Saturday, October 23, 2010

Registration Mania

The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire, the size of your dream, and how you handle disappointment along the way.
Robert Kiyosaki

Holy Crow! Holy Mackerel! Sufferin' Succotash! Great Caesar's Ghost! Good Grief! I AM SO VERY GLAD I DIDN'T QUALIFY FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON! Now, don't get me wrong. Boston is one of the top two running events I have ever done, and I've done it 5 times, and would gladly do it EVERY year, but the running Gods have toyed with my anatomy and qualifying has become a distant memory. In years past, I would fire up the computer on the first day that I could happily send my money to the Boston Athletic Association, be one of the first to register and then would know for six months where I would be on the third Monday of April. The last time I ran Boston was 2007 and from the opening of registration until the day the race filled to capacity was exactly 183 days. Last year, it filled in two months, clearly reflecting the popularity of this most prestigious race. So, it was evident that if you had already run a qualifying time you better break the piggy bank a little sooner and get your entry in. Had I qualified this year, I would have circled October 18th on the calendar as the first day of registration, hustled home after work, got on the computer, dialed in the BAA site and seen the message "RACE ENTRIES CLOSED". I think initially I would have stared at the screen thinking I was looking at last year's site, but somewhere and sometime, reality would set in and I would have to accept the fact that Boston filled it's 26,000 slots in 8 hours!!! Never would you think this could happen. I mean, other than the Olympics, Boston is the only race that you have to meet a qualifying time in order to have the opportunity to enter. Now, about 2500 slots go to charities, but the rest are fast, honest qualifiers! I mean, saying you're going to Boston puts you in a select group - even folks that know absolutely nothing about running have heard of Boston. I honestly feel so deeply sorry for 1) all those folks that reflect my hypothetical scenario above, however, for them it was painfully real, and 2) all those that set sites on near marathons, like New York and Marine Corps or Huntsville, sure that they would qualify there and then register for Boston, and are now watching those plans go up in smoke.

I don't know what should be done to make this right and fair, but just talking as a mid-pack, multiple Boston qualifier, I know the discipline that runners hit the road with once the Boston Bug infects you. Nobody should be subjected to working hard and believing they will get their chance only to see it evaporate because their fingers were not as fast as their legs. There are many probabilities of what the BAA will do in the future to help level the playing field for competitors: lowering the qualifying times, have some sort of lottery, have a rolling registration over several months where they fill a portion of the slots each month with a new registration. Who knows? Certainly not me.

This is not a new problem. It just happened on the largest stage in the fastest time imaginable. Most of the major Destination marathons, like Disney, Marine Corps, Chicago, etc. will fill their slots quickly. New York has a tough lottery - you enter and you pray! The Western States 100, the "Boston" of 100 mile Ultramarathons, has you run a qualifying 50 miler, then register for a lottery, then work so many hours doing volunteer work at another ultra before gaining entry! Locally, the Rocket City Marathon - a race that you could ALWAYS register at the expo the night before, sold out in a few weeks. Mountain Mist, a tough 50K TRAIL race that I've done 7 times, filled their 350 places in less than 3 days!!! I recently read about an Ultra Marathon in the midwest that every year had trouble getting even 150 entrants, so this year they advertised that entries would be capped at 250 - they filled it up in less than 2 weeks!

It's crazy to begin training for a race many months away that you're not sure you'll even get in to. It's crazier when you do everything right for Marathon's biggest stage; work your ever-living butt off for maybe a couple of years, finally qualify, and get shut out by technology. Maybe they should step back and take mail-in registration only (that's my freaky long-term memory saying "it was better in the old days"). I guess they'll go back to tougher standards. That seems to be the most logical. I think Boston is an experience far beyond any other marathon, and is one every serious runner should get to immerse themselves in at least once. But, let's be fair. Boston is not a meant to be an "everybody that can run gets a ribbon" race. It's a century-long tradition that has maybe lost site of it's exclusiveness in an effort to get more runners (hence, more bucks) in. Now, by lowering their qualifying times in a time when marathoning is at it's height of popularity, those that could qualify at faster standards are left stranded. Maybe it should be a case of quality over quantity. Having run it, it's easier for me to say that because I never would have qualified with tougher standards (once I qualified by 12 seconds!), but I never dreamed that one day I might meet their very special times and still get shut out. Nope, never would have dreamed it!

I feel a hurt for all my friends, near and far, that gave it all they had in races past and planned for qualifiers in races future, that have now seen their Boston dreams crushed. My buddy, Ken, got in because he registered on his iphone during a business meeting - kind of a "fight fire with fire" analogy - he fought technology with technology!

Well, dream on my friends. One saying I hate is "It is what it is", but I guess that's what it is!

Ok guys, that's it for this week from RWA Central. For those of you training tomorrow for the Mercedes (guaranteed not to close it's entries), we will doing 9 miles for the full and 7 miles for the half. We're planning a Shoe Clinic at the Trak Shak on Sunday, November 7th. We'll plan to have the Sunday group leave from there on that day. I'll have more info after talking to Val at the TS, so stay tuned. I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

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