Tuesday, October 2, 2018

There Goes My Dream of Running Boston..

Unless you weren't paying attention, you know that last week the Boston Athletic Association announced new Boston Marathon Qualifier Acceptances (BQs) for the 2020 Boston Marathon. Runners are getting faster, applications to run the Boston Marathon have increased, and the gap between the qualifying marathon times and the finish times that were accepted grew to 4:52 minutes.

We all knew this was coming. The number of running friends who "BQ'd" but didn't make the cut increased every year. The new standards should help runners training for a BQ have a better chance of being accepted. The previous BQ times have been adjusted down by 5 minutes. I wonder how long this standard will hold? And will it prevent or encourage cheaters?

The new standards make my Boston Qualifying time 4 hours 5 minutes. Since I'm no longer running marathons, it's kind of a non-issue. But the new qualifying times got me thinking again. I always said that if I was going to run another marathon, it would be Boston.



In my early 50s, I had the best finish times of my running life. I entertained dreams of running Boston. In 2014, after working with my CrossFit Coach and finishing Chicago in 4:17, I decided to run Chicago again in 2015 and push for a sub-4 hour marathon. I wanted to qualify for Boston. My training for Chicago was spot on. The first half of the marathon went well. I was on pace for a 4 hour finish. But at mile 14, the wheels came off the bus. I wouldn't say I hit the wall, but the lack of shade and the rising temperatures took their toll on me. While I finished with a respectable 4:25, I would have needed to run 1 minute/mile faster to qualify for Boston. I continued to run well after that, but I never ran as well as I did in 2014.

When I turned 54, I realized that I could qualify for Boston with a 4:10 marathon. I was still running well. However, I had run Chicago and Big Sur within 6 months of each other.  I was pretty beat up and the thought of training for another marathon after that did not appeal to me. I needed time off. I planned to chase that goal of a BQ in 2017.

Unfortunately, in the fall of 2016, my immune system went rogue and I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I continued to run through it and while I was slowing down, I naively figured that once I got my disease under control, I'd get back to work and chase that Boston dream.

My body had other ideas.

My endurance completely tanked. I was doing run/walk intervals to get through my runs. As I watched my finish times plummet, I had more meltdowns than I knew possible. I came to the realization that it wasn't just RA that caused my slowdown--I could blame menopause for that as well.

Prior to this, I never understood the precipitous decline in the number of women race participants after age 50. I do now. Running is harder for post-menopausal women. I dug through the scientific literature to find out how I could regain my speed and my endurance but apparently studying older women runners isn't a very seductive research topic. Or maybe there really isn't an answer and I just have to become a slower, gentler runner.

One who is never going to run Boston.

I'm really ok with not running Boston. I made peace with it when I decided earlier this year that I was not going to run any more marathons. I had an opportunity recently to throw my hat in the ring for an entry to the New York City Marathon. For a brief moment, I considered it. Very brief. The thought of training for a marathon doesn't appeal to me at all. But if someone gave me an entry to Boston? Would I do it?

I'd be curious to know how many women over 50 apply for those coveted Boston Marathon bibs. I know there are still some very fast women in my age group. Proportionately, those women number far fewer than their younger counterparts. Wouldn't it be great if Boston relaxed their standards accordingly so that those of us who are still out there slogging along could realize our dreams of running Boston?

I know it would never happen. The "elistist runners" would have a field day with it. But before I hang up my running shoes, I'd sure like a go at it.

Photoshopped or not, this may be the only photo I'll ever have of crossing the finish line at Boston!
What do you think about the new Boston Marathon Qualifying times? Have you run Boston? Do you dream of running Boston? Do you have a running goal or dream that is hard for you to let go of?

I'm linking this post with Tuesdays on the Run aka Marcia, Erika, and Patti as well as Running Coaches' Corner with Rachel, Debbie, Marc, and Lora.








62 comments :

  1. I have run Boston. Once. My rule is that I never run the same marathon more than once, even Boston. There are just so many marathons out there. Once, when I was trying to qualify, I missed the cut off by 26 seconds! That's right - 1 second per mile! And I stopped at a porta potty at mile 20. Ugh! I should have waited. I eventually did qualify at the Eugene, Oregon marathon, one of my favorites.

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    1. I understand your rule but I don't follow it. I've run Chicago 3 times and if I was able, I'd run it again. I love that marathon!

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  2. You know I hear you on how running changes as some of us reach a "certain age". That's why I laugh when I hear younger women assume they're going to run just as fast as they do now and be able to BQ when they're 60 or 70 or 80. I heard some guys lamenting about needing a sub3 to BQ now. I did a post about the BQ times through history. They've been FAR more stringent than they are now.
    I feel pretty darn blessed to have been running well enough to BQ and run Boston when I did.

