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Marathon notebook

Race features multiple changes from top to bottom

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / April 15, 2011

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From revamped leadership to a new registration process and lower qualifying times, the Boston Athletic Association is swept up in a sea of change as race weekend for Monday’s 115th Boston Marathon begins.

When you’re throwing a party for 27,000 competitors and perhaps as many as 500,000 spectators, focusing on the here and now is obviously important. But the BAA is also casting an eye toward the future, when they hope a smoother online registration procedure will give them a real idea of how many qualified runners are interested in taking part in this marathon.

“It’s been quite a transition for the organization, which isn’t known for a lot of change,’’ said Guy Morse, the longtime executive director of the BAA who was recently named senior director of external affairs. “But we’ve decided to really make some changes, all for the right reasons.’’

Thomas Grilk moved from being the organization’s president to its executive director, with Joann Flaminio becoming the first female president in the 123-year history of the BAA. Dave McGillivray remains the marathon’s race director. Together, they’ll oversee a race that became snarled in controversy last October when thousands of runners who had qualifying times were shut out of entering when all race positions were snatched up online in an eight-hour stretch. That episode has resulted in a new system starting with next year’s race, while the possibility of increasing the field remains.

“We’re all about quality, not about quantity,’’ McGillivray said. “People expect a certain standard from us, and hopefully every year they get just that, a high standard. We take it very seriously, how we conduct business. One way to do a decent job is to not get greedy and add way too many people and blow our fuse.

“We have self-imposed field size limits. This year it’s 27,000. Next year we don’t know, we’ll see how this year goes and determine next year what that limit should be.’’

To deal with the high volume of runners, gone is the two-wave start from years past; three waves, each numbering roughly 9,000, will be used this year.

True Patriots Once again, the Patriots Day race will include a nice tie-in to the military, two of whom were recognized yesterday for their drive to run Boston. Clarence Hartley, who at 81 is the oldest runner expected to compete, was a 24-year Air Force veteran who flew 104 combat missions over Southeast Asia before taking up competitive running at 68.

“I’m so happy to be able to run on Patriots Day,’’ he said. “I’m proof, if people want to try something, they can make it work.’’

Aaron Hunnel, a 26-year-old Wisconsin National Guard member, earned his spot after competing in last year’s satellite Boston Marathon from Iraq, where he was deployed.

“Two years ago, if you asked me if I’d ever run a marathon I’d have said, ‘no way,’ ’’ Hunnel said.

Tracking numbers Racers will notice slight changes this year. A bib tag will be used for the first time, with the chip keeping each racer’s official time attached to the bib instead of a shoe. Also, the fluid stations for the elite runners will be set up differently: Women on one side, men on the other.

That way, McGillivray said, nobody will be at a disadvantage if an elite group is running in a pack; they’ll all be able to pick up fluids close together, set up on 10 tables that correspond to the runner’s bib number.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com.

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