One Second. No Asterisk.
Not just anyone can run Boston. You must first finish a marathon within a qualifying time based on your age and gender. I’m a 36 year old male, so I need to run a 3 hours and 15 minute marathon to get to the famed race.
Now, the folks at the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) are a generous lot. They give you 59 extra seconds. So for me, anything up to 3:15:59 is fine, so long as I don’t hit 3:16:00. This is like setting your alarm clock for 6:00am and giving yourself the benefit of the doubt until 6:00:59. Technically, it’s still 6:00.
Make no mistake, The BAA is decidedly anal retentive about time. Consider the results of the 2005 Kiawah Marathon. Dan Johnston, a 36 year old male needed a 3:15:59 to qualify for Boston. Unfortunately, he finished at precisely 3:16:00. In a 26.2 mile race, he was just one second too slow. Folks who qualified got an asterisk by their names. Not so for Dan. Now that’s tough love. I really feel for Dan.
3:15 will be a challenge. I’ve never gone that fast (a 7:27/mile pace). I can’t cut it that close, so I’m training for a 7:20/mile pace, which would get me 3:12:08. It’s not much of a cushion, but it will have to do.
My best marathon to date was Disney 2006, where I ran a 3:31:57. This sounds pretty close to 3:15. But it represents about an 8:00/mile pace. At 7:20/mile, I’m training for 40 seconds per mile faster than the fastest I’ve ever gone.
In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I collapsed at the end of the 2006 Disney Marathon and spent an hour in the hospital tent.