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    1. I was hoping you'd weigh in with that statement, which is why I didn't put it in my post. It's truly mind-boggling how running changes after menopause.

      You are so lucky to have run Boston!

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  3. I wasn’t surprised by the new BQ times. The math was heading that way. I’m sad for a friend of mine who is so close, a minute away. Hopefully this weekend at Chicago everything will fall into place.


    You’ve confirmed why I suspected. Endurance wanes with the onset of Auto Immune I could feel my endurance dropping in the months leading up to my diagnosis. Thank you. I know you aren’t offering or stating medical advice, only your opinion based on research.

    I let go of my dream to run another Ultra as my body was breaking down from injury after injury and my eventual Lupus diagnosis. It hurts to watch some friends achieve that goal, but ultimately my body isn’t going to let me.

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    1. It's hard to see those dreams dashed away by autoimmune disease and/or menopause, isn't it? Just keep on keeping on.

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  4. When I was younger, I qualified many times and never ran it. I’m not sure why, but I think it has become more of a thing in recent years. Plus I had the chance to run Paris a couple times and that sound like a better way to spend my travel dollars. I’d love to qualify again, whether I run it or not. My time was just lowered to 4:20, which is possible I guess, especially if my asthma stays under control (which I never know until I’m actually out there). I am going to give it another shot though, in Phoenix in February. It’s a net downhill course and something like 25% qualified last year. So, we’ll see. I will say I’m not really looking forward to the training aspect of it!

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    1. If anyone can BQ, it would be you! Fingers crossed that you do.

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  5. Ask yourself why you really want to run Boston? Is it just to see if you can meet the time expectation or is it to really experience the Boston Marathon? If it's the later, you should consider running for charity. I'm sure your running friends would help support you, plus you would be raising money for a good cause.

    I have no desire to run Boston, but I am familiar with the time cut offs because my sister made it last year with time, but still didn't make it in the race. Thankfully she was still 5 minutes under this year and made it for 2019. Hopefully she will weigh in on this thought. -M

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    1. I have a lot of friends but $7500 is a lot of money! I just couldn't ask people to donate that much.

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  6. No interest in Boston. Not sure I even want to train for a full. But the 2019 NYC Marathon is calling me. I would need company. Hint Hint!

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  7. I've never wanted to run something I have to be fast to be in as I know I never could. I will never get a sub-5 hour marathon. I'm just not built that way. And that's fine. My main aim is to stay fit and healthy into older age - we're a long-lived family but my grandma was bed-and-wheelchair-bound from about 90 to 106 and I do not want that life for myself if I can help it (she was never very active; I do appreciate we can't predict what will happen or blame ourselves for things, I just want to try to keep moving). I know I was hampered horribly by the peri-menopause and my cyst because I was just unable to run or do yoga about 8 days a month. That was awful!

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    1. I guess because I was within reach of qualifying, it's a little harder for me to swallow!

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    2. Yes, that is very different and upsetting.

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  8. Since I've never done a marathon, and am not sure I ever will, I never dreamed about Boston. OTOH, I did do the Runner's World Heartbreak Hill Half so I could see what it was like (a little).

    I do think it majorly sucks to "qualify" but then not get in. I also think the harder it is to get into something, the more people try!

    I do think I'm lucky that I started running later in life, actually. I'm sure I will slow down at some point, too, it's inevitable if you keep running & I definitely hope that I do. Starting later in life allowed me more time to get "fast" (which is many runner's slow, LOL).

    I have some goals I'm still chasing. Not really sure if there really is a faster half in me unless it downhill. But I still want to try & see!

    BTW, my half this weekend sounds a lot like your Chi marathon experience. Darn weather!

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    1. I still think you've got a marathon in you!

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  9. I was wondering when they were going to lower the times again for Boston. I wonder if "squeakers"will be able to make it in now or you are still going to have to be almost five minutes under the new time. Harder and harder!!!

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    1. I'm sure it's going to keep getting tougher. There will be more cheaters taking legit spots from real qualifiers.

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  10. I have run Boston and it was super hard to get those qualifying times. I had to dig deep into my soul to pull out those times. Now that it has gotten more competitive to get in I can see why they want to drop the time standard. This is a special race and it should be hard to qualify.

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    1. I totally understand needing to tighten up the qualifying times. Too bad I'll never get there!

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  11. I never had a desire to run Boston probably because I've never in any way been close enough to qualifying, lol...

    Funny thing is though, I would consider running it for charity, but not any time soon, God willing that I'm healthy enough to run! I bet the energy on the course is amazing!

    But I really hope you get to run it one day!

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    1. I would consider a charity bib too but the fundraising requirement is pretty steep!

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  12. Would you ever consider running it for a charity? I don't know how that works, but it would at least save you the "Run this marathon to qualify for another Marathon" running.

