Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Boston Chaos!

The good news and the bottom line is that I'm in!  I will be running the 115th Boston Marathon on April 18, 2011, barring injury, and all the other usual caveats. 

There was an article in the WSJ last week Thurs that was quite interesting about Boston.  The intro of the article said that Boston was expected to fill faster than ever this year (registration opened (and closed) yesterday).  But the core of the article was that maybe the qualifying times for women are too easy.  Men aged 18-34 need a 3:10, women in the same age bracket need 3:40, and times for both sexes slow from there.  But the bottom line is that a man in his early 50s has to run faster than the fastest and youngest women (a guy at 52 needs 3:35, a woman at 24 needs 3:40).  Another interesting point though is that many of the fastest times aren't from the youngest runners, many marathons are won by people in their 30s.  Nonetheless, the article fixated on "the notion that the qualifying standards for women are too soft." 

The supporting data was the fact that women finish Boston in higher proportion than they finish other marathons (but of course it didn't say by how much, I don't think it would be much).  The article went on to say that when the qualifying standards were created, the sex gap in the world record was 54 minutes.  The sex gap is now 11 minutes at the world record level, and an average gap of 20 minutes in 2009 for the elites among the 5 major US qualifiers. 

So maybe the 30 minute sex differential isn't warranted.  And of course, now that I've finally qualified, part of me agrees (and maybe would have agreed earlier as well).  I compare myself to some of the guys I run with who are so much stronger than I am.  They all seem to need 3:10, 3:15 or 3:20, and the few women in our group all need 3:40, 3:45 or 3:50.  So when some of the guys that I consider stronger runners than me post times like 3:18 and then I get into Boston and they don't, it doesn't seem fair.

And then there's the part of me that just feels generally inadequate.  Like if I can get into Boston, it's not that hard.  But I've had that view about most of my life.  Like I went to a top-10 law school and if I can do that, it's not too big of a deal.  I remember reading Mary's post about this and having mixed feelings -- sometimes people are correct in minimizing certain accomplishments (because it's not actually as tough as it sounds, or because it's rude to be arrogant), but at the same time, I think many people downplay accomplishments that should never be downplayed. 

But I will say that getting into Boston was actually quite hard.  And I don't mean posting a time that qualified me for entry, I meant my ordeal yesterday morning. 

I got to the website in the morning and started trying to register, along with thousands of others apparently, but that couldn't have been a surprise for the BAA.  I filled out the form the first time, name, address, phone, email, DOB, age on 4/18/11, first Boston, shirt size, qualifying time, qualifying race, credit card type, numbers, security code, expiration date, then submit.  Wait.  Then a blank form again.  Re-enter everything, submit, wait, blank form.  I put in my credit card number (and all the other data), about 30 times and hit submit and kept getting a blank form.  It said that your card would not be charged until you had a submission number to confirm your entry and your time was verified. 

On FB, I could see a few friends had gotten in.  I kept trying and had my husband try from his computer at work (he got kicked back to the same blank form).  I thought about trying another credit card, but didn't know if that was a good idea since it would be easier to deal with the aftermath of 40 charges of $130 on one card, rather than spread across 2 or 3 credit cards. 

I frantically called one of weekday morning running buddies to see what she'd done.  She told me to friend the BAA on FB and try the link on their FB page.  I tried that but couldn't find a link.  Then she said to try friending The Boston Marathon (not just Boston Marathon).  I did that and found a link someone had posted.  I tried it and it took me to the same form, which I filled out for about the 40th time.  Hit submit, then suddenly I was at a waiver screen I'd never seen before.  I quickly acknowledged the no deferral policy and the liability waiver, and submitted again.  And then I had a submission number!  And then I got an email from BAA confirming the same number.

Then there was a bit of panic seeing on the FB page and on a RW forum that maybe the link was a scam, that someone else had set it up and was culling credit card numbers, but that seemed unlikely -- not sure how many criminals could have anticipated that demand, given that many qualified runners hadn't.

Then I worked, had a normal day.  Got on FB late in the afternoon for a minute and was SHOCKED to see Boston had already closed.  Registration began at 9 a.m. Eastern and closed at 5:03 p.m.

From what I understand, last year it closed after a few weeks (closing in November), the year before that it closed in February, and the year before that they closed it in March to issue bibs but it wasn't full.  And it had never been full before that. 

Apparently there were several reasons it happened this year.  First, there were fewer spots available because deferrals were allowed last year for many European runners who never made it to the race because of the Icelandic volcano.  Second, when the race closed earlier than expected last year, lots of people were shut out and they were all trying to get in yesterday.  Third, everyone who'd qualified recently heard about the many people who got shut out yesterday and was probably making extra effort to make sure that wouldn't happen to them.

So what's going to happen?  Generally, when a marathon gets so popular that it fills in a matter of hours, the following year it goes to a lottery system.  Many of the best and/or biggest races use lotteries (see my Marathon Ideas page), like New York, St. George, and London.  But would Boston really do that?

What should they do?  Tighten the qualifying standards for some or all?  Add a later wave to increase the race size (start town can't handle more at the same time, but if a third wave started a few hours later, it maybe could work)?  Decrease the number of places reserved for charitable entries?  Raise the price to decrease demand?  Only allow a single entry based on a qualifying time (currently my MTCM time could get me into 2011 Boston and/or 2012 Boston)? 

I hope they come up with something, but whew, I'm glad I'm in for this year!  It was quite a stressful morning yesterday! 

And since the race is on our wedding anniversary, there will be massive cause for celebration that night!  And I think we'll probably head back to Italy within a week or so of the race (maybe stopping to see or pick up my in-laws first (they may join us for the trip)).  There's just no point in flying back to Dallas and then flying back over the country on our way to Europe. 

Now we need to start really doing trip planning.  We'll be in Lamezia Terme for the majority of the time, but maybe we'll go somewhere else in Italy as well (the under part of il Colosseo in Rome is now open to the public, I'd been there years earlier when I was studying there, but hubby has never seen it, so that might be cool).  Or maybe we'll have a few days of a long layover in Paris or somewhere.  We might be in Italy for Easter -- I'd love to be in Rome on Good Friday again.  I saw the last Pope do the Stations of the Cross service when I was living there and it was so beautiful and moving.  I'm one of the only people I know who ranks Good Friday services almost equal with Easter services for priority.  I used to go to church more regularly, but now a combination of things means I don't go very often -- but I still make it on Ash Wed and Good Fri (and of course Xmas Eve, but we're home for that). 

But all that matters to me is Boston and Lamezia!  We can be anywhere for Easter and I'll be happy.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your comment on my blog!

    Good luck with the marathon!