My Beef With Boston

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The Boston Marathon…THE BOSTON MARATHON. It is a prestigious race. Non-runners even have heard of it. Most runners dream of qualifying for Boston. That’s my goal this year—running below a 3:35 at the Calgary Full Marathon on June 1st, 2014, will be my ticket in….or will it?

I know this coming Boston Marathon should have a double asterisk next to it in the record books, due to the events that occurred last April, so some application procedures may have been changed or altered. But my real beef I have here is in regards to when official registration submissions were accepted for the 2014 race. What I have an something I have had on the back burner of my mind since this last September 2013—-issue with will probably surprise some people, and undoubtedly some runners won’t agree with my position. What do I have a problem with at Boston?

Charity runners.

Ok. Now that I got that out of the bag and half of you think I’m a cold-hearted you-know-what….let me explain. (Be prepared….this may become long-winded). All major races have runners who are part of charity groups. I know this. My friend Matt even reiterated this when I spoke to him about my position. Charity runners do a lot for the local communities where these races are held. At my latest race, the Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World, Cigna was the main sponsor and Team in Training (Leukemia) was the head beneficiary. There were many people who ran with these groups, and other groups during the race weekend. Groups like these have a minimum fundraising requirement one must meet in order to run in the event. People in the “running world” are well aware of these charity runners. And they are also well aware that charity runners can get into otherwise “sold out” events. Dopey Challenge sold out in one week last April 2013. The marathon sold out some months after. But as late as December, people could still sign up for running via a charity group. Fundraise enough money and you’re in!

I am all for fundraising-anyone who has been following my website since it’s conception would know that. In this past year, I raised approximately $3500 for heart disease research. The monies raised went to the American Heart Association and the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. But this fundraising was done not for a race bib-I raised money for something specifically important to me and my family, and along that way I registered for a boatload of events with Dopey Challenge as the grand finale. I’m not saying this in order to make it seem like I think I am better than those who run with charity groups….I am not saying that. Not at all. But while I assume most people who fundraise for sponsored charity groups at races have a good heart and truly care about the charity they are running for, you know there are some who just happen to have rich running friends or be sitting on wads of cash themselves. One might even say they are “buying” themselves a late entry into a race.

But for Boston? This is where I take issue….

My husband’s cousin Erin is a fantastic trail runner. She does crazy races up in Edmonton and in the the one I ran the Spartan Beast with in September. Anyway, she ran the BMO Vancouver Full in May 2013 and just missed out breaking the 3:35 qualifying time. Once she realized how close she was, she did what any sane person would do and registered for the Red Deer Woody’s RV Full Marathon….which was two weeks after. I was running the half there, and after my race I went back to the final hill to watch for her. As I saw her coming, she was shaking her head saying she wasn’t going to get it. I pushed her up that ridiculous hill by Lindsay Thurber High School, and she brought herself into the finish line in 3:34:24. She had qualified for Boston! She made it!

In Erin’s words
“.…I was training for a 50mile, and my pace just naturally got faster. When I missed out on qualifying in Vancouver by those few short seconds, that’s when I became obsessed with the goal, and really started looking into exactly what this whole Boston Marathon was really about. The more I read, the more I wanted it. Boston is a Runners race. Meant to be something for those of us who have committed the time and pounded out mile after mile, giving up time with friends and family all for chasing the dream of qualifying for Boston. It was a race for people like me, who pushed their bodies for week and months, and it was like a final reward for all my hard work. To qualify and run Boston was the ultimate goal….Registration day came for Boston, and I submitted my time, and the waiting game began. I never actually received my email saying I didn’t make it in, but I checked and checked the registration list. No Erin McLaren….I was okay with it. It meant that I just wasn’t fast enough, and that’s okay. It meant that other women my age trained harder, and ran a better race….Then I found out about all the charity runners. I’m all for charity, I really am. I think races like this are an excellent way for runners to raise money for deserving cause, but the key word there, is Runners. Why is it that because someone is able to raise more money than me, they get to run in a race that others have worked so hard to get to…10% of runners are charity runners. Great. How about give those bibs to deserving runners, and give 100% of the racers a chance to raise money for charity. Are you telling me that 10% can raise more than 100%?
There are so many races out there that anyone can pay for and run. Boston should be something you earn…”

