Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boston: The Ultimate Fun Run

Does anyone find it just a little ironic that the Boston Marathon – with it’s rigid to-the-second qualifying standards and reputation as the Big Enchilada of all marathons drawing world class competitors from around the globe (i.e. Kenya) – cannot ratify a time set on its own course as a world record?? It has too much of a net downhill and there may be a tailwind. USA Track and Field told Reuters: “Boston marathon performances cannot be ratified as world records as the course does not satisfy two of the criteria for world records.” I wonder if one of the requirements is: Cannot be set on the world’s most famous marathon course.

I just assumed that Boston, with its reputation as a challenging course and the standard-bearer for certification at courses around the country, would be World Record Qualified (WRQ). I’m sure this is no surprise to many of you but, frankly, this is news to me. (Also, we landed on the moon!)

Why am I pointing this out? Unless you live in a cave (i.e. Ohio), you know that Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai pranced to the finish Monday in 2:03:02 destroying the official world record by 57 seconds (2:03:59, Berlin, 2008). He had time to re-tie a shoelace on Boylston St., if need be. Or lie down on a plush leopard rug right before crossing the line to pose for a sexy photo. THAT’S how bad he pwned Haile Gebrselassie’s official record time. In fact, with a time like that, you have to wonder what took Haile so long.

There seems to be something terribly wrong when the premier event for a sport cannot ratify its champ for world records. What if the Super Bowl champ could not be crowned because they determined that the football used in the game was made of llama skin rather than the tastier, less-spitty cow? Congratulations, you won! Sorry, but we will not be able to confirm your victory in the record books. Wrong ball skin.* What if NASCAR decided to go the other direction at Daytona? Same distance but a bunch of right hand turns instead of left. Nope, no speed record for you. Thanks for coming out and spiking beer sales in the mid-Florida area though. Here’s your money, trophy, and giant ASTERISK to carry around. Clean up your chaw stains on the way out, please.

Is Boston just a glorified Fun Run? Here I am busting my butt trying to “BQ” when, all this time, there was no chance of me setting the world record at Boston? What was I working so hard for? I’ve been playing rope-a-dope with the top Kenyans and Ryan Hall, et al, by never posting an official marathon time better than the 3:12 range. Lying in wait - like Mutai’s pre-skinned leopard - for my chance to pounce, blowing past the field in a stunning 2:02 at a future Boston. And now what? No friggin’ record? You can shove your laurel wreath up my Johnny Kelley if you know what I mean. I’ll save my world record effort for a race that cares.

Perhaps Boston should worry less about everyone else’s BQ and more about their own WRQ. With all of the recent Boston controversy over qualifying times, I’m starting to think that Boston is like the one sober friend of the promiscuous race slut at the bar who is busy BQ blocking everyone else. Then, come to find out, she’s a MAN.

Despite the non-world record World Record, the 2011 Boston Marathon was an exciting, record-setting race. Ryan Hall, 4th overall, set a non-U.S. record U.S. record. America’s Desiree Davila finished two non-qualifying seconds behind Kenyan Caroline Kilel for the women’s title in one of the most fantastic finishes ever. And I doubt any of the competitors heard the WR-DQ sad trombone playing in the background as they held up their trophy and reviewed their race splits. Congratulations Geoffrey and Caroline! You won the world’s most famous Fun Run!!

It was only later that they got the asterisk attached to their time. And the Boston crème pie to the face.

Happy trails.

* Is it just me or do I say this entirely too frequently in my life?

I’ve been following Thomas, from Diary of a Rubbish Marathon Runner, who achieved his goal of sub-3 hour marathon this past weekend in Vienna. Go there and read his report. It’s pretty darn good. Congratulations to Thomas!

Congratulations to Nate who bested 3 hours at Boston! Here’s
his recap.

Waiting for Sean’s exciting Boston report

And, of course, Spike’s Boston should be rolling in soon


Anonymous said...

You make an excellent point.

"Perhaps Boston should worry less about everyone else’s BQ and more about their own WRQ."

Boston can do whatever it wants, but the running community holds it up as its golden boy. Maybe we need to rethink our marathon "idol".

Al's CL Reviews said...

I didn't know this about Boston.

And thanks for making me choke on "Wrong Ball Skin."

Anonymous said...

The Boston course is tradition. You don't mess with tradition.

