The B.A.A. Half Marathon – A Tradition of Excellence Expands
The Boston Athletic Association continues to branch out and diversify with a successful Half Marathon through the city’s Emerald Necklace. This year the B.A.A. Half Marathon will be held on October 7th.
Posted Monday, 30 July, 2007
The B.A.A. is more than the Marathon
Everyone, at least every runner, in the world knows about the Boston Athletic Association’s big race, the B.A.A. Boston Marathon. There are starry-eyed children around the world right now dreaming of one day winning this most famous international marathon. For many, including myself, toeing the line in Hopkinton is a yearly rite of passage and as close as we will get to rubbing elbows with great athletes.
However, the big race is not the only B.A.A. venture. Since 2001 the legendary B.A.A. has been presenting another race, the B.A.A. Half Marathon. This event was established in an effort to compliment the B.A.A. Boston Marathon and provide the community with a shorter, more inclusive race which has also become a major fund raiser for cancer research.
In addition to the B.A.A. Half Marathon, the venerable B.A.A. also participates in sponsoring the Mayor’s Cup Cross Country Races in Franklin Park (Oct. 28th). This has become a premier national event that attracts a star-studded field.
In line with its partnership with Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund, the B.A.A. also supports the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk on the Boston Marathon course in September with over 7,000 participants (the only event other than the Marathon itself to be sanctioned to use the course).
If that weren’t enough to keep them busy, in 2008 the B.A.A. will host the U.S. Olympic Team Trials--Women's Marathon in Boston the day before the B.A.A. Boston Marathon.
This will undoubtedly be a big local story as it develops. Don’t be surprised to see the elite American women poking around the B.A.A. Half Marathon weekend. They will be trying to get a line on the new course being laid out for the Trials.
The big marathon in April is a massive international affair that aims to attract the cream of the international marathon crop. The B.A.A. Half Marathon was set up with the intent that it be a more locally focused event. The field, while large, is intentionally capped at 4500 to keep the race relatively small and enjoyable for both spectators and participants. The course is designed to show off a beautiful ribbon of parkland that has been a signature feature of Boston for over 100 years.
In creating the B.A.A. Half Marathon the B.A.A. has created a well-balanced bookend to their signature event in the spring. With all the other activities they participate in this event helps diversify their activities and continue their message across the running calendar year. Additionally, the Half Marathon also provides critical support to vital charities.
The B.A.A partners with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and The Jimmy Fund for the B.A.A. Half Marathon. This has become a very successful fundraising event in the continuing synergies between the B.A.A. and local charities.
A course that transcribes the Emerald Necklace in Boston
The B.A.A. Half Marathon is a race within the city of Boston. However, you will see very little ‘city’ on this course. Most of the time you will experience trees, shrubs, grass, ponds and parkway. A compelling characteristic of this race, and one that makes it uniquely Boston is the way they manage to encompass a 13.1-mile course within this beautiful string of metro parkland.
I have run this race and can assure you that this is not one of those artificially constructed courses that has you doing a bunch of loops, curlicues and 180 degree turns to squeeze into the available space. It is a scenic out and back on wide parkway roads rising gently from the Fens and turning around in Franklin Park. It’s a foliage-covered course with gentle inclines and good surfaces that make for excellent racing.
(I don’t want to make you jealous, but the year I ran they routed us through Fenway Park, around the field and on the Jumbotron! It was too cool!)
Frederick Law Olmsted, famous for, among other things, the design of New York’s Central Park, also designed the Emerald Necklace. It is one of the oldest series of public parks and parkways in the country. The Emerald Necklace stretches contiguously from the Boston Common to the Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park in Roslindale and Roxbury.
The B.A.A. Half Marathon starts in the Back Bay Fens, follows the Riverway, zips through Olmstead Park, the Arnold Arboretum, past Jamaica Pond, and turns around in Franklin Park. It is a great foot-tour of this historic slice of green. The B.A.A. Half helps draw attention to the park system that many take for granted or don’t even know exists.
History of the B.A.A. Half Marathon
It all started on a rainy day in 2001 when around 3,000 runners lined up for the inaugural B.A.A. Half Marathon. Four-time Boston Marathon champion and former Jamaica Plain resident Bill Rodgers said, "It was a spectacular, well-managed, and beautiful course". Perhaps in 112 years our sons and daughters will talk in awed tones of the early years.
