On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Boston Marathon statistics

So, yesterday my internets were ablaze with the fact that the Boston Marathon sold out faster than a Justin Bieber concert.  The race opened and closed faster than - never mind.  I was about to make an inappropriate joke.

Listen: I get why you're excited.  Most of us will never run in the Olympics or the Olympic trials or even routinely place at local races.  But Boston is a goal that's attainable for serious runners.  And I'm appropriately jealous.

One thing that's been brought up - by at least the WSJ, if not the BAA - is lowering the qualifying standards for women.  Evidently women's racing (both in participation and elite finishing times) has outpaced men's.  Should they tighten the standards to prevent their servers from freaking out next year?  Doesn't much matter to me.  Boston is far enough beyond me that it's not a realistic goal for me any time soon.  But it kind of does  matter, in that it's not just Boston but all races that seem to be filling up like wildfire.  Supply for race entries can barely keep up with demand, and new races are popping up everywhere.  Registration for Chicago closed in March, nearly 8 months before the race was scheduled to take place.
Real picture of the BAA's servers this morning.
Okay, I'm kidding.
Back to the standards.  My marathon PR is 4:43 - a full hour off of my Boston qualifying standard of 3:40 (now, if only I was 65 instead of 26 when I ran that, I would have qualified with two minutes to spare!). So like I said: I'm out of the running (PUN INTENDED).  I thought to myself, "I should organize the Anti-Boston Race!"  ...and then I said, "don't they call that the 2010 Chicago Marathon?"

So, I ran some numbers.  (When someone says something like "run some numbers," you're supposed to be impressed, especially if that person works in the humanities.)  How many Chicago finishers qualified for Boston?  I focused on the women because, you know, I am one and all.

16108 women finished the Chicago Marathon.
1242 women qualified for Boston at the Chicago Marathon.
7.7% of women who finished the 2010 Chicago Marathon qualified for Boston.

By age group, qualifiers/finishers (and percentage):
16-34: 570/8513 (6.7%)
35-39: 175/2551 (6.9%)
40-44: 216/2247 (9.6%)
45-49: 164/1416 (11.6%)
50-54: 71/802 (8.9%)
55-59: 26/327 (8%)
60-64: 15/126 (11.9%)
65-69: 3/29 (10.3%)
70-74: 2/7 (29%)

I was one of 92% of female finishers of the 2010 Chicago Marathon who did not qualify for Boston.  And I'm okay with that.  Also?  When I'm in my 70s, still running, I'm SO getting a top-ten age group finish.


  1. You crack me up...I love your blog! I couldn't qualify for Boston in a million years but have no small amount of envy those who can.

  2. your marathon PR is my dream!

  3. The Marine Corps Marathon sold out in 6 days this year (versus a month last year -- and they have 30,000 people). The Army Ten Miler sold out in one day with 30,000 entries, while last year it took a week with 25,000 entries. The Cherry Blossom Ten Miler started the lottery system for this year's race, because in the previous year, all 12,000 entries sold out in 2.5 hours. I'm not surprised that Boston sold out so quick!

  4. This is interesting. I wonder what the percentage of men is on each age group?

    The spike in qualifiers for women in their 40s and 50s also confirms something that's pretty well known - many women peak at running in their 40s.

    I guess I'll qualify when I'm 45. Haha. Missed it by 9 minutes at Chicago this year!

  5. Okay, it's official, I'm in the wrong age group. Is there any way to add years to your age?

  6. I think that tonight I'm going to figure out how many men qualified and also how many women qualified last year under much better conditions.

    I should have figured that out last night but the Yankee game was on and by the time I was done writing this, well, there's a chance I'd had one too many beers to do any math.

  7. Yes, Tracy, I'd love to see the comparison men to women in terms of percentage of qualifiers vs non-qualifiers. A quick look at Boston results from this year shows that women made up 42% of finishers. As you point out, lots of men (particularly) complain that women's qualifying standards are too easy compared to men's. That 42% suggests that - at least from the standpoint of those who qualify and then go on to register and run Boston - the claim is perhaps not warranted. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the number of people who actually qualify. (Hoping that this makes sense...)

  8. It's amazing how fast the big races sell out these days, although that could just be a factor of more people in general running than anything else. More runners + same amount of spots = higher demand.

    My solution to qualifying for Boston is to just keep running until I'm 80. As long as I don't get any slower, I'll be in.