In the distance running community, the 2014 Boston Marathon represents an opportunity for runners to show solidarity and resiliency after two bombs on Boylston Street in April forever changed the event. The terrorist attack has dramatically increased interest in entering the historic 26.2-mile race. And it seems every fast amateur marathoner wants to qualify for a spot on the Hopkinton starting line next April.
What will it take to qualify for the 2014 Boston Marathon? That remains a great unknown for runners anxiously awaiting registration and field size details from the Boston Athletic Association. Field size will go a long way toward determining how fast qualifiers must run to gain entry into the race.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told NECN Friday that “we have 9,000 more runners that are going to be in the field” next year, potentially bringing the total to roughly 36,000, close to the record set at the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996. That year, there were 38,708 entrants, 36,748 official starters and 35,868 finishers. The BAA is not ready to announce how many runners above the usual field size of around 27,000 will be allowed in the 2014 race.
“We are actively working with each of the eight cities and towns along the route, as well as the Commonwealth, on the planning for next year’s Boston Marathon,” said Jack Fleming, director of marketing and communications for the BAA. “We are in the process of determining the field size and many other aspects of next year’s race, working in cooperation with these municipal and state agencies.”
While the Boylston Street finish will be under much tighter security next April and require additional planning to accommodate a larger field, 9,000 extra runners present a logistical puzzle for Hopkinton. For the record-setting 100th Marathon, participants awaited the start on land that was Terry’s Farm. Today, the farm is the new Hopkinton High School complex. As a result, organizers may need to stagger runner arrivals to avoid overcrowding. With the potential of a fourth wave, other towns along the route may face longer road closures.
All that said, an increase in field size only starts to address the unknown.
Any larger field would include the 5,633 runners who did not finish in April and received guaranteed entry into the 2014 race. It’s not expected that all of them will register. Working with the 9,000 number given by Davis, that probably will leave 4,000 slots to cover increased world-wide interest. It’s likely the additional slots will be some combination of qualifiers and special invitation runners. The special invitations could include runners with connections to the bombing victims. The BAA recently has tried to keep the special invitation/waiver/non-qualified runners around 20 percent of the field, or roughly 5,500.
It’s virtually certain runners will need qualifying times before registration opens in September. Additionally, to earn a spot in the field, it’s likely runners will need times faster than the qualifying standards, maybe five minutes or more faster. That means a 50-year-old woman with a qualifying standard of 4 hours may need a time of 3:55 or faster to guarantee entry.
Maureen Lamie, 50, ran 3:57:40 in the 2013 Marathon to qualify for next year’s race. But when asked if she was nervous about making the cut in September, the Weymouth resident said, “Oh, yeah.” Lamie, a member of the L Street Running Club and veteran of more than 20 marathons, plans to run the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon Sept. 8 in Allentown, Pa., to improve her qualifying time. She will be far from alone when it comes to runners looking to qualify for Boston or hoping to record faster qualifying times.
“I need some insurance,” said Lamie. “I love Boston. It’s my favorite marathon, so I’ve got to make sure I get in this one.”
Summer marathons across the country, from Santa Rosa, Calif., to Wakefield, are drawing increased interest as Boston Marathon qualifiers.
Moments before the 24 Hour Around the Lake races began on July 26, an event director mentioned that some entrants hoped to run Boston Marathon qualifying times and asked that runners focused on fast times be given space near the starting line. Since the 24 Hour Around the Lake races commence on a Friday night, advertise as 12- and 24-hour ultras more than a marathon, and feature laps around Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, they don’t usually attract would-be Boston qualifiers. But this year was different.
After the Boston Marathon bombings, Aly Millett, 25, felt compelled to run from Hopkinton to Boston in 2014, though the Division 1 college miler and Greater Boston Track Club member never had entered a marathon. She hoped to qualify at the Around the Lake race, but the nighttime event proved too tough for her first marathon. Now, she will make a second attempt at the Via Marathon.
“I didn’t plan on running a marathon this soon,” said Millett. “I abruptly changed my training to run a marathon. Every time I watch the Boston Marathon, I feel like I should be running it because I’m a runner and I live in Boston. After what happened this year, I thought, ‘If I have to watch the Boston Marathon next year, I’m not going to feel good about it.’ That was the reason I started training for the marathon.”