For an American runner, the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of our sport. It’s the one marathon nearly every Austin runner dreams of running. We think nothing of putting in a year of training just to have a shot at qualifying for Boston. This year, hundreds of Austinites descended on Boston last weekend for the greatest road race in the world.
Wherever I was last week in Boston, I ran into friends, training partners and other Longhorn-clad Austinites—many Boston newbies—who were in marathon heaven, just being there. Just getting to Boston was a victory for most and everyone was aware of the impending doom of marathon Monday.
If you were there, you probably heard the same thing I heard time and time again: You’re from Texas. You should love the heat.
The reality is nobody loves running a marathon in heat and certainly not the type of warmth Boston experienced this year. By now, you’ve read or heard about the scorching conditions of this year’s marathon—conditions that hadn’t been seen in Boston since the 1976 race which is still known as the Run for the Hoses. Perhaps, you ran and suffered through this year’s race. If you made it from Hopkinton to the finish in downtown Boston, congratulations. Even if it was one of your slowest times, just finishing was a notable accomplishment on such a brutal day.
Just how hot was it in Boston? I didn’t run, but spent the day in Kenmore Square near the famed Citgo sign at the 25-mile mark. Before the first runners even arrived, the Boston police on duty were cautioning the marathon celebrants to make sure they stay hydrated. Some of the cops were even passing out water bottles. And in the most amazing scene I have ever seen in a marathon, I saw a Boston EMS team giving an IV to a spectator who had fainted. Repeat: A spectator.
Spectators aside, the Boston Athletic Association’s treatment of the many thousands who tackled the 116th Boston, was terrible. Sure, the B.A.A. added water and medical aid on the course, but it treated the entrants like second cousins who should have been happy just to be invited to the party.
The weather predictions leading up to the marathon were so dire that, in a magnanimous gesture, Boston offered entrants a chance to pass on running this year and if you did, you would get an automatic spot in next year’s race without having to qualify all over again.
Unfortunately, the B.A.A. attached a bunch of caveats. First, you had to pick up your race number at the Runner’s Expo to qualify for the deferment and you could not start the race. Finally, if you deferred, there wasn’t any refund for passing up this year’s race and you will have to pay the full entry fee for 2013.
So, if you were still sitting in Austin when you received the deferment offer two days before the race, you were faced with three rotten options. You could go ahead with your plans and travel to Boston for the race, knowing full well you probably would be 30-50 minutes slower than your goal time and likely wouldn’t get your BQ for next year. Or, you could still come to Boston, pick up your number, defer for next year and watch your friends and training partners suffer. That would also mean you would still be on the hook for many hundreds of dollars on the jacked up flight and hotel costs in Boston.
Finally, you could just bite the bullet and stay in Austin. But you’d have to scurry around and look for another spring marathon (Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Eugene are coming up) to run where you might be able to get your BQ for 2013.
Of the 27,716 registered runners for Boston, 3863 did not pick up their race packet (mostly from the Third Wave, the last and slowest) and presumably those folks stayed home. That’s almost double the normal no-shows for Boston and none of those will get a guaranteed entry into next year’s race. A paltry 427 registered runners picked up their race number and took the deferment. I know three Austin runners who didn’t want to have to requalify and took the deferment, but they were out $1000 on expenses.
Most Austinites gutted it out and ran. Most were at least 30 minutes slower than their projected goal times and some were more than hour slower. Many ran PW (personal worsts). One friend of mine who usually runs in the 2:40s, finished in 3:20 something. Another friend who ran 3:40 (about a half hour slower than he wanted), ended up in the medical tent with an upset stomach but the tent was so crowded with casualties, he was asked to leave so they could treat the more serious cases.
Anyway, Boston should have made greater concession for all the no-shows scared off by the weather. Instead, here IMHO is what Boston should do (but won’t):
n The B.A.A. should make time adjustments for all those folks who faced the heat wave, slowed way down and finished many minutes slower than what they need to requalify for the ’13 Boston Marathon.
n At the very least in light of the rotten conditions, the B.A.A. should delay instituting the already announced tougher qualifying standards for 2013.
n Provide a discount on the entry fee for ’13 to all the no-shows who followed the advice of the B.A.A. and chose not run.
And while I’m at it, the B.A.A. should learn something from the heat this year. Boston is notorious for its lousy marathon weather. The race is great; the weather usually stinks. Occasionally, it’s cool and there’s a tailwind (see 2011), but more often than not, it’s clear, sunny and warms into the 70s. This year’s temp of 89 degrees wasn’t even the hottest Boston. One year it was in the triple digits and in 1976, it was 90 degrees.
