Boston: Qualifying

Who cares about Egypt, Wisconsin or Belgium? The real news of the week is that the Boston Qualifying times and registration process are changing!

In 2012 faster runners will be allowed to register first. On the first day people who can run 20 minutes faster than the qualifying time for their age/gender will be allowed to register, on the third day people who can run 10 minutes faster, on the fifth day people who can run 5 minutes faster, and on the seventh day anyone who meets the qualifying standards.

Then in 2013 they will raise the qualifying time by 6 minutes for every group (OK, they say 5 minutes, but if you read the small print you will see that the 59 second grace period has vanished, so the standards have been tightened by 5:59).

They are not going to increase the field size nor add qualifying standards for charity runners. The latter seems rather a pity to me.

Nor do they make any attempt to make the standards fairer for women.

But I basically feel this is a step in the right direction. I like the idea of allowing faster runners to register earlier. (Of course, I am biased here).

But I do wonder how fair the new standards are. Now the only way I know to compare times across ages and sexes is to age-grade them. The old standards were reasonably fair for men.
The age graded percentage for men hovers a little above 65%, of course it bounces up and down at age group boundaries, but it’s pretty good. A 30 year old man needs to run at 65.4%, a 52 year old at 65.7% and a 77 year old at 65.7%.

For men. For women, it’s pretty bad. Young women have it easy, and older women have it hard (a 30 year old woman needs to run at 61.3%, while a 67 year old woman needs to run at 72.5%).

Basically this means that young women have a relatively easier standard than men, women between about 45 and 55 have approximately the same (age-graded) standard as men, and older women have a harder standard than men.

So what are things like if we take of 5:59 minutes from the qualifying time? This is still basically fair for men. A 30 year old man needs to run at 67.5%, a 52 year old at 67.6% and a 77 year old at 67.1%. Not worth quibbling over until the 70s and there just aren’t many runners that old.

But if you take 20 minutes off the current qualifying time (that would be the group who gets to register first in 2012) there is now a definite downward trend for men. A 30 year old man needs to run at 73.1%, a 52 year old at 72.5% and a 77 year old at 70.7%.

Things get even worse if we take 20 minutes off the 2013 times:  A 30 year old man needs to run at 75.7%, a 52 year old at 74.7% and a 77 year old at 72.3%.

I haven’t said anything more about women’s times because they have always been, and remain unfair. Under the coming standard a 30 year old woman needs to run 63% — much less than 67% for a 30 year old man, while a 52 year old needs 68.8% and a 77 year old needs 80.4%.

So, for men, the qualifying time remains pretty fair. The early registration process however will be biased toward older runners.

 

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2 Responses to “Boston: Qualifying”

  1. Pearl Says:

    Wow George! Who knew there was so much math involved with marathons? I figured you just throw on some comfortable shoes and start running! 🙂

    • georgeruns Says:

      Well, I was trained as a mathematician, I tend to think that way. But Boston is SPECIAL among marathons. It’s about the only marathon in the US (with the exception of the Olympic Trials) with real qualifying times. Since the times vary by age and sex I tend to wonder how fair they are. For men, pretty fair. For women, not so good.

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