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  • (un)Common Boston Marathon

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    (un)Common Boston Marathon

    The Boston Marathon is officially the unofficial world championship of the marathon distance race. It was the first marathon distance that instituted qualifying standards (1970), originally ensuring that an athlete was prepared to run the distance, and now serves as the right of entry for those that have made the cut. Running a BQ (Boston Qualifying time) is the pinnacle goal for the recreational runner that has the slightest bit of competitiveness, yet will never be pro. “I ran a BQ at CIM with a 5 min buffer”, you might hear a runner say, dropping acronyms that sound like a medical diagnosis.

    BQs can only happen at BQ accepted courses, and the qualifying times are set by gender and age group. In recent years the actual BQ time listed for an age group, has not awarded automatic entry (as in the past), rather the opportunity to submit an application. For example, a 45-49 year old woman’s qualifying time is 3:50:00, and if “Susie” has tried since she was 45 to qualify and finally does at age 48 in 3:49:50, she simply gets to submit an application without guarantee that she will be awarded the entry. Why does this happen? The first argument would be that too many people in her age group are hitting the standard and the Boston Athletic Association can only let so many in. The second argument is that the BAA allows a portion of the Marathon field an entry by fundraising for a charity. These charity athletes are “buying” their way into a race that many dream of one day qualifying to run.

    My father ran two BQ times in the late 90s, and yet never could afford the trip to Hopkinton. I have run the Boston Marathon six times by qualifying, have run more than 15 qualifying times, and I own a few running stores, so the lore of Boston is real. I grew up in awe of the Boston Marathon, as my dad qualified but could never afford to go. And now I am fortunate to hear the incredible stories on the fit bench of clients describing their qualifying race, and also the disappointment when the time was not far enough away from the BQ time to be selected to run. Many of those that meet the standard but don’t get acceptance are quick to blame it on the charity runners, and I was right there with them. I supported the argument that the Boston Marathon should ONLY allow qualifiers. It is the ultimate rite of our runs, dedication, and competitiveness, but mostly it truly a badge, at dinner parties, local running events and of course, LinkedIn. I was very vocal about keeping if for qualifiers.

    Until this year.

    Our youngest child, Jane, decided to run for Miracles for Miles, the team that runs for Boston Children’s Hospital. It was her first marathon. Her experience changed my vision of what this historically significant race means to me. I am 100% in on allowing charity runners participating in the Boston Marathon.
    Here is why:

    • Only about 10% of the entire field are charity runners. It only feels like more because they are so enthusiastic!
    • That 10% raised more than $40 million for their charities.
    • Most all the 10% start behind the qualifiers and do not take up space or interfere with those that are trying for their personal best.

    And then…

    They bring enthusiasm, huge smiles, and a crowd that is supportive not only of their athlete, their charity but also of everyone else out there. Many of the athletes and spectators have never experienced the magic of the Boston Marathon and their excitement is next level. I witnessed what it did for Jane and her tribe of Miles of Miracles team, from the day she registered, reports on all her training miles with her team, and the encouragement from the Charity.

    The forty-two Boston Marathon charities benefit health, fitness and the local community and the minimum raised is $5,000. These athletes must work twice as hard, training for the race and raising money. It is no small feat!

    The charity runners are typically people that may not have ever considered running a marathon. Perhaps they were affected by a tragedy, a death, an illness, or other life changing event that running for a charity helps them heal. Most feel so deeply about supporting a charity that will help find a cure, or resolution. Running the race gives them back strength, resolve and hope. They cry, they find their voice, they spread awareness, and they are banded with others to take the steps following the blue line to Boston. Along the route are their supporters, the thousands they bring to cheer their name, raise signs in honor of their charity, and push every athlete along with a loud cowbell or offering oranges or ice. They bring it all to Boston.

    And sometimes, an athlete that qualified but did not get in, has made the decision to gain an entry through charity. It seems to work out for all.

    I was supposed to run this year, and injury forced me to be a spectator. I stayed through the 6th hour, cheering loudly for each person that persevered through the heat and difficult last mile to get through the finish line. I am now a convert to the power that charities runners bring to Boston. Congratulations to all of the runners! You did it!

    If you have a race you’d really love to run but have been shut out, consider running for a charity and it will not only change other’s lives, it will rock yours!



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