The Boston Athletic Association proudly announced yesterday that all qualified athletes who submitted applications during the 2023 Boston Marathon registration window will be accepted into the April 17th race, provided their qualifying time is verified. A total of 23,267 applications were submitted over the five-day registration window.
The 127th Boston Marathon will feature a field size of 30,000 participants. With 23,267 qualified, invited athletes, the remaining 6,733 participants will consist of athletes representing official charity partners, sponsors, members of the professional field, and other invitational entries. This is not “typical” for the Boston Marathon, nor has it been for the past few years.
In 2020, the race was initially postponed to September as Covid-19 made its way around the world, resulting in a global pandemic. By September, however, race officials reluctantly cancelled the in-person event for the first time in the entire 124 year history of the race and, subsequently, offered all registrants the first ever “virtual” Boston Marathon option. Heartbreaking, no doubt, to those who had finallly achieved this dream and were so looking forward to the experience and honor that they had earned.
In 2021, the race was held in person but the date had to be moved from it’s usual, third Monday in April, to October 11th. In this particular year, the Boston Athletic Association also did something that they have never done before – they opened up a virtual race to the first 70,000 registrants over the age of 18. This never before seen gesture on behalf of the B.A.A. welcomed in runners of all levels and abilities, with no qualifying time required. Furthermore, they allowed the athletes from the previous year to re-submit their already existing BQ times for consideration into this year’s in-person event. The overall goal was to inspire people to continue running and pursuing their dreams despite the illnesses and hardships which had befallen us all.
And, while 2022 was indeed held on Patriot’s Day – also known as “Marathon Monday” in the city of Boston, the overall number of registrants and participants was still below average for this most famous race. In the years prior, with the exception of 2020 and 2021, the world of distance running had already come to know that simply qualifying for Boston was rarely ever “enough”. In the past, you would have to exceed your qualifying time by greater than 2 minutes, sometimes even as high as five minutes, in order to receive an actual invite into the race. And this is where I become ambivalent – when “good enough” is not, in fact, actually good enough.
At the end of the day, Boston is still just a race – albeit old and iconic, and put on by a group of people who pride themselves on athletic excellence and exclusivity. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of love/hate moments when it comes to the Boston Marathon. I spent years of my own life chasing that same dream, only to find out that it was actually fueled by a deep seated insecurity inside of myself, as a person, exhibiting itself outwardly as a burning need for external validation. Once I realized this, I was actually able to address the root cause in myself, work to overcome it, and grow. I never did achieve my BQ – even my best marathon time was a solid 17 minutes slower than I needed it to be. But I did still have the honor of running that iconic course in October 2021, due to that never before offered opportunity. I registered as “virtual”, but chose to run it live, in person, on that course, on my own terms, and with the recognition of the BAA simply as an added bonus. I no longer feel the need to prove anything to anybody in any pursuit… but my heart still feels very happy and excited for those who have chased their BQ, legitimately achieved it, and then receive this most precious invite. They’ve earned it. They deserve it. Who are we to ever rain on their parade? Because here’s the thing about Boston – it was never meant to be “all inclusive”, nor should it be. Just like the Olympics are not open to the everyday, ordinary athlete – if you wish to run the Boston Marathon under invite, with a qualified bib, you must push yourself to achieve more.
There’s a time and place for races with participation medals and no course time limits – but Boston is neither the time nor the place for such allowances.
Boston is not for everyone. The Boston Marathon elevates the standards for endurance racing and it keeps those who chase it motivated, disciplined and inspired.
It’s just my opinion, take it or leave it, but the Boston Marathon is exactly what the Boston Marathon should be – the gold standard for all marathon runners. For this reason, it shall always hold a special place inside my heart. And I was overwhelmed with excitement when I read those words yesterday and realized that, for all those amazing athletes out there, working fulltime jobs and raising families, who still made the time to get those miles in and did all the things that most people won’t in order to realize a dream that most people never will, “good enough” was finally, actually, good enough!