It is a known fact that marathon best times can't really be compared, but various organizations do their best to standardize courses as much as possible. For most of the basic qualifications to get a race time entered as a world record go to the Association of Road Racing Statisticians.

That being said, even the ARRS and IAAF will recognize Mutai's and Mosop's race times as being "notable performances" and "world best performances". They will even go into the record books, but for the sake of recognizing the inherent differences between courses they can not use their performances as a new World Record.

Honestly, it seems right to me. And every marathoner knows about it before they even start running.

Anonymous said...


For a more legit mind-blowing experience check out what the other Mutai did in London the day before. At mile 20 he ran away from the field as he ran 28:44 from 30K to 40K.

And, in the ARRS website you can find the estimated course time bias for many marathons. Boston has a +10 sec bias, while London has a -38 sec bias. Pretty interesting for number geeks :)

Vava said...

I agree for the most part. Any mention of the World Record will now be followed by an aside about how it wasn't even the second fastest marathon every run. That being said, if you could run a world record just anywhere there'd be runners hauling ass down the side of Everest within the week...

Irene said...

Perhaps Boston is a bit glorified, but I would sooooo be there if (for some bizarre reason)I EVER qualified. I'm still waiting for an equally "glorified" west coast version of the Boston Marathon. There really isn't one.

Thomas said...

If the IAAF don't recognise Boston times then it's the IAAF acting the maggot, not Boston. They could not change the course just to satisfy some guys in suits.

Randy said...

This is dead on. I completely agree. Boston is THE gold standard for marathons..115 years, and going strong. If its such an easy course, why aren't all the records set there instead of London and Berlin?

TCHusker - Nate said...

I never imagined having my triumph over 3 hours end with an asterisk. Oh well, thanks for linking my blog.

Drea said...

Yep- there always has to be an asterisk. Indoor track? Outdoor track? Downhill? Uphill? I wanted about five asterisks from my Grandmas marathon performance last year! 2:53 BUT hot and humid and 20mph headwind and hurt calf and painful psoas and lack of purple nail polish. I want a couple more asterisks for my 2:52 marathon- course was long and had a big fat hill. Wha-Wha-Wha! Boston should be better than a world record because it is not an easy course! And I bet with time that his performance will be valued as that. BTWR Even if someone breaks Haile's record on a legit course- we will
all say "ah, but Mutai ran 2:03:02 at Boston.
Records were made to be broken!

Jen G. said...

I've done Boston twice now (this past Monday!) and I really believe it is one of the hardest marathon courses. The negative net drop is so severe that your quads take such a beating, especially for me, it's tough to mimic those hills on flat Long Island. Congrats to all the runners out there Monday, it was a great day for racing!

elizabeth said...

Couldn't agree more. I thought the same thing. In fact, hey, why don't we put an asterisk by Caroline Kilel's win...she only won by 2 seconds...maybe Davila's ponytail was heavier and created wind resistance or maybe Kilel had a better breakfast before the race, creating an unfair advantage. Seriously. 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles and if there was a headwind that day then dem's da breaks. Mutal ran a marathon in freakin' 2:03 and no one has done that before...that's a world record in my book. Ok i am getting off my soap box now.

Teamarcia said...

Oh the irony. I think I love Boston even more now.

Barefoot Johnny O said...

I'm from Ohio, and I ran a real race last weekend! It wasn't a downhill, wind at your back, boston "you're the greatest." No, this one had real hills to climb, wrath of God wind and rain to deal with and the sweet, sweet finish of a slow runner. The Blue Ridge Marathon is a test of your mettle.

Note to the curious and uninformed: Ohio does offer challenging racing (try the YUT-C 50k) and the occasional technical trail to build your strength. Wait, the YUT-C is a technical trail, and I ran it barefoot last year . . . We have caves too, unlike the flat-landers of no-job having Michiganers. I say that proudly 'cuz I just got a job today. Thankfully, it doesn't involve too much writing.

Razz said...

"I’m starting to think that Boston is like the one sober friend of the promiscuous race slut at the bar who is busy BQ blocking everyone else. Then, come to find out, she’s a MAN."

Um, are you speaking from experience?

Chanda M. DeFoor said...

I can't even finish a half in 2 hr 3 min, so I'm not qualified to comment. :)

Adam said...

I'd still sleep with the boston man/girl if I could. You know, just sayin....