Obviously, Boston can’t do anything about the weather but it can do something about its starting time, which for the masses, begins at 10-10:40 a.m. The elite runners get a little break with the weather and the top women start at 9 and the top men leave Hopkinton at 9:30, but the final wave doesn’t go off for more than an hour later and, by the time they began this year, temps had already climbed into the mid-80s and runners were scurrying all over the course for water and every snippet of shade.
The Boston Marathon should do what every major marathon (save New York City) does and start much earlier. An 8 a.m. start would be just about perfect and get most runners to the finish before the worst heat of the day.
Unfortunately, an early start is unlikely to happen. Boston is all about tradition and embraces change about as quickly as your cranky old uncle who insists dinner is always served at 6 p.m. to coincide with Wheel of Fortune. Don’t forget this is the same marathon which didn’t allow women to run until 1972.
Boston didn’t even have official aid stations, mile splits or clocks until 1986. It still seems hard to believe that Boston started at high noon for 109 years because that was the traditional start time. Just five years ago, the B.A.A. finally relented and allowed for the earlier starts with the first of the three waves at 10. But that’s not early enough for most warm, spring days that are so commonplace in New England.
Certainly, the B.A.A. would argue against an earlier start because of all the time it takes to transport the 27,000 runners from downtown Boston to Hopkinton. But what runner wouldn’t get up a couple of hours to catch a 5 a.m. bus if the race started earlier 7? An 8-8:20-8:40 start for the masses would mean a safer, cooler Boston experience.
But the Boston Marathon is like that old uncle who refuses to change —unless he is pushed. It’s high time the Boston Marathon was pushed into the 21st century.
O Fastest Texan in Boston was our own Ashish Patel. The 30-year-old is one of the most improved runners in Austin and despite the heat, he ran 2:39:52 which is just off the PR of 2:38:22 he ran at the London Marathon last year. Neal Lucas of San Marcos (2:50:14) was sixth fastest among Texans and the incredible prolific Marc Bergman of Round Rock was eighth fastest with a 2:51:09. Four other Austin runners cracked the top 20 Texans: Mike Marek (2:53:52), Erik Totten (2:57:14), Zerihun Ayele (2:58:20) and Jillian Moser (3:01:26).
O On Sunday in Boston, the B.A.A. hosted several road races on Boylston Street, near the finish line of the marathon. In the B.A.A. Mile, former UT miler Kyle Miller went out with the lead pack but couldn’t quite match the 3:53 mile speed of Australia’s Collis Birmingham who has already been selected for his country’s 5000-meter Olympic team. Birmingham won in 4:06, while Miller was second in 4:11 (and picked up $2000). Treniere Moser, who ran at Georgetown, but now lives in Austin (she’s on the Austin Track Club), was fourth in the women’s mile in 4:48.
O Some of the celebs who finished Boston included soccer goddess Kristine Lilly who somehow ran her first marathon in Boston (probably charity). Lilly, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, finished in 4:27:45. The mother-daughter duo of Joan and Abby Samuelson ran together and finished in 3:28:08. The Olympic gold medalist and two-time Boston champ ran last year’s Livestrong Austin Half Marathon with her 24-year-old daughter.
O Busted. Dick Beardsley was in town, celebrating the 30th anniversary of his epic battle with Alberto Salazar. Dick was planning to run, but has been laid up with all sorts of injuries, is still on crutches and isn’t supposed to run a step. But I spotted him slowly jogging by himself on the Charles on Friday morning. He denies it, but I know a friend when I see one.
O Among Boston streakers, Maria Hermon of Buda finished in 4:15:02. It was her 14th straight Boston finish. She has a long way to catch the current longest active Boston streaker—Ben Beach. The 62-year-old from Bethesda, Maryland finished his 45th straight Boston. Beach, who ran his first Boston in 1968 (also a hot race), finished in 5:55:22.
O After seven years, Silicon Labs has dropped its title sponsorship of the Austin Marathon Relay. The race will still continue as the RetailMeNot Austin Marathon Relay and it will retain its traditional date of September 23rd. On Monday, the race will announce a partnership with Adidas (mega money) that it hopes will attract a world-class field. More later.
O My favorite trigal—Kelly Williamson—returns to the triathlon wars next weekend (April 29th) at the St. Anthony’s Tri (Olympic distance) in St. Petersburg, Florida. Kelly has won three of her four races this year, not to mention winning the 3M Half in January in a PR.
O Nate Moore, the much decorated cross-country and track star from Lockhart, has announced he has committed to running for UT next fall. Congrats.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Baja Sessions,” by Chris Isaak.
Have any juicy news for me? (It doesn’t have to be entirely true.) If you have something, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org