Bos­ton by The Num­bers

The Bos­ton Marathon bucks a trend of slower over­all fin­ish­ing times, but not with­out con­tro­versy

Canadian Running - - RUNNING THE NUMBERS - Christo­pher Kel­sall is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Cana­dian Run­ning mag­a­zine. By Christo­pher Kel­sall

Bos­ton Marathon run­ners should be proud of them­selves as they have col­lec­tively im­proved their per­for­mances, where ev­ery­where else per­for­mances have de­clined. This has re­sulted in or­ga­niz­ers in­creas­ing all age-group qual­i­fi­ca­tion stan­dards start­ing in 2020. Bravo, ev­ery­one! The his­toric B.A.A. Bos­ton Marathon, the long­est-run­ning marathon in the world (1897), has been a bucket list race for age-group run­ners for decades be­cause un­like al­most ev­ery other marathon, no mat­ter one’s age, run­ners must qual­ify well in ad­vance to earn the op­por­tu­nity to run it. For the 2019 Bos­ton Marathon, the or­ga­niz­ers on av­er­age ap­proved those who have run at least four­min­utes and 52 sec­onds faster than their re­spec­tive qual­i­fy­ing stan­dard, which to­taled 23,074 en­trants. 5,026 run­ners qual­i­fied by a whop­ping 20-min­utes bet­ter than their age-group stan­dard. With the B.A.A. aim­ing for a field of 30,000, 80 per cent or more have run the qual­i­fy­ing time, while char­ity run­ners and elite ath­letes com­prise the re­main­ing race par­tic­i­pants.

For the 2020 edi­tion, the qual­i­fi­ca­tion times will move to five-min­utes faster in all age-group cat­e­gories. Although there is much buzz about the more dif­fi­cult stan­dards, it is re­ally just eight sec­onds faster for the slow­est of those ac­cepted in 2019 (4:52).

The cur­rent stan­dards have been in place from 2012 to 2018. From 1970 to 2011, the qual­i­fi­ca­tion stan­dards were as they will be start­ing in 2020.

As Bos­ton Marathon run­ners have got­ten faster over the years, the or­ga­niz­ers are sim­ply keep­ing up with the trend of bet­ter per­for­mances across the board de­spite the fact that the av­er­age North Amer­i­can fin­ish time (all ages and both gen­ders fac­tored) has in­creased from 4:15:00 to 4:40:00 over the past two decades — that’s a big slow­down!

Per­haps more marathons should add qual­i­fy­ing stan­dards as an in­cen­tive for bet­ter re­sults.

“Although there is much buzz about the more dif­fi­cult stan­dards, it is re­ally just eight sec­onds faster for the slow­est of those ac­cepted in 2019.”

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