registering for the boston marathon and an analysis

My Boston Marathon Journey (to Register)

You may love or hate the Boston Marathon, but thoughts of Boston have been woven through my running journey since almost the very beginning.

The journey started three years ago. I had started running three months prior. I remember sitting next to my friend on a bus as we admitted to each other in hushed tones that we wanted to qualify for Boston. We were almost ashamed to admit it because it seemed too impossible. At that point, I knew I would have to maintain a 8:23/mile pace for 26.2 miles. I think I had run several miles at that pace.

Call me your typical naive baby runner for my first marathon. I went into the 2009 NYC Marathon and maintained pace through around 15 miles. I hit the halfway point in 1:50:08 and then ultimately finished in 3:59:48.

My next attempt was supposed to be the 2010 New Jersey Marathon except I got injured two weeks before the race and couldn’t run it. I also couldn’t run for several months after that, but insisted on attempting to qualify on WAY too little training in the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. Don’t attempt this. That is all I will say. 2010 was not the best running year by any means.

In 2011, I finally trained hard and got it right at the Reykjavik Marathon and BQed with a 3:39:06 and hit the magical sub-3:40:59 time except it wasn’t so magical anymore. It was the year they changed the qualification process and only the fastest finishers got in. I wrote how I would be devastated if I had run 24 seconds too slowly unknowingly. I was 22 seconds too slow. I have to say a bit of the magic of Boston had been ruined for me and the goal became less about Boston and more about improving as a runner. I vowed to run a sub-1:40 half and sub-3:30 marathon the following spring/summer.

In the 2012 NYC Half and the 2012 San Francisco Marathon I made those goals a reality by running a 1:39:08 and 3:29:21, respectively.

And a dream of mine came true when this arrived in my mailbox on Friday.

I am a far different runner than the one who only wanted to run a marathon at 8:23 pace, but at the end of the day I AM STILL SO EXCITED TO FINALLY GET TO RUN THE RACE. It has definitely been a journey. For fun, since it has worked in the past and all, let me throw out that I am looking for a 3:1X finishing time.

Boston Marathon Registration Analysis

Unfortunately, I felt the effects of some of the growing pains of the race as it became oversubscribed when I couldn’t get in with my BQ under the new registration procedures. Ultimately, I do think the BAA wants it to go back to where a BQ means you get to run the race, which is why they lowered the times for everyone by five minutes starting this year. The tiered registration is in place to ensure the fastest people will always get into the race, but I think they will lower the times again if at some point people who want to run the race do not get to run it.

This year I predict that everyone who has a qualifying time and registers in the first two weeks will be able to run.

Last year due to the sequential confirmation numbers people were able to keep track of exactly how many people had registered during the BQ-20, BQ-10 and BQ-5 windows. From some analysis on the Runner’s World Forums those numbers fit the equation y=22873e^.0807x. That equation predicts that 6,817 runners would have singed up during a BQ-15 window last year otherwise known as this year’s BQ-10 window. Unfortunately, this year we only have two data points that the BAA has given us, but one of them is the BQ-10 which had 6,581 apply. There is slight discrepancy in the action in the first 24 hours, but for now I will attribute that to people worrying that it was going to sell out the first year of the system.


Based on this year’s BQ-10 data point (analysis is always risky with one data point!), I think that the trajectory will almost exactly follow last year’s and about 15,000 will apply. Coupled together with the 1,417 time qualifiers who deferred that will equal about 16,400. Based on the 21,600 spots that the BAA is claiming that means at the end of the two week period about 5,000 spots will remain. I think this means registration will last through the end of the month and there will be some happy racers in the marathons that occur in the first week of October.

Of course, once more numbers are published my analysis might change.

Previously I thought that people would have adapted to the new standards and ran faster. However, we did have a very hot spring and summer. Based on the current numbers it appears that the effect of people adapting to meet the new standards was equal to the number of people who did not re-qualify due to the very hot weather this year. It will be interesting to see if this changes in future years.

