If you listened carefully Thursday morning, you may have heard it; the collective exhale from runners around Boston and throughout the country, waiting to hear about the field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon. Runners uncertain about their chances of getting into next spring’s race just learned their chances may be a little better than they thought.
Thursday morning, the Boston Athletic Association announced the field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon will be 36,000, and increase of 9,000 runners from the 2013 race. The BAA recognized the “significantly increased interest” in registering for the 2014 race and thanked the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the 8 cities and towns along the marathon route for their cooperation in making the field size increase possible.
Of the 9,000 additional entries, over 4,500 will be filled by runners who did not complete the 2013 Boston Marathon. Registration for this group of runners closed at 5pm on Thursday, and about 80% of those eligible registered. I’m not at all surprised, though I would have guessed closer to 90%. No one wants to miss this race.
Thirty-six thousand runners is a lot of people. According the 2000 US Census, Hopkinton, MA, home to the starting line, has a population of just over 13,000 residents. On Marathon day, the runners alone will triple that. And then there are the spectators and the media.
Fenway Park holds just over 37,000 people. Imagine a Sox game ending and everyone running down the street. The new field size is sure to lead to some operational changes in the race.
The increased field size does not guarantee even qualified runners entry into the 2014 marathon. Qualified runners must still register on a rolling basis, with those with the best qualifying times (more than 20 minutes faster than the required time) registering first, starting Sept 9. Registration opens to additional qualifiers every few days, first to those with times 10 minutes faster, then 5 minutes faster than required and finally anyone who met the qualifying standard until the race reaches capacity.
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is not an easy accomplishment for most people. Meeting the qualifying standard for Boston, or “BQ-ing” is a goal for many marathoners, including this one. Knowing there was increased interest in this year’s race, many of the runners I know who had qualified did not feel entirely confident that their time was good enough to allow them to register before all spaces were filled. While the expanded field size still does not guarantee entry for all qualified runners, it does increase their chances of getting in.
Outside of meeting the qualifying standards, runners can register for the Boston Marathon through many local charities that offer bibs in exchange for runners fundraising for their organizations. There were no changes made to the non-qualified entries given to existing participating charities. The Alzheimer’s Association, the charity I have run for since 2006, receives 10 entries. Last year they received 150 applications. This year they will receive 10 entries again, but I bet they will get closer to 400 applications. Just a (somewhat educated) guess, though I hope I’m wrong. Because one of those applications will be mine.
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