Runner hearts were breaking all over the world on Thursday, September 27, 2018, when the Boston Athletic Association announced yet another new set of qualifying times, beginning in 2020, for the iconic Boston Marathon. I’ll be honest, I was one of those crushed people. As we describe in our bio, we are recreational runners, weekend warriors, proud age groupers when it comes to races, and have learned a ton about all things running. Somewhere in the back of my mind (Erica, and I do believe Kimberly, would say the same), we have a goal to one day run the Boston Marathon. I don’t completely discount the idea that this is now an impossible goal for me, but I will admit that the news from the BAA was hard to hear!
I didn’t get up to run my recovery miles that next morning. I just felt really unmotivated as now my current racing paces for my next marathon were not going to be fast enough. My thoughts ranged from “Boston is supposed to be tough to get into! Put on your big girl pants and keep trying” to “Boston is supposed to be tough to get into, but why do they keep changing the qualifying times so often and so quickly that there is no time to adjust? Why make it harder for those who have to work so hard to get in, why not make it harder for the charity runners, who will always pay no matter the cost, to get in?” Some folks ran 4 minutes or more under the standard, STILL didn’t get in, and now they have another 5 minutes to shave off. Double gut punch.
One of my favorite running podcasts is Running Rogue, and they quickly covered this topic of the standard changes from the BAA. I was surprised by their reaction, thinking they would only take the stance “don’t whine, just train harder” which they certainly did. You are going to have to raise your game to meet these standards. However, they also felt that having a constantly moving target, a standard that isn’t truly a standard because it constantly changes, is detrimental to the sport of running and racing for those who love it. One of my favorite suggestions was to make the standard even harder, so that people who cross the finish line of their qualifying race and meet the standard, get to truly celebrate because they *know* they have a guaranteed spot in the Boston Marathon. As it stands, rather than celebrating their accomplishment, runners who qualify still have to wait and see if it’s good enough. Other ideas offered: make changes every 3 years, make changes yearly but give some time after changing the standards before they go into effect, have charity runners pay more so that charity money is still raised in its full amount, without losing runners who really care about running this race.
That’s my “head” reaction to the new Boston Marathon standards. However, my “heart” reaction is this: There is far more to running than racing Boston, or even racing at all. We have talked about this a few times on this blog: Why do you run? What makes it an important part of your life? The answers are still the same. For me, it is the sunset witnessed when climbing over a hill, or the shimmering sunrise on the ocean after dragging out of bed at 5am. The conversations with friends that touch your heart during a run, or even the conversations that are hard when you are going through something…and your friends are there, running next to you, listening. The cool breeze on your skin during the first taste of fall, the mist when you run through an early morning lawn sprinkler, the deer family that runs across your path. The accomplishment felt at the end of a long, cold run that you finish strong, even with frozen fingers and toes. The track workout that you start wondering, “how will I do this?” and finish thinking, “Wow, I did that!” The race you thought you would never finish, and you did. The race you finished faster than you ever imagined you would two years ago. The feeling of pulling air into your lungs, and your heart beating fast, that reminds you of the gift you have been given to experience it all.
I hope to still run the Boston Marathon one day, and I hope it will continue to be a goal others strive for as well. In the meantime, I’ll keep my eye on the prize: the ability to put one foot in front of the other, and to feel and see the things that make it all worth it.