Friday, October 22, 2010

Boston Speed Limits

There's been a lot of buzz going around about the fact Boston sold out faster than Ryan Hall could run it.  Well, not quite... but almost. 

Many believe the rapid sell-out was because the standards for woman's times are "too easy" comparatively to the male counterpart, and the below chart (thanks, Beth!) shows that indeed, females have steadily increased the percentage ratio of those running to practically a dead heat of 50/50.  Whooa, that's pretty impressive. 

Personally, I don't know if females times are a little more comfy than the men and honestly, I don't really care.  The BAA has researched in great depth using muscle mass ratios between men and women and changes in body composition as each of us age, and these are the standard times they came up with.

Their race, their rules. 

We don't have to like it, but it is what it is (didn't you just hate that when you were a kid and your parents said that after you screamed, "that's not fair" when your brother got to stay out later than you did?).  If we want to play the game, we have to abide by the rules.  Would I like to see time changes made?  If, and ONLY if, there is a legitimate reason to other than "it sold out too early last year."

This is my personal take on a few Boston thingies:
1) I think there's a bajillion more marathons now in 2010 than there were when I started marathoning in 1997.  And specifically, more certified BQ races.  People are racing more marathons because, well, there's just a lot more out there to choose from and we don't have to drive all over the U.S. to get to them.

2) I think more women are running marathons in 2010 than when I started running them.  And definitely from when Kathrine Switzer tried to somewhat disguised herself as a man in 1967 to run in Boston.  More women running marathons = more women qualifying.

3) I think both men and women equally set certain benchmarks to reach their goals and if that benchmark is to BQ, I feel women are much more emotionally attached to actually RUN Boston.  This is just my hypothesis - I know so many guys who have qualified and have no desire to actually take out a 4th mortgage to fund their way to Boston, they just want the check mark checked.  Women - no way, we want the proof, we want that damn jacket!  Men may want that jacket, but us chicks are willing to eat Ramen noodles to wear it. 

4) And as for the 8hr 3 min PR registration, I think that people freaked out with it closing earlier and earlier each year so they bombarded cyberspace at the microsecond they could, to avoid being shut out. Actually from a scientific point of view it's fascinating. It's as though a certain type of social threshold was reached and type of "mass hysteria" set in. There could be useful research in this phenomenon, I bet.

5) The problem is that Boston is just too unique, which is great for Boston. What is maybe needed are more races that have these types of qualifying times. New York does, and they're even a little stiffer than Boston's, but no one seems to notice because they also have a lottery - I can't even tell you how many people I've spoken to who did not know NYC had qualifications.  If you want a tougher challenge than Boston, try for New York!  But there could be, maybe should be, more races throughout the country with these kinds of qualifying times. To get people excited about other goals, than perhaps Boston.

My thoughts are just mine, I'm sure you all have your own and yours are wrong that's great.  But it got me thinking, after reading several comments on someones blog recently, about our training .....

Can EVERYONE get to Boston, if they work their ass off and train hard enough???

My answer to this is, from what I've learned as a coach, and as a 14-year marathoner, is probably not.  Contrary to what one may think that all it takes is a lot of sacrifice and more blood, sweat and tears than you've ever done before (and yes, it DOES take that), I hate to say it but that may just not be enough.  There's that little thing called genetics that can sometimes make us reach certain speeds and that's it - go ahead, curse your parents.

I'm not saying everyone can't get faster.  You absolutely can.  I am proof of that - for eternity I couldn't get my marathon time to stop hovering a few minutes, give or take, around that 4-hour mark.  And it wasn't until I started doing things differently in my training that I was able to get to that 3:45 time - but approximately 30-40% of our speediness is hereditary and we can only do 60-70% work to get faster.

And this tidbit of info got me to thinking, after a little shove from a certain fellow blogger when I was whining about trying to think about my own little blog and what to do with it now that I wasn't actually training for anything until this sucky heel starts to behave - maybe I should write a little now and then about some coaching stuff. 

Hum.  Maybe!?! 

