By now, the dust has settled on the 118th Boston Marathon and it can be stated that without a doubt, Boston pulled it off again with incredibly clarity and emotion. Yes, security was tight—there were checkpoints everywhere along the course—but the police were unobtrusive and efficient. And yes, it was warm out there on Patriots Day which led to as many flame outs as personal bests.
From my spot in Kenmore Square at the 25-mile mark, I was once again struck by the notion that every runner should have the chance to run the greatest road race in the world–Boston–at least once. I have voiced this opinion before and realize it isn’t a very popular one, but my feelings were reinforced that if running is truly a democratic sport and Boston it its crown jewel, speed (or lack of speed) shouldn’t be the criteria which determines the entirety of the Boston field.
In my humble opinion, what makes Boston great isn’t the fact that it has a qualifying standard. What makes Boston great is the following: (1) it’s historical point-to-point course, (2) the support every runner gets from the fanatical crowd and (3) the greatest final mile in running (right on Hereford, left on Boylston). There’s plenty of other factors you can toss in which makes Boston so special, but a qualifying time simply isn’t one of them.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking: The Boston qualifier has given me the extra motivation I needed to push myself. I get that. Well sort of. I understand that merely achieving a BQ is a major goal. Just standing in Hopkinton on Patriots Day as a full fledged qualifier is a lifetime goal for so many.
But so what?
If that Boston carrot wasn’t out there, would you no longer push yourself to run your best in other marathons? If that Boston carrot wasn’t out there, would you jog through other races? Of course not.
We’re incredibly motivated people who run for a variety of reasons, but one of them is to do our best on a particular day on a particular race course. Making it to Boston is certainly a formidable goal, but it is only one of many most of us have that push us.
What I advocate is quite simple: Boston retain it’s qualifying standards, but also expand its field to accommodate a certain number of runners without qualifying times. The qualifiers are seeded and get preferred starting positions based on their times and the non qualifiers start way, way in the back. Any runner can apply to run Boston and from a lottery, 5-10,000 are chosen. But they can only run Boston once without a BQ.
Who would that hurt? Who would that hinder? Who would feel less proud to be a BQ? Who would be less motivated to run their best at Boston?
My answer: Nobody.
Instead, imagine the motivation a non qualifier would have if he/she is accepted into Boston. Just like any qualifier, running Boston would be the highlight of his/her running life and I assume that first timer would be as reverential and serious about Boston as anyone. Maybe even more so.
This year, 36,000 ran Boston and 10-15,000 of them didn’t qualify. That’s right, there were thousands of first-time marathoners as well as 9000 who didn’t finish last year and many of those didn’t have qualifiers either. Toss in several thousand charity runners (and American Medical Joggers Association runners) who also don’t have qualifiers and the reality is Boston isn’t quite as exclusive as we’re led to believe.
This was the second biggest Boston ever—second only to the 1996 Centennial Boston—and from where I cheered in Kenmore Square, the course was able to accommodate the 10,000 added runners this year who were staggered in corral after corral in Hopkinton. Clearly, adding several thousand first-timers or marathoners without qualifiers wouldn’t diminish the Boston experience for anyone.
Rather, it would give every runner the chance to experience Boston at least one time. The running community is an accepting one, rather than exclusionary. If Boston is the greatest race in the world—and I believe it is–it should be open to every runner.
O There were so many Austin runners in Boston that regardless of where I was, I ran into somebody I knew. Every training group was well-represented in Boston, including hordes from Gilbert’s Gazelles, Rogue Training, Twenty-Six Two, Al’s Ship of Fools and Luke’s Locker. Even Lance Armstrong was there. When a large group of Austinites met on the finish line on Monday night, Mr. Yellow Jersey was there too and posed for photos with those who recognized him. Armstrong didn’t run, but his girlfriend—Anna Hansen—did and finished in 3:57.
O Top Austin finisher was Scott MacPherson (natch). ScottyMac, who now lives in Columbia, Missouri but still trains here, so we claim him as our own. MacPherson ran 2:17:46 to finish 19th overall. He was hoping to break 2:15, but like a lot of runners, wilted in the heat. Still, it was a solid effort on a tough day.
