Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Running has gone through a period of growth over the past 10-15 years that it hasn't seen since jogging became popular in the 70's. This increased popularity has been accompanied by a significant increase in marathon participants. Everyone and their brother is running a marathon these days. It's awesome to see so many people doing something to improve their health, but it also means some changes are being made in the world of marathoning.

The most popular marathons have to place a cap on registration to keep the number of participants manageable. If you want to run a major marathon, you have to register early or you miss out. The New York Marathon holds a lottery every year to select it's field. You can also qualify for the race, but the qualifying times are even more challenging than Boston's. Which brings me to the changes being made in Boston.

For years, the cutoff time I've been shooting for has been 3:10:59. With the Boston Marathon selling out faster and faster each year, organizers made the decision to make the qualifying times even more competitive. For the 2012 marathon, the 59-second cushion was eliminated. To qualify for this year's Boston Marathon, I have to run faster than 3:10:00. But the 2012 marathon is already sold out and all qualifying times are 5 minutes faster starting next year. So if I really want to run Boston, I am shooting for 2013 and my goal has been moved from 3:10 to 3:05.

But wait... there's more!

In addition to adjusting the qualifying times, Boston now has tiered registration. So when registration opens, only runners who beat their qualifying times by 20 minutes or more can register. Then a wave of runners below their qualifying time by 10 minutes. And then by 5 minutes. So even if I run sub-3:05, I still have to do so by enough time to register before the race sells out. This year, runners had to beat their qualifying times by 1 minute and 14 seconds.

So on Race Day in New York, I'm going to have a decision to make. For a while now, the goal of beating 3:10:59 has been more important to me than actually running the marathon in Boston. I'm more interested in knowing that I was fast enough to qualify than I am in saying I ran Boston. But I've also been talking about running Boston as a goal the whole time I've been writing this blog.

So here's a breakdown of the changes in qualifying times and the paces I'll have to choose from:

My personal best (Cincinnati 2010):                                                        3:15:10      7:26 per mile
pre-2012 Boston Qualifying Time:                                                           3:10:59      7:17 per mile
2012 Boston Qualifying Time:                                                                 3:10:00       7:15 per mile
2013 Boston Qualifying Time:                                                                 3:05:00       7:03 per mile
2013 Boston Qualifying Time (Adjusted Based on 2012 Registration):     3:03:46       7:00 per mile

If I want to meet my long-time goal of beating 3:10:59, I have to run 7:17 per mile. If I want a realistic chance at running Boston, I have to run 7:00 per mile or better. So I either have to improve my best average by 9 seconds per mile or 26 seconds per mile. It all depends on what I want to get out of this race.

In the meantime, I'll just keep training hard and prepare the best I can. So today was Hill Repeats on Top Notch. I didn't push it as much as I usually do because my legs still feel a little heavy, so these weren't my fastest hills ever. But it felt good to work out some kinks with the extra effort.

Goal For The Day: Hill Repeats.
Distance: 3.54 Miles.
Time: 30:20. 8:35 Avg. (8:00, 8:08, 9:18, 4:52*)
Route: 6 x Top Notch Repeats.
Conditions: 48 degrees. 7:45am.

Notes: I'll have to be careful on my 22-mile run next week. My legs are feeling heavy and my stride is a little off after the 20-mile run. I'm not sore or too tired, but my body doesn't want to shift into high gear yet. I'll have to make sure I don't do any lasting damage on the 22.

Daily Miles: 3.54 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 411.00 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 11,050+ meters.

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