I've never wanted to come across as a know-it-all - because I don't, I never will, and I'll never pretend I do.  But maybe, I could sometimes use my blog not only as a place to carry fellow manic runners along with me in my running journey but maybe to also discuss a few things I've learned along the way - as a running coach, personal trainer and from my own personal experiences.

I could write more about those darn genetics our parents gave us, what I did differently when I BQ'd, weight training, supplements, recovery, diet, my beloved protein spinach smoothie ...   Not every post, but maybe once a week...or month.

Thoughts??  Interests?

The mailbag's open for suggestions.

Until then....I'll be hanging around the Air Force Academy this weekend as Brendan goes to state marching band finals (someone came by while I was at the grocery store tonight and chalked up our driveway big time :) ) and then I'm off to New Mexico for a few days next week where I'll be sure to do a lot of running, much exploring, eating tons of muy bueno Mexican food and gathering thoughts to share.  Huge shout-out to KC ( who is doing her very first Ironman in steamy Florida this weekend and Jamie ( who's trying to get to Boston; Anne doing Niagara Falls ( to all others out there racing. 

Happy Running!



Anonymous said...

Excellent post, especially the paragraphs about how getting into Boston is as much about how we're put together as it is about training.

Anonymous said...

Love this post and couldn't agree with you more!

Anonymous said...

i definitely agree with all of your points here. butttt i still would love to have faster standards (for at least my age group). but i think it's because i (and i really hope this doesn't come off as arrogant or cocky or anything because that's not my intention!!) find the bq time for my a.g. too easy. and i want challenge. of course that's why i keep racing to push myself regardless, and still want to get faster despite already having "checked the check box" but it'd be nice to have that reward such as a bq for intense effort on my part.

whoa long comment! and i don't know if any of that made sense or not hahah

C2Iowa said...

Great post. It is funny that you mentioned NY -we have discussed my desire there.

I will be looking for the "bonus" additions about coaching, training, etc.. and any other bits you throw out there.

Running and living said...

I agree, BAA makes the rules, we play the game if we chose to! Simple as that. I agree that not everyone can meet the BQ. But not everyone has to. I mean, I want to go to Kona, but my chances of getting there are slim, and I am OK with that.

Leah B. said...

I really enjoyed reading your views on Boston. I think NY would be AMAZING! I just want to travel and experiences as many paces and races as possible!

L.B. said...

Fantastic post.

Anyone who complains that women have it easier to qualify to Boston needs to stfu. It's their game, their rules, if you wanna play, cool, if not, see ya.

I think number four is the main reason behind the rapid sell-out time. I mean, if I would have qualified (and my parents blessed me with a strong will and determination but forgot about speed, so this is of course hypothetical) for Boston, my thinking would have been this: I worked my butt off to qualify, I'm not going to let all that effort and time and determination go to waste because I didn't register early.

I'd love to read about your coaching tips. Count me among the interested.

Katie said...

Fantastic. I have seen some hateful posts and I just don't understand why! It is a race albeit a historic one, but a race. RELAX. We can't do anything to change things. I would love to read coaching tips. I would love to gun for Boston, but I don't think I am fast enough nor do I want to push my body to the limits to try. For me, it takes the fun out of it when you have that much pressure on it.

Good luck with the heel and I enjoyed the new perspective on Boston. It was one of the most refreshing non-biased posts I've seen.

KovasP said...

Yes on the coaching tidbits! Put something out there and let us give our opinions on it, even though we'll be wrong. :)

Jenn said...

Great Post Jill! I'm actually working on an email to you but I have a few comments.

First, I agree women are definitely more emotionally attatched. When I ran my first marathon I bought the jacket, the hat, socks, EVERY thing to remind me of my accomplishment. My husband just ran his and bought nothing. I would have eaten Ramen noodles to get to Boston, my husband really likes his steak...

Second, I still disagree on the BQ times being equal for men and women but I do respect the B.A.A.'s research and I am certainly not the know all end all. It is their race, I am just fortunate enough to have run it.

