And you thought I forgot! This post is a continuation of Part I of the controversial blog series, addressing topics that are often debated among runners. In the previous post, I addressed headphones, barefoot running, and junk miles. Here are a few more.
My Stance: The movie "The Spirit of the Marathon" provided some history on the Boston Marathon. The qualifying times were set not to make this a prestigious event, but because the number of applications were increasing each year, and they couldn't accommodate anyone. This was before the days of computerized lotteries, so the easiest way to trim down the applicant pool was to set qualifying standards. Over time, those qualifying times have dropped lower and lower as the demand to run this race continues to increase. The prestige factor is simply a byproduct of what the race managers did to control the size of the race.
Given this, it doesn't really matter if there is a 20-minute difference between the top male and female finisher, but a 30-minute difference in qualifying times. Data shows that approximately the same number of men and women (roughly the top 5%) finish within the current qualifying times. This means the number of male and female runners should be about the same. There would be significantly more male runners if they lowered the women's times. As for the new qualifying standards, this falls inline with what they have done historically. The applicant pool of qualified runners is too large (with the race filling up within 8 hours) so they are tightening things up.
How this affects me:
Two years ago, I would have been upset about the faster qualifying times, and even more frustrated that I bonked at the RnR Arizona marathon because of the heat-- and then again in New Jersey. But now Boston isn't really a focus of mine. Trying to attain a goal that was based on someone else's standard wasn't healthy for me, so now I am just focused on running my best races possible. By my standards. Over the past three years, my fitness level has increased substantially and yet I keep bonking in marathons. If I had listened to my body instead of stubbornly trying to run an 8:23 pace no matter what, I probably would have set some nice PRs. So for my next marathon (Milwaukee Lakefront) I am just going to try my best, listen to my body, and if I qualify, great! If I get a 3:40, it will still be the exact same achievement that it was when it was a "BQ time".
Unauthorized Bib Transfers (running under someone else's name)
My Personal Preference: This is a no-no. I would never run a race using someone else's bib and I wouldn't give my bib to another runner, even if I were injured. When "Elizabeth Clor" appears in the race results, I want that to actually be me and to reflect my hard work and training. And if I were to run a fantastic race but then someone else's name appeared in the results, I would be bummed. If it was a PR, I'd almost feel as if I couldn't really claim it as my own.
My Stance: As long as the rules don't forbid it, then I don't really care what other people do. Well, unless I got beat out for an age group award by someone who wasn't running under her own name. That might irk me. Also, in larger races like the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, where they explicitly say that they accept more people than the course can actually hold because they know people will not show up, then I think it is wrong to break those rules. I'm guessing that at smaller races, the race directors don't care as long as the entry has been paid for.
Weather-Related Shut Downs
The Debate: In 2007, the Chicago race course was shut down in the middle of the event because the temperatures were rising into the upper 80's. One person died. This got a great deal of media attention and since then, race directors have been more cautious about holding races in severe weather conditions. This year, the St. Louis marathon was shutdown early as soon as the temperatures got into the mid 70's. The debate is weather or not races should be shutdown when it gets really hot, and how hot is too hot?
My Personal Preference: I've only been affected by this once (last weekend) and the race wasn't even shut down, it was shortened. So I don't really know how I would feel if I was running a marathon and was told to stop at mile 18. My guess is that I'd be relieved. I DNFed at Shamrock because of the heat. I bonked at RnR Arizona because of the heat, and I sure would have loved for someone to tell me it was okay to walk to the finish! I also ended up in the medical tent after the New Jersey marathon in 2009 with hypothermia. I don't think that race should have been shutdown, but if it had, I probably would have welcomed it. As someone who is heat sensitive, my preference is to shut it down!
My Stance: I can certainly see both sides of the coin here. Even though I DNFed at Shamrock, I don't think that race was hot enough to be shutdown. It really has to do with how prepared they are with emergency medical crews to handle any incidents. Even though I would personally welcome a shutdown if the race was oppressively hot, I really think that shutting down the race should be a last resort. There are many other runners who are willing to tough it or who aren't as effected by the heat as me, and I can see how frustrating it would be for them if they were having a good race.
I also don't like the negative press running gets about it being dangerous and people dying during marathons. Most of the people who have died (and there haven't been many) had pre-existing heart conditions.
What are your thoughts on these hot topics? (No pun intended for topic #3).