Going on the official Boston Athletic Association (BAA) website will tell you a couple things. 25,654 applications were received during the two weeks of registration. Of these, 22,679 were accepted. There is a chart on their website showing that in our age/gender group, times that were at or faster than 3:33:22 were accepted. Erin qualified for Boston, but in the end didn’t make the cut.

“…the B.A.A. Has set the field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon at 36,000 official entrants. At least seventy percent of the field will be comprised of athletes who have met the qualifying standards. The balance will consist of invitational entrants, many of whom run for local charitable organizations…” [baa.org website, September 2013]

Boston is on a pedestal for me. . I think it is for a lot of runners. Especially those of us who have been running a long time. I am coming up on my ten year anniversary of long-distance road racing actually. Boston, to me…. It is the race of all races! To qualify and run in Boston is a dream.. And after this last year of training, a conceivably realistic dream at that! So when I read that statement, taken directly from the B.A.A website, I got especially frustrated…because it to me is a harsh reality that even with all my training, I may never make it there. I am going to be working my ass off this winter and spring to run my race in June but ultimately, even if I break 3:35, I still may not get in. But someone who signs up with a charity group will get to go. Someone my age who yes, I am sure will train hard, but will maybe run a 4:45 instead. They will get to run in my place…In Erin’s place…In someone else’s spot who qualified but was not accepted. Am I jealous of them? In a word-no. Sure, they will get to buy and wear that jacket with the ever-recognizable horse on it. They will get a finishers medal. They will get to run the historic course on Marathon Monday. But I’m not jealous. If I ever get to run in Boston, it will be because I raced my way there. And if I never qualify, it wasn’t meant to be.

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3 responses »

  1. Andrea, your side is well stated. Has this been shared with the Boston organizers? Why don’t you and Erin contact some of the charity organizatins that are involved and ask to run with them – maybe the heart association is involved and you can state your point with them. Just a thought.
    You are dedicated – don’t let it get you down.

  2. I never really thought about Boston as anything but the Pinnacle of a runners running career and objectives. Qualifying by being amongst the best in your category is a goal for many of us. Qualifying … by hard work, dedication and perseverance seems to be the only fair way to earn the right. Paying your way through charitable donations is fantastic – and for any race but Boston – an honorable and incredible approach.

    In April 2013 the bombing was a tragedy that inspired me to want to qualify. To so do meant being under 3:30 for my category. I ran Vancouver in May – but was just under 4 hours. For the next few months I trained hard. In August, I ran Edmonton in 3:30:35. The delight of taking almost 30 minutes off my time was over shadowed by missing my BQ by 35 seconds. (A friend reminded me that that was less than a second per kilometer … and that did not help.) Not to be defeated, and encouraged by a close friend, I ran Big Cotton in SLC 3 weeks later. In by far the most difficult and painful run of my life I crossed the finish line at 3:29:28. I made it by 32 seconds.

    Weeks later I guess I found out I was one of those who does not – in spite of my efforts – get to run this year. I was totally OK with that – thinking that those faster, more deserving had earned the spots. And that is what Boston is about… being the best. Learning now that many spots were taken by those who “bought” their way in… is really sad.

    Raising money for charity is noble. Many of us give generously. But that should not be the case in the race that is such an objective…such a running career milestone. I think the Boston organizers should rethink this. Get back to their roots of hosting a race that is simply for the best of the best.

    Thanks for sharing your insights. Rob

  3. Pingback: Thoughts Before Woody’s RV World 1/2 Marathon…Not Going for a PR, but…. | Je Me Souviens-To Infinity & Beyond!

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