Lastly, genetics. Yes, some people are predispositioned to be faster and have a higher likelihood of qualifying for Boston even with the same training. I agree, not everyone could qualify. Boston has become a major goal for most runners. My daughter is a hockey player. Right now, her major goal is to make a Division 1 college hockey team. To her, this is Boston. As a mother I have to encourage her, watch her work her ass off and put maybe many more hours in than another kid. She also needs to be prepared for the fact that she may never make it and it isn't from a lack of blood, sweat, and tears. Is this Boston? Is it OK to work your butt off but maybe never make it? Does that make the race what it is?

I would never miss a post if you decided to share more about what you've learned on your journey. I LOVE your blog, I LOVE your opinions. I LOVE the fact that you put them out there!!

Velma said...

I am eating a spinach smoothie right now :) I would love coaching posts. I like the honesty. Keep it coming

Christi said...

I love your posts! And I would love for you to give us some of your training thoughts!

Emz said...

love it.

This was my hubby's theory, "you know they only make it "easy" for women so there are more women there for the men to look at." nice.

ajh said...

Good post! Thanks for the long email about heel issues. I will get back to you when I am home. Meanwhile I am presently in the I have given up mode. May change though. Qualify for Boston? Hell I just want to run.

Anonymous said...

Great post Jilly Beans! I am amazed at how much faster women are today as compared to the 80's and 90's as a collective group. I ran the 1996 Boston which was the 100th running and 40,000 registered, 39,000+ started and I believe it was 38,000+ finished. For Boston they will always fill up because it's Boston. I am not overly motivated to run it again, now that I can get Samuel Adams beet in Nebraska :0).I would love to read your coaching advice anytime you care to offer it!!! As for the spinach smoothie, are you related to Popeye? Have a great fall break and go band go! Tommy O

Anonymous said...

Jilly Beans, that should be Samuel Adams BEER, not beets. I have never been to Dwight Schrute farms for beets!

Heather said...

I would love to see some coaching posts!

The Green Girl said...

I agree with everyone else, this was a really interesting post.

And I do wonder sometimes why some people are naturally so fast and why others struggle. As a back of the packer, I always try to help the slow runners feel proud of their pace but I know they often feel discouraged. Too bad we can't just 'train' for more fast twitch! Heh.

Unknown said...

More coaching stuff, Jill, more! You write with clarity, wisdom and insight and it's just nice and easy to ready. I think some of us blog to glean some really new or interesting info. on running and I learned from you today, thanks for that. I agree with you but I also think that working hard, changing your attack plan for a marathon, getting help and just plain old having HOPE can get you to a new level. Maybe not a crazy level but you can always improve. I did enjoy your input on genetics, I heard a physiologist talking about it once and I'm intrigued. More on that please!

I'd love to hear more on running and our monthly cycles...seriously!
Mental stuff while racing/training.
Ways to motivate other runners.
The list could go on and on...
HUGS, thanks and great work!!

Anonymous said...

So here's the thing:

You covered it all!

Great post :)

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

In your serious thought provking post, this little nugget of funniness, " chicks are willing to eat Ramen noodles to wear it" So funny!

big wave said...

Hey you!

I think you should post often. My problem is I should remember to read more often. You bring a sense of wisdom without a "know it all" attitude. Running is personal and intimate to each of us and you get that.

slow ernie said...

I'm not sure I'm with you on making women run in disguise as a way of dissuading the less than diehard. But the more smoothie recipes idea is a winner in my book.

Generation X (Slomohusky) said...

Thanks Jill. We need to get that heel - healed - so we can get you back running.

I am a scientist and believer in faith/hope simulatenously at my core. With that said, I like Megs comments. One there is more to learn about individual physical or intellectual capabilites than just genetics. It is a major factor along with individual determination/hope. Plus, other factors weigh in like past injuries which can impact both.

I am short. I have always had either a muscular (younger) or now in life I call husky frame. I used to have the speed (or near speed) to qualify in being speedy over long distances and sprints. Now repeated injuries, arthritis, age (midlife belly) keep me from speedy finishes. Still I enjoy running. I run not out of concerns if I will ever qualify for anything - rather just my enjoyment of running. Plus meeting great peeps! Runners are the best!