The race was popular from the start, and fit nicely into the region’s fall racing calendar. The half marathon distance is a good challenge for many runners looking to step up from the 5k or 10k and has become more and more popular as a stepping-stone to the full marathon. New England has always been a hotbed of running and many of us train over the summer to qualify at or participate in a fall marathon. The B.A.A. Half is well situated to give marathoners a test to top-off-the-tank for NYC in November.
The field boasts many local and international elites, but also leaves room for the local mid-packers. Last year’s race was headed by speedy Kenyans taking the first three spots, led by Samuel Ndereba who finished in 1:03:03 and averaged 4:49 per mile. The Women’s race was similarly fast-paced with Marie Davenport of Ireland finishing in 1:12:09 at an average pace of 5:31 per mile.
Among the international stars the locals finished well with members of local running clubs sprinkled in amongst the top finishers. The B.A.A. fielded a large team and the sea of blue unicorn-emblazoned singlets were noticeable on the course. In the team competition the B.A.A. took first place, followed by the Cambridge Running Club and the Somerville Road Runners.
The 2007 race will kick off on October 7th at 8:00 a.m. at Roberto Clemente Field (behind the Boston Museum of Fine Arts). The field will be capped at 4,500 entries and always sells out early. The entry fee is $45. Each finisher will receive a T-shirt and a nice hefty medal.
Typical of a premier B.A.A. event there will be substantial prize money. Top finishers in the open, masters, team, and push rim wheelchair divisions will receive prizes from a total purse of $30,000. From 1st to 10th place, prizes are as follows: $5,000, $3,000, $1,500, $1,000, $600, $500, $400, $300, $200, and $100. Prizes for the top three athletes in the Master's Division (40-and-older) are: 1st: $500, 2nd: $300, and 3rd: $100. Awards for the top three athletes in the Push Rim Wheelchair Division are: 1st: $750, 2nd: $500, and 3rd: $250.
Awards will be presented to the top finishers overall, and the top three finishers in the following age groups: 19 and under, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80+, for women and men.
The B.A.A.– 120 years of promoting running in Boston
Founded in 1887, the B.A.A. has been promoting athletics, especially running, ever since. The race that would become known as the B.A.A. Boston Marathon was first held on April 19, 1897 with 15 runners and would go on to become one of the premier running events in the world. Many members of the American team for the first modern era Olympics in Greece (1896) came from the nascent B.A.A.
The B.A.A. actively supports running, fitness, and healthy lifestyles throughout the calendar year, and is involved with many local charities, including Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund.
The B.A.A. Running Club, meanwhile, continues the organization’s presence as a perennial contender at major New England road races, indoor and outdoor track meets, and cross country events. The club boasts a number of individuals who are regional champions participating in national and international competitions. The B.A.A. Running Club has a membership in excess of 300 runners, of which nearly one-third compete in the B.A.A.Boston Marathon.
Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund – Running for a Cure
The B.A.A. Half Marathon is one of three events where Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund partner with the BAA throughout the year (The B.A.A. Boston Marathon, the B.A.A. Half Marathon and the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk). Millions of dollars are raised by thousands of participants to fund cancer research each year.
The process of walking or running as part of a team to support charity seems so mainstream for us now that it is hard to imagine that it only began in 1989. It started with a few individuals looking for a way to combine their athletic endeavors with giving back through fund raising. This phenomenon has exploded into thousands of enthusiastic participants and millions of dollars raised.
Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund have a well-established charity program and running team with over 500 members. This group is so popular that there is a waiting list to get on it. The average Dana Farber Marathon Challenge team member raises over $7,000, more than double the national average. These are incredibly dedicated participant-athletes.
Last year over $4 million dollars were raised at the B.A.A. Half Marathon alone. Prior to this year over $30 million has been donated to support basic cancer research since the B.A.A. Half Marathon began.
Boston has always been known as the hub of long distance running. It is also a major hub of cancer research and care. Boston hosts one of the top five treatment centers in the country and hosts many specialists at the top of their fields.
The partnership of the B.A.A. and the Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund is a great chance for two local organizations to enhance each other’s missions for the good of the region. It’s all about combining the healthy lifestyle of athletics with saving lives and finding a cure.
Meet you at the Fens
Consider running the B.A.A. Half Marathon this year, or volunteer for a B.A.A. event. Even better, consider taking it to the next level and raising money for the Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund. If you can’t get in, come and cheer them on and enjoy the Emerald Necklace.
Boston, and New England, is a great place to live and run. As a local runner you should appreciate the year-round effort and care that goes into making the Boston area a magnet for our sport. We get to reap the benefits of over 100 years of B.A.A. running history, and we will be enjoying better health and more athletic opportunities as this local organization lives and grows with us into the future.