The 30-minute difference en route to Boston

If Mark had been a female, he would have qualified for the Boston Marathon a long time ago. (Then again, that would have caused all sorts of issues for our relationship, but you understand the point.)

Instead, Mark needed to PR the marathon by about 20 minutes to make the cut for the most prestigious marathon in the world.

See, Boston Marathon qualifying times have a 30-minute differential for men and women.

And as registration for the 2011 Boston Marathon opens on Monday, a Wall Street Journal article posed the question that comes up nearly every year: Are qualifying standards too low for women?

Ask my friend Belinda, who took seven or eight tries to crack her female qualifying standards. From her standpoint, I’m sure the time was hard enough. It became her goal, her mission, her brass ring. She worked for it and earned it.

But if it had been five minutes lower, would she have been able to work to obtain that?

Some bloggers have taken offense to the tone and stats used in the Wall Street Journal article and they make some fair criticisms, particularly the news outlet’s reliance on marathon times for elite runners as opposed to the mass of age group runners and their characterization of women as more “social” runners who tend to run in a pack and hence, slower, which drags down the average time for female marathon finishers.

So, do the times need to be adjusted?

There is math supporting multiple arguments — from keeping the status quo to complete overhaul to five-minute tweaks.

I’m never really convinced by the math.

But here is what I’m wondering: Would changing the standards for women be a nod for women’s advancement in running? If you up the standard are you trying to subtly force women out of the Boston marathon by making it too hard or are you trying to acknowledge the vast improvements in women’s running and encourage continued growth?

Which offers greater opportunity?

Would faster times allow women to rise to the challenge? Or would it discourage them?

0 Comments on “The 30-minute difference en route to Boston

  1. It’s an interesting question. I would ask whether mass numbers of women are exceeding the current standard. If the answer is yes (or yes for a certain age group), that may indicate a need to tighten the standards. If the answer is no (again, either across the board or by age group), the I would tend to think the current standards are hard enough. If a woman who has been trying to meet the current standard for five years and has not succeeded is suddenly told that now she needs to be even faster than the time she has not yet reached, I would think that would be discouraging.

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