The BAA Boston Marathon—Traditions, Changes, and National Championship
Boston—The Most Famous Road Race in the World, and the measure for all marathoners. There will be some changes for April, 2007.
Posted Monday, 11 December, 2006
There are powerful traditions that make the BAA Boston Marathon The Boston. If you are a runner anywhere, on any continent, you want to run Boston. At hundreds of marathons throughout the world the measure of success for millions of runners is the Boston qualifying time. As the only marathon outside of the Olympics that requires a qualifying standard, it is the measuring stick for the running world. For many, Boston defines marathon. And it is so much more than just a race. It attracts more media coverage from around the world than any other single day athletic event except the Super Bowl.
The BAA Boston Marathon, the 111th edition, will run on April 16, 2007, Patriots Day in Massachusetts. And the start will be at 10:00 a.m. This year it will be the USATF Women’s National Championship. The elite women’s field will start prior to the main start at 10:00; they will have their own race.
That is correct! The Boston Marathon will start at 10:00 a.m. this year after decades of noon starts. And there are other changes that will enhance the experience for the 22,500 runners who will trek the historic course from Hopkinton to Boston.
The John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo will be open from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Friday, April 13 this year, in addition to the traditional 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. hours on both Saturday and Sunday. And the Expo will once again be held at the Hynes Memorial Convention Center on Boylston Street, located right on the course at the 26-mile mark. This Expo expansion will reduce crowding in the hall generally and make it easier to pick up race packets and make purchases.
This will be the second year for the two-wave start. But this year they have added a second athletes’ village. This will reduce waiting time after arrival in Hopkinton, and reduce crowding approaching the start line. Buses from Boston will drop runners at two different locations for the athlete’s village, depending on whether they are starting in the first wave or the second. The wave start assignment will depend on qualifying time, just as corral assignment always has. This will divide the field essentially in half.
The first wave will start at 10:00 a.m., with the second wave departing at 10:30. The Championchip system will record net time for all, so start time does not matter. Having two Athletes’ Village locations will also speed the transportation process. Both the loading and unloading of busses will be more efficient with this division of the field.
Although they have 111 years of incomparable tradition and history, the BAA has made significant and innovative changes over the years; this event has evolved—sometimes dramatically, usually subtly, to remain at the pinnacle of distance racing. Boston was the first marathon to officially allow wheelchair racing, and the first to set qualifying standards (1970). They adopted the separate women’s elite start ahead of the main event in 2004. They were in the forefront of Championchip timing in 1996, and have been innovative in recording all runners every 5K, which allows friends and relatives to track each runner’s progress. The 38,708 entrants for the 100th Boston in 1996 and 35,868 finishers are all time records; that single total is more than all entrants of all Boston races from inception through 1978.
Boston was the original marathon to support charity programs, and has the largest charity running program in the world. There will be at least 21 official charities supported by the BAA (guaranteed entries), and many other unofficial ones supported by dedicated qualified runners.
The World Marathon Majors Initiative
The BAA Boston Marathon is one of five members of the World Marathon Majors Initiative, a long term commitment that provides a series championship based on performance in any or all of these events.
The 2006-07 World Marathon Majors series began with the BAA Boston Marathon last April, and the first of a two-year cycle continued with Flora London, Berlin, The LaSalle Bank Chicago; and the first year concluded with the ING New York City Marathon last month. The second year begins with BAA Boston on April 16, 2007, and will conclude with ING New York City in November 2007.
The World Marathon Majors will award a $1,000,000 prize purse after the conclusion of ING New York in 2007. Thereafter the World Marathon Majors seasons will overlap, keeping a two-year cycle, but awarding prize money each year.
Robert K. Cheruiyot of Kenya, the winner at Boston and Chicago, holds a commanding 25-point lead in the men’s series, while Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia (second at Boston 2006) holds a 10-point margin over Berhane Adere of Ethiopia and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya (winner of Boston 2006).
Cheruiyot set a course record last year of 2:07:14. The women’s record is 2:20:43, set by Margaret Okayo of Kenya in 2002. Could this be the year that a woman breaks 2:20 on this demanding course; or could a man take it below 2:07? We will see on April 16.
The BAA and the Boston Marathon have supported the development of American runners, which is beginning to show results. Evidence was overwhelming last year as five of the top ten men at Boston were Americans. The Hansons-Brooks Distance Project was an important contributor. This development will be critical with the 2008 Olympics looming, and with the high expectations created with two marathon medals in Athens in 2004.
The Historic BAA
The Boston Athletic Association is more than just the Boston Marathon. The BAA is the oldest running club in the nation, dating from 1887, and it remains a powerful competitive force today. The BAA also administers the BAA Half Marathon (October), and the famous Mayor’s Cup Cross Country races (also October) in the beautiful Emerald Necklace of Boston and Franklin Park respectively. The BAA has an amazing history, as many members of the original US Olympic team who competed in Athens in 1896 were BAA members. It was they who brought back the concept of the Marathon based on the spirit and inspiration of that first Olympic race, which ran from the village of Marathon to the Stadium in Athens. The following year, 1897, they instituted the BAA Boston Marathon and chose to run it on Patriots Day, April 19. This has always been a big holiday in Massachusetts due to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the opening salvos of the American Revolution. Boston was held on April 19 until 1969 when the holiday was changed to the third Monday of April.
The team competition is often overlooked at Boston because of so many high profile elite runners. But for some it is one of the most enjoyable and competitive aspects of this venerable marathon. The Hansons-Brooks Distance Team set a new team cumulative record (top three score) with 6:40:30 last year. This eclipsed the previous mark of 6:56:58 set by the Central Mass Striders in 1991. The host BAA won the women’s open team title in 2006 with the second best time ever, 8:19:57. The open record was set by the New Zealand Flying Kiwis (8:11:53) in 1994. The Whirlaway Racing Team won the men’s masters title for the fourth consecutive year (7:58:51), while the San Luis Distance Club captured the women’s masters (9:44:13).
Down the Road—Olympic Trials
There will be double excitement in April of 2008. The BAA will host the US Women’s Olympic Trials on Marathon weekend. The trials race will be held in Boston and Cambridge, and run on a four-loop course that will be ideal for spectators—and very, very flat for the runners. The Trials will be held on Sunday, with the BAA Boston Marathon going on Monday, April 15, of Marathon Weekend.
Boston—The One and Only
Boston 2007 promises to be one of the best ever; the field will be limited to 22,500. For the fortunate runners who are accepted, it will be quite a weekend: The John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo is one of the best in the business, and will be open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (John Hancock has been sponsoring the Boston Marathon since 1986); the BAA Freedom Run (2.8 miles on Sunday morning), and the pasta dinner (free to all entrants with additional tickets available) will be part of the celebration. The 26.2-mile course is unmatched in terms of spectators and support, with timing and digital clocks every 5K, and digital clocks every mile. There will be thousands of enthusiastic, helpful volunteers, as always. The awards ceremony is inspiring, and everything will be topped off with the Post Race Party—also free to participants. There is no marathon like The Boston.