I have to be the buzz kill. Someone's got to do it, right? I’m just like that person at the kegger who screams, “Someone just threw up on the tap!” Bummer.
In light of Boston Marathon registration yesterday (with a record setting 8 hour sell out), there continues to be talk of the women and qualification times. In case you missed the memo, it’s apparently too easy for women to qualify for Boston.
In an October 13 Wall Street Journal article entitled, “It's Time for Women to Run Faster,” authors Kevin Helliker and David Biderman outline how marathons have surged in popularity (especially amongst us women) over last few years. This explosion has vastly increased the number of people who qualify. According to the qualifications standards set up in 1977, women get to run 30 minutes slower than men in order to obtain that coveted BQ.
Looking at elite runners for a moment – on average, the gap between women’s and men’s finishing times is (in fact) closer to 20 minutes and is decreasing all of the time. Running USA has collected data from 500 nationwide marathons that shows a gender difference in finishing times of about 28 minutes (keeping in mind, the study says, that many more women than men are “social” runners, going out to run with the girls and not to “race” or PR).
The authors sum up the male/female discrepancy like this:
In a nutshell, to make Boston, a 54 year old man had to run faster than the nation's youngest and fastest women.
There may be something wrong with that picture.
Some people think that we need to stop being soft on women. Back in ‘77 when the standards were enacted, women were viewed as more fragile, less physically able. Today, many women run faster than the men who won the Boston Marathon in the past (example: in 1927, the winner finished in 2:40. Since 1979, the women’s winner at the Boston Marathon finished in 2:35 or better).
In SUAR terms, we might have boobs (well, some men have those too), periods and the need for lots of coddling and emotional support, but we’re literally catching up to our male counterparts.
No tightening of standards is on the horizon, however, according to the executive director of the Boston Athletic Association. “With physiological advantages such as larger hearts and greater lung capacity, men (overall) will probably always run faster than women.” However, the data shows the gap is closing in. 40 years ago, the women’s world marathon record was 54 minutes behind the men’s. Now it’s 11 minutes.
Boston used to be only the elite club, and now we average Joes(ephines) are storming in with our tutus and running skirts. It’s kind of like when the nerds become popular – everyone feels a tad bit threatened, maybe a little put off. Just watch Glee and how those poor kids get slushied every week. No one wants them to edge into the “in” crowd and water it down.
All kidding aside, I am a Boston qualifier. After running for 1.5 years, I was able to BQ at my second marathon in May 2010. Not bragging, just making a point. I’m 43 and needed a 3:50 to qualify, and got a 3:42. That time is good enough to qualify in the 35-39 age group of 3:45 and only 2 minutes off of qualifying in the 18-34 age group of 3:40. Don’t get me wrong. This was not easy. I trained my ass off and on that day I could not have run a second faster. But, if Boston is truly meant to be the creme de la creme of runners nationwide, I’m pretty sure I don’t fall into that category, regardless of what my Garmin said.
Too easy? Maybe.
If the BAA cared what I thought and asked my opinion (right after Ryan Hall calls my house), I would say the standards need to be tightened for women. Easy for me to say since I’ve already BQ’d, right? I’m such a bitch.
Making the times 5 minutes faster would close the gap enough to reflect the current running trends. It would cut down on the number of qualifiers significantly. As anyone who runs knows, 5 minutes can make a HUGE difference.
I know women. I am one of them, vagina and all (last I checked). My guess is that if the standards were made more difficult, women would “man up” (excuse the term) and run faster. Sure it might take more tries to qualify, thereby making the prize even sweeter. We can be one determined bunch. Hate me if you want, just my humble opinion.
What are your thoughts?
Keeping it real,