Qualify for Boston or keep the hell out
Like most runners, I’ve always had mucho respect for the Boston Marathon, the most prestigious marathon in the world, which takes place today for the 113th time.
Part of the magic, of course, is that runners are required to qualify in another marathon, with finishing times that are challenging for the average hoofer.
I’ve tried a few times to qualify, but fell short. My best time, now five years old, is still five minutes shy of what I need to get into Boston. I will try again, perhaps this fall, after I get this 50K trail race behind me.
That’s not to say I haven’t seen Boston’s magic close up. I’ve seen several friends qualify for Boston, running alongside them in qualifying races, including Master Denny (Columbus 2003) and Happy Kayleah (Cleveland 2007), and Tough Barb (Indianapolis 2008). Their accomplishment was a joy to watch, and an honor to play a small part in. Tough Barb will be running Boston today. So will several other friends. I wish them all the best.
However, there are many other runners –up to 20 percent of each year’s field — who run the Boston Marathon without qualifying. I call them parasites.
They get in not by training hard and running fast, but by writing essays, knowing the right person, running for charity or shedding a few tears. They get no sympathy from me.
This morning, I read a story in the paper about an 80-year-old man from Indy running Boston today with his daughter. Then, deep into the story, I saw they hadn’t qualified, but were given a mercy admission. I immediately stopped reading and thought the worst of them. They certainly didn’t merit attention with a front-page story. The irony is that the story was written by Barb, who ran like hell last fall and qualified the right way. She will be running Boston with honor today.
Over the weekend, I learned about another acquaintance who will run Boston today. He’s been running marathons for only a year or two. He’s a nice guy, but an average runner, with average times. He got into Boston by writing an essay sponsored by a local running store. Try as I might to remain charitable, I immediately thought badly of this guy. In my book, he obviously has no idea what running Boston is all about. He has stomped all over the marathoners’ honor code.
Real runners respect the tough entry qualifications. Just ask my buddy, Kevin. He has been pushing for several years to get fast enough to qualify, and has been steadily improving. But it’s not easy. His blog provides a peek into the hard work required to qualify, week in and week out. He racks up the tough 50-mile weeks, trains smart and is watching his race times fall. Kevin is a credit to marathoning.
To accept a Boston race bib without earning it is a slap in the face of every runner who faithfully puts in the hard training.
Boston is special. No question about it. So qualify for the race the right way. Or stay the hell away.
UPDATE: Kevin qualifed for Boston with a nice performance at the Cleveland Marathon in May 2009. See the update here.