Have you run the Boston Marathon? Do you want to run the Boston Marathon? What are your thoughts on the registration process? ARE YOU RUNNING IT WITH ME THIS YEAR?

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12 Responses to registering for the boston marathon and an analysis

  1. Lauren says:

    First of all, congratulations on your acceptance into Boston! Getting that notice feels pretty amazing, especially after all the hard work (and disappointment) you went through to get there. I’m excited FOR you — running Boston really is an incredible experience.

    Second — that analysis is very interesting! I love that you broke all this down. I’m hoping that this system means that most of the people who run a BQ and want to register for Boston this year will get in, but it will be interesting to see what happens (and compare this year to last year).

  2. Dave says:

    There is also some growth in participatory endurance sports which should probably be reflected in overall numbers even when a time cutoff is involved. Take a look at NYC marathon where they’ve jacked up the price but still reached capacity, or any of the unlimited marathons which seem to continue to grow. It’s an interesting time, RD’s of the bigger races have all sorts of power that small time 5k/10k RD’s don’t have. I can’t say that I look at all of this and think everyone is doing the right thing, but overall it’s not so bad.

    Boston is a great course, a wonderful town, and a fine day of running. Ultimately, it has become all about selling and $. So it’s still well worth running because the course hasn’t changed and the course itself has such a unique feel to it. But some of the luster which I know must have been there seems to have dissipated and now it feels like a bunch of sheep flocking in, taking over, and buying silly jackets while the rest of the town just has a great time drinking away their local holiday.

    The good news is that there are a ton of other awesome race destinations which don’t sell out even though the courses are not as historic.

  3. Congrats!! Wish I could be there to cheer you on.

    It’s crazy what happened to make them implement this new registration system. I could be wrong, but before it sold out in a day in 2010, I’m pretty sure runners who BQ’d in a fall marathon like NYCM were still able to register to run Boston that following spring! But if in the end it allows all runners who qualified to actually run it, then I think it’ll be a good thing.

    I do want to run Boston someday…hopefully by the time I’m 30 (I’m 25 now). Right now I don’t think my body can handle more than a couple of marathons per year, so I’m hoping the mostly-flat Houston Marathon will get me there one of these years!

  4. Kristy says:

    Well you know how I feel about Boston! And I am so excited that you get to experience it this year!!!!!

    I truly hope that everyone who qualifies gets a chance to run the race. And, IMO, the harder the journey, the sweeter the race!!

  5. Jocelyn says:

    Congratulations!! I know that you have wanted this very badly! I am so excited for you!

  6. Kelly says:

    wow, this analysis is hard core – I love it! I obviously am bummed about the new qualifying times because it’s going to be harder to do, but ultimately agree with them and that it means that hopefully everyone that qualifies will get to run. I’m so excited for you!!! I’ll be there cheering, for sure – can’t wait!!!

  7. Katie says:

    Such a great journey you’ve had, Celia! Very impressive. I’ve enjoyed following along since I discovered your blog about a year and a half ago! I hope to run Boston some day. And I will! :)

  8. shelby says:

    Wow, you heard back quickly! Congrats! I submitted on Friday too and haven’t gotten my acceptance yet. Come on, BAA!

  9. Lizzy says:

    I registered, and if I get in then I’m running t with you!!!
    Honestly I think a BQ should be faster judging by the amount of people who qualify but don’t get in.
    I hope to meet you in Mass in April!! :)
    xoxo!

    • Lizzy says:

      Sorry I’m in class and forgot to link my blog! I just get so excited when I read about Boston!
      (lizzyj1305.wordpress.com)
      I hope you’re having a great week so far!

  10. Morgan says:

    HOORAY!!!!!!!!!! I’m so glad you got in!!! I can’t wait to hear all about your adventure getting there and running the race. You deserve this chica! So happy for you!

  11. Very interesting analysis! Even though this year’s temps were….shall we say…less than idea, I still love the race. The crowds, the course, the history – so great. Congrats!!

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