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    1. The minimum requirement to run for charity at Boston is $7500. There's no way I could raise that kind of cash!

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  13. I have never run a full marathon and I don't see me ever wanting to. I honestly think it would make me hate running not to mention that my body would not cooperate. I have never really felt that pull.

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    1. I used to think that and after my first marathon, I thought never again. With a different mindset, my other marathons were really fun! I know that sounds wrong but I'm so glad I did them.

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  14. It has never been my goal to qualify for Boston (because I never will), but it is my goal to complete all of the Worlds. So charity route I will go. Since I did not get into Tokyo on my first lottery attempt this year, I just applied for a charity spot for Boston 2019. Those spots, too, are very competitive as there are many people who want to run but can't or don't want to put in the work to BQ. I swear, it was like writing a college application. The minimum fundraising goal per BAA is $5000, but they range anywhere from $5000 to $10,000 or more. The charity I picked has a minimum commitment of $5500, but almost like a bidding war in real estate, people set higher goals than are required on the application, and that is one of the many things that impact your chances of getting a bib. There are multiple essay-type questions that in my opinion have WAY too short limitations on answers. I don't know when I will hear if I am in, but my fingers are crossed!

    My son was looking to BQ at Chicago on Sunday. He is very close, but it would be a push. With the new qualifying times, the chance is remote (he needs a 3:05). I am hoping the running gods are on his side.

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    1. The weather is looking very promising for Sunday's race. It could happen!

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  15. I see your times on social media and I think you could totally BQ! Having said that I get why you might not want to even try. Marathon training is freaking hard! And losing 5 minutes is a lot!

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    1. At this point, I just don't know if my body could handle the mileage. It's one of those dreams that I've had to let go of.

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  16. I never understood how a BQ time could not be good enough, now I do, but it still doesn't make sense. Do they hold open a certain number of spots per age group? That might be one way to get more "experienced" runners in.

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    1. That's a great question! But there are a limited number of spots, so they have to cut it off somewhere.

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  17. I have mixed feelings on Boston. I used to (naively) think I'd only run Boston if I qualified for it (ha! if only), but after watching some of the coverage this year, I'm more impressed with the charity runners. Granted, the majority of them probably cannot qualify with their finish times, but to run for a charity is pretty incredible (and benefits more than just the runner's ego). I'd have to shave off 37 minutes (I think) off of my PR...as much as I love running, I do not love it enough to have to work that hard and sacrifice to make it (possibly) happen.

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    1. While I think running for a charity is a very noble endeavor, I admire those talented runners who can run fast enough to qualify. What an amazing achievement for any of us!

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  18. My first (and only) marathon was SO CLOSE to a qualifying time considering I knew exactly what I did wrong in the last 6 miles. But then, like you, all of my health issues surfaced and I'm no where near as fast as I used to be. And THEN they adjusted the qualifying times. I'm not saying no to another marathon but I think my hopes of a BQ are out the window...and I am OK with that!

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    1. Me too! I don't have the desire to push that hard anymore.

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  19. I realize it's heresy, but I have no interest in Boston. I love the city, and I love the festivities around Patriots Day - but I have no desire to run it. I don't think it's an overall disinterest in marathons save for New York - I 'd do London in a heartbeat and some other cities. But Boston? Nah. I think some of it is the negativity online around it

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    1. Really? It's kind of refreshing to hear this, yet it's Boston!

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    2. The Run The Year forums are generally wonderful, but the disdain toward charity runners (only way I'd run it) is palpable. I think it soured me on the race. Would it have been different if I ever had an interest? Maybe. Nothing would deter me from New York. If I did a second marathon it would be Marine Corps (domestically) or London (Internationally). I'm not sure what I'd do about those -- but there's also just SO MUCH about Boston in any fora

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  20. For me Boston is a life long dream. I think that I will actually try for a BQ in 2019. I've never actually trained with that intention and I've heard many times that to do it many of us will have to really try with that in mind. If I don't make it then I will probably do a fund raising spot for 2020 because it is something that I want to experience for myself in my lifetime.

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  21. I was never in a position to BQ so I didn't pay much attention when the new times came out, but I do think it's a good idea. I always think of the runners that technically get a BQ time, but then are still denied because they weren't "fast enough". I can't imagine how pissed I would be if that happened to me! Hopefully this won't happen anymore with the new times.

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    1. That and the cheaters who steal spots from legitimate qualifiers--instead of discouraging people, it seems to have fueled the fire!

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  22. I'm just not that fast on a good day so I've never really thought I could run Boston, which I'm fine with. I also doubt I'll run another full-- although I am looking forward to getting back into running after the twins and maybe even getting involved in local racing again.
    There is something about Boston that any runner still kind of dreams about- even if it is a long shot. The idea of it sucks your heart in even if your brain knows it's not that big of a deal to not do it... I get it. I'd say focus on races you can do and even shorter ones! I've found they can be just as fun.

