Thursday, August 29, 2013

Boston Registration: Some Thoughts

I feel like I've been waiting since April 15, from the moment it was confirmed that a bomb had gone off at the Boston Marathon finish line, for details about registration for this year's race. Yes, I had planned to run in 2014 already, but the events this year instilled in me a new sense of urgency. Well, after several months of suspense, the wait is over.

Today, the BAA announced details for this year's registration. It will open on September 9th and follow the same procedure used the last two years, i.e., fastest register first.

As most runners know, over the course of the past few years registering for Boston has become nearly as much of a challenge as qualifying. In 2009—the first year I registered for the race—it took just over two months for Boston to sell out. Prior to that the race never sold out before the spring. In 2010, the race sold out in just 8 hours, catching almost everyone—including the BAA—off-guard.

In 2011, they instituted a rolling registration process (the same one they’re still using), and in 2012, the BAA slashed qualifying times by 5 minutes across the board. Registration for the 2012 race closed after 11 days, while registration for 2013, under the stricter qualifying standards, remained open for several weeks.

This year it seems pretty clear that there will be significantly increased demand for the race. The field is usually somewhere around 25,000 with approximately 21,500 to 22,000 of those spots open to qualified runners (the rest go to charities). This year the field size has been increased to 36,000, close to the event’s record 38,708 registrants for its centennial in 1996. With around 5,000 spots going to runners from last year who were unable to finish, there will be roughly 31,000 spots left over.

Given the number of repeat runners Boston tends to have year over year, it’s likely a good number of those roughly 5,000 folks who’ve already registered would have been part of the field anyway. The point is, I think the expanded size of the field may be enough to absorb a lot of the increased interest in this year’s race. I’m sure it will sell out earlier than last year, but it seems likely that everyone with a BQ-5 or better will be able to get in and likely plenty of folks who've met their general qualifier standard.

A final thought on this post. When I ran my first BQ back in 2009, I needed a 3:10.* I managed to eke out a 3:09:55 and felt like death. I was so spent and convinced that I would never run faster that I almost didn’t register for Boston (thankfully, I did—two days before the 2010 race sold out).

Of course that pessimistic me at the finish line of the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon was wrong. I’ve trained harder for each subsequent marathon and I’ve seen my times steadily improve. Why am I saying all of this? Because to any of you who may not get into this year’s race, I say keep up the hard work. It won’t be easy, but you can get to Hopkinton too. When you do, hopefully I’ll be there to show you the shortest port-a-pottie lines.


*Technically I needed a 3:10:59 because of the 59 second grace period the BAA used to offer, but I really want a sub-3:10.


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