By John Powers and Susan Bickelhaupt, Globe Staff, 4/20/2003
fter limiting the size of the marathon field to 15,000 for the past two years, the Boston Athletic Association has made a concession to the growing number of older runners and younger women and eased its qualifying times for those over 45. The result: The number of starters has grown to more than 20,000, the most ever except for the 100th running in 1996, which accommodated a world-record 38,708.
"If there's a problem, the BAA will bring it back down," said David D'Alessandro, chairman and chief executive of sponsor John Hancock Financial Services, who says he has no problem with the larger field. "I think the difference between 15,000 and 20,000 doesn't matter. The difference between 20,000 and 30,000 matters. Then it's big."
Even at 20,000 entrants, Boston is still dramatically smaller than the New York and Chicago races, which each had more than 30,000 finishers last year.
Bill Rodgers, four-time winner of the Boston Marathon and one of the original inductees into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in Utica, N.Y., helped announce the three athletes who will be inducted this year, on July 12.
Four-time Olympian George Young, former mile record-holder and Olympian Jim Ryun, and world record-holder Mary Decker Slaney will join the five-year-old Hall this summer. The electees, who were not present, were announced at a press conference yesterday.
"Cross-country and track and field is the biggest participatory sport in America," Rodgers said. "So the distance-running connection is to show the young people in this country that for decades there's been a lot of success by our runners, and to keep that in the public eye. The sport doesn't have the money it should, but it does have the power of an Olympic heritage and a lot of participation at the highest level."
Rodgers was part of the Hall's inaugural class of 1998, along with Frank Shorter, Ted Corbitt, Kathrine Switzer, and Joan Benoit Samuelson.
They're No. 1
Defending champions Rodgers Rop and Margaret Okayo were given their bib numbers (1 and F1, respectively) at a ceremony yesterday morning at the Fairmont Copley Plaza honoring past Marathon winners. BAA vice president Tom Grilk also honored the winners of the Marathon from 50, 35, and 20 years ago. Keizo Yamada of Japan, who won the race in 1953, and Runner's World editor Amby Burfoot, who won in 1968, were given their bib numbers to wear in the race tomorrow. Greg Meyer and two-time winner Samuelson, who both won in 1983, also were honored.