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  23. I don't know. Some parts of the running community have been so ugly about it. Whether a downhill marathon counts as a BQ and questioning the disparity between the time different between men and women when the elites don't have as big of a gap between genders. It's just become an ugly thing and it's not about fun anymore. I like to be challenged when I run, yes but I also do it because it brings me joy. I don't think slogging for Boston would bring me joy.

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    1. I agree with everything you've said here. I don't like the ugliness either. There's no glory in pushing for a BQ at a hilly marathon. When I ran Big Sur, I was shocked at the number of runners who pushed hard! That's a race for the memories. But hey, we're all different.

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  24. At one point I was interested in a BQ. Now, not so much. Well, maybe a little. :-) For now I am focusing on smaller races and to finish my goal of running a half marathon in each state. As of now, I need 3:50 to qualify. Oh well.

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    1. I just don't have a marathon in me anymore. I'm at peace with it.

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  25. It's amazing how many people have been aiming for Boston since the bombings- the field has gotten so much faster! FWIW, I think you could totally do it if you wanted to. The motivation is key... it takes a lot of work, and sometimes year after year until the marathon day clicks!
    I'm leaning away from a fall marathon for that reason- the motivation isn't there right now and when it doesn't sound fun, it definitely isn't worth all the work.

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    1. I probably could BQ if I wanted but it would take over my life. Even when my BQ was attainable, training that hard was a struggle with work and family obligations. I don't know how other people do it.

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  26. I know you already stopped by my post and read my thoughts, but I'll share again anyways :) I ran Boston in 2012 and thought once was enough... then this year I registered on a whim with the idea of returning with my hubs this time (my mom and I went last time). Surely enough, I didn't make the cut, but maybe that's okay! Personally I know I would like to travel to a few other "big" races in my lifetime - hopefully New York, Chicago and maybe CIM some day! Bucket listers :)

    Boston is cool but I can't imagine how hard it is to train at 50+. Training in this season of pregnancy, postpartum, then pregnant again, postpartum, pregnant again,... you get the picture... is hard enough! Throw in age and the stress of life that comes as the kids get older (and we get older too, I suppose), I'm sure it's an entirely different beast. Wendy, I think you and Holly are so hardcore - Boston or no Boston!

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    1. You just made my day! I never thought running would be so hard but once menopause strikes, it's like someone flips a switch and says "no more endurance for you". I'm sorting out some thoughts about this and I'm sure eventually it will turn into a blog post. But yep, I'm still doing what I can and having a ton of fun!

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  27. I was a bit frustrated at the change in standards, since I am coaching runners who were hoping to BQ in October or December... and now aren't sure if they will be able to because 5 minutes can be a lot of time. That's just a huge disappointment that close to a marathon.
    I might have an unpopular opinion, but I think the standards are too harsh on young men and older women and too easy on young women. It seems far more common for a 30-year-old women to crank out a sub-3:30 or faster than it is for some of the other age brackets like 50+ women. I feel like I've heard a joke even that all the Boston crowd consists of is young women and older men.

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    1. 100% agree with you about the standards. Selfishly, I'd love for them to relax the older woman age standards. It's hard to run that fast when you're lacking hormones!

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  28. Yeah, the qualifying change was a bit disappointing. I will be in a new age bracket and thought I would be able to run that qualifying time but 5 minutes is a lot of time. And I don't know how fair it is that it should be across the board. I also don't know how they breakdown that 80% qualifiers. I think it would be fair to look at the age groups and adjust according to what everyone is accomplishing. Is Boston trying to push older runners off the running course? Anyway, it is what it is. I still hope to run it one day. But they are going to really make me work for it. :)

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    1. You have to wonder. I think it would be interesting to adjust the finish times proportionately. I'd love to run Boston too. Clearly.

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  29. I just moved to a new age group so basically my qualifying time stayed the same (3:35). I've always said I wanted to BQ and at my last marathon I ran a 3:41. I just have no idea if I'll want to train for a marathon after having a baby or if I'll have time...and who knows how long it will take to get back to where I was a few years ago. I kind of think my best shot will be in my early 40s when I would have to run a 3:40. I totally understand the need for the change in times, and at least this way people can hopefully get in just by running the qualifying time. I just hope they don't keep making it harder to get in!

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    1. The way you've been running through your pregnancy makes me believe that you can do it!

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  30. Ugh, I feel your frustration. I saw data recently that showed that the older age groups have much fewer participants. So making it easier for them is not going to result in more than, say, an extra couple hundred people. Never say never, but I can understand if you don't want to run a marathon again.

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    1. I always thought that it would be easier to qualify once I got older. 4:10? No problem. Ha! Boy was I wrong...

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