Nathan said...

You certainly give us some things to think about!

Just a few thoughts:

The internet age and growth of marathoning/ women marathoners coincide (related to the increased # of marathons).

New York also can be qualified for with a half marathon time. That might be more attainable for certain people, but may also diminish it's perceived value as far as standards go. (I'd like to know if the course has to be certified for that, or just a published official result.)

And for an even more thorough analysis of the BQ topic, go to:

Kate Geisen said...

I'd definitely enjoy hearing more coaching stuff...I need all the help I can get! :)

AM! said...

Hi chica!
Grrrreat post. love it. spot on in so many ways.

and YES! def write about your coaching/ running experience. As a fairly new runner (serious for ~4 yrs) and super new trainer/coach (~2 yrs), I'd love to read your insights and experience. Share the love baby!;-)

Rad Runner said...

I Agree!!! Their game! We wanna play, then we play by THEIR rules! Hi HI Hi! Jill!!! Are you doing the SFM AGAIN!??!?!?! Please check the yes box.

Molly said...

I'm all ears (and eyes) if you do posts based on your running expertise...for the most part I wing it, or get info from other blogs, so it would be great to learn some more of it from ya!

Michelle said...

Great post - I like your perspective on Boston. And I would be really interested in reading posts based on your experience - count me in!

Julie said...

I want to hear about it Jill! This was a wonderful post packed with great information and opinions:) I would love more coaching posts too. You write with a style all your own....I always feel like you are talking to me and I am right there with you!

Enjoy the weekend Lady!

Zaneta @ Runner's Luck said...

i love your thoughts on boston!! And I would love some coaching type blog posts! As a new runner i have no clue what im doing lol... i know basics but thats about it lol

JS 15 said...

I would love for you to share the training tips that led you from around the 4 hour mark to 3:45! Love your blog!

Anne said...

How sweet are you :) Thanks. BTW...the 10K was full (somehow I had a feeling) I'll be doing the half. Taking it easy...5/1 run/walk intervals and no watch :) ...I don't feel anymore pain, but worse comes to worse, I'll walk (there's a half walk, so I won't be alone).

OKay, enough about me...I think the idea of you writing about coaching is EXCELLENT!!!!!

Chris K said...

Yes Wise Sage, please impart your wisdom on us. I'm serious. You got cred. I totally agree with your #3 hypothosis.

Shana said...

Oooooo. . .that was good.
You're a great writer!
And you're correct about the speed thing. I'm pretty sure 8:30's is all I've got and the desire to hold that pace just isn't there.
Bye, Bye, Boston. I'm happy where I am.

misszippy said...

Jill--So many good points. I agree that the hype leading up to how quickly it would sell out played a big role this year.

As to whether or not you should share your pearls of wisdom with us? Of course you should. You're not only extremely experienced but a coach too. People would eat it up!

Enjoy the weekend.

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

I'm sure all of the runners who were "caught off guard" last year helped to feed the frenzy this year and this also created a "back log" of runners trying to get in.

Yes, would love any informational topics that you would offer. None of use are experts, not even the elite coaches are perfect. i think we all read blogs to get new, or different ideas that we feel may work for us in our training/life. Go for it Jill! WE will read for sure.

The Boring Runner said...

I've always wondered aloud about how much genes play into running. A lot I'm sure, but that hasn't stopped me from pounding the pavement.

Boston boston.... I don't know what they should do. However, I do know that I really hope that I make whatever new standards they set forth!

elaine said...

I'm impressed, that was actually a rather scholarly article, very well supported. Are you, like, a teacher or something... :/ About the graph...women are still only at 42% at Boston in 2009, which is higher, but still less represented than at other marathons, especially in the west.

DRog said...

Interesting regarding the emotional attachment theory...proven by the fact that I could care less if I actually ran Boston! haha - I just want to notch the time. I'd rather run NYC any day:)

My opinion is they need to restrict the fall marathon qualifying entrants. For people that ran a BQ last year in 09' should have HAD to enter for this year 10'. - not had the additional option of signup for 11'.

