anyway. In 2013 the standards were raised by 5 minutes across the board, regardless of age or gender. There was a lot of hoopla at that time about cutting times. I am sure these runners, complaining and wanting stricter cut offs now, were complaining back then that the cut offs made it too difficult. Complainers seem to complain. I find it pretty good that the B.A.A. standards are within a minute of the times that, ultimately, filled the race. I know one minute is a long time in racing, but getting it that close and filling the race is pretty great. Remember, the B.A.A. needs to make sure they do fill the race and that it is still prestigious and exciting and an accomplishment. If it weren’t, would “running Boston” be a goal? Probably not.
I have to say that most runners, who didn’t make the cut off, gracefully, yet sadly, accepted their position and vowed to get that extra minute in order to run Boston 2016. For those that are upset, think more of yourself than to put other runners down. You got cut. It SUCKS. I can’t say I truly know how you feel, but I had placed myself in your spot hypothetically before I got acceptance (hence this letter to myself). It felt like crap. I couldn’t believe that I ran as hard as I did and still possibly didn’t get in. I felt like I didn’t know if I would ever get my chance again. But I would have used that to fuel my next training. I knew I could do it. And you can to. Let your running community lift you up and encourage you to push harder. In turn, use your time to lift others up instead of spending it breaking others down. Be a light in this world, not a shadow.