O Craig Leon of Eugene, Oregon, who was second in the Austin Half Marathon in February, also had a solid race. Leon went out a little more aggressive than last year when he placed 10th and paid for it on the Boston hills. But the 29-year-old, who indicated he might run the Austin Marathon (and go for the course record) in 2015, finished a more than respectable 12th overall in 2:14:28.
O On Saturday, the B.A.A hosted its 5-K (10,000 participants), followed by the Invitational Road Mile. Nick Willis of New Zealand won the mile in 4:11.3 with our own Leo (The Lion) Manzano third in 4:13.3. Leo then caught a plane to Iowa where he won the USA 1-Mile Road Champs on Tuesday in Des Moines in 4:05.71. His busy week isn’t quite over. He’s running a distance medley relay at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia this weekend.
O The UT men and women are also running the 104th Penn Relays. UT is sending mostly sprinters and distance runners, including Marielle Hall. Hall, who is from nearby Haddonfield, New Jersey, is leading the country in the 5000 (15:19) so far this year and she’ll anchor the distance medley relay at 4:20 this afternoon in Philly.
O With the Grand Opening of the new Jack & Adam’s coming up soon (300 S. Lamar), Gilbert’s Gazelles have announced that they are moving their training operation from Texas Running Company to Jack & Adam’s as of May 15th. The new space affords more parking for the Gazelles as well as locker room, showers and space for meetings and post-run stretching. And as we reported, Jack Murray will expand his business to include running shoes and clothes from selected manufacturers. The best bike shop in Austin just got so much better.
O We also reported weeks ago that Hill Country Running was closing both of their locations. The Statesman ran a story on Monday with confirmation from co-owner Jamie Cleveland.
O Up in Dallas last Saturday, Natalie Picchetti of the Austin Track Club finished third in the women’s division of the Dallas Easter 4-Miler. Picchetti ran 23:46 and picked up $150 in prize money behind Emily Field who won in 22:30.
O My buddy Bill Schroeder wants everyone to know that the Georgetown Running Club will stage its 7th Annual Dam Run on May 14th (a Wednesday evening at 6:30) on the Lake Georgetown Dam. The direction of the course will be determined at race time by the direction the wind is blowing and heats are based on predicted times from fastest to slowest. There will be a potluck after the race. For more info, contact Bill (Bill_Schroeder@dell.com).
O Yet another friend (I have a lot of ’em), Paras Shah is back in town after graduating from LSU. The former Bowie HS runner is helping to put on the Schrader 1600 (sponsored by Luke’s) on May 3rd at the Texas School for the Deaf track off S. 1st Street. The meet is a series of races (beginning at 8 p.m.) for runners of all ages who want to test themselves in the mile. Go to www.theschrader1600.com) for more info or to register.
O Since I was in Boston, I was forced to miss one of my favorites—the Kiwanis Lockhart 5-K. Fittingly, Lockhart was won by one of its favorite sons—Rory Tunningley—who easily outdistanced the field in 15:01. So did Chris Kimbrough in 17:37. Tunningley is running the Sunshine Run 10-K on Sunday after running a 5-K on Saturday.
O Down in San Antonio, Todd Heintz won the 41st Annual Fiesta Mission 5-K in 17:04 and our very own correspondent Chris Serra took the 10-K in 37:29. Chris reports that Saturday night at 6:30 will be San Anton’s 32nd Annual Fandango Fiesta 2.6 Mile Fun Run on the downtown parade route. Traditionally, runners come attired in all sorts of costumes and themed group runs. Big fun.
O Dave Cody, who was the FOX sports anchor for so many years before retiring last fall, has a new gig. Dave will be the stadium voice for UT track at home meets at Myers Stadium.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “At Fillmore East” by the Allman Brothers Band. Quite possibly my favorite live album of all time. Also, the final album with the classic Allman lineup which included Duane Allman and Berry Oakley who both died in separate motorcycle accidents a year apart (1971 and ’72).
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