They'll have the same problem next year with everyone that ran a BQ at TCM, Chicago, Toronto, StGeorge, etc THIS YEAR in 10' and are signing up for 12'! They need to change the sign up DATE and also the Qualifying dates.

Or just make it 45K runners :)


Glenn Jones said...

Nice post. There's a lot of truth in genetics - especially when it comes to what makes a huge difference in running/rowing type sports - VO2max. Having hung around with an Olympic medal winner (rowing) it wasn't his size as much as his VO2Max that got him there. Sigh. All those things I'll never have to worry about...

Anne said...

I like all of the comments almost as much as your take on Boston's rapid sell out. I agree that technology, more women runners and more qualifying marathons -- combined with mass hysteria -- contribute to all these mega marathons selling out so quickly. Maybe the key is to each year pick 50 marathons where you can qualify (have it rotate so everyone gets a turn) and that will cut down on demand while also boosting entries for some smaller races that want to grow. (And I did know about NYC because I had to qualify too.)

Jamie said...

I agree with you completely about the Boston sell-out this. I think the number 1 reason is people freaked out since it closed so early last year so they raced to sign up. There were a lot more people this time around waiting in the virtual line!

I would definitely be interested in reading posts about your experiences/suggestions as a coach/trainer/personal experiences.

Black Knight said...

Interesting post about the marathon. I remember the J.F.Fixx' book with a long description of Boston which became my impossible dream and I am always more curious to read news about this marathon.

brian said...

Sorry I haven't been by in awhile, as you know, I've had a lot on my plate (besides donuts, pizza and beer)! Great Post! I think the idea of writing about your coaching experience is excellent.

RunToTheFinish said...

very well thought out and stated post. I agree there are more runners, more races and more hype.

i think there should be other races like boston that maybe have tougher standards, this would give those that have BQ'ed before a next level to try for and maybe open up some spots

Anne said...

Thanks Jill! You totally get it :) That's exactly what this experience did for showed me that I am pretty fit and I have the endurance for the half. It felt so good...and now, I'm even more confident that I can do a full next May :)

Andrew Opala said...

there are lots of ideas you could talk about some that I'm experimenting with (don't tell my coach):

- working on a consistent routine to get psyched up for running
- picking music to run with (when is it good / when is it bad)
- how much do levels of testosterone and estrogen matter if you are a runner
- how much does stride, strike rate, and foot plant matter to speed, endurance, and energy conservation
- how much does a coach help in improving your running?
- how can you judge what is achievable?
- are there test runs you can do to tell you what level of fitness you are at and how much work you need to do to get where you want to go
- what can we expect are the fitness losses as we age


ihaverun said...

I've read several blog posts about qualifying for Boston and this is my favorite. You make some really great points that I don't think most people would even realize.

And yes, yes, yes to some coaching info and the details on what you did/changed to get in Boston qualification shape. If my genes have it in them, I would like to someday run Boston. Any help I can get beyond what my genes can do, I'll take!

Scott McMurtrey said...

This was a great article in Runner's World last year about qualifying times:,7120,s6-239-506--13111-1-1X2X3-4,00.html

As for the argument that women have it easier than men, who knows how to say scientifically one way or another. The thing that has always stood out to me was that men aged 50-54 need to run 5 minutes faster (3:35) than the youngest and fastest women (3:40).

As for Boston filling up so fast - I think it's great. It shows that the sport is as strong as ever, and that the nation's premier marathon is as sought after as ever.

BrianFlash said...

Genetics plays a huge role. Training just lets you get to your best potential, but the potential is set.

However, taking 20 years off from running will turn you into a plodder and end all hopes you had of ever qualifying for Boston and you just have to get over it. Or maybe that is just me :)

All Things Jaime said...

You're so sweet! Thanks for the shout out ... I just posted the RR ... not what I expected, but go read for yourself! :) I'm praying that I have enough genetics b/c the hard work doesn't seem to be paying off! I am SUCH a better runner now than last year ... you should see my daily run stats, ... but that's besides the point.