The Annual Boston Debate

Here we go again.  It’s Boston Marathon time.  THE. BOSTON. MARATHON. Every year someone posts about how ridiculous it is for “not fast” runners to run Boston.  The terrible charity runner.  Shame on them for running for a cause. posted the link to Marathonjunkie’s blog and post on how terrible the whole Boston situation is and I couldn’t help but read.  It sparked a huge debate on his blog and the Runitfast blog.  The last two paragraphs really had me thinking.

The main comments that stuck in my head were  “no one left behind” and “everyone gets a medal” and “I earned mine…I am not just buying the medal”  and the “but with enough money or the ability to harass your friends.”  He also said that charity runners should question where their funds go and should donate fundraising dollars straight to the charity-don’t fund raise to get into a race.

Where to begin.  I have so many thoughts and hope they all make sense.

Let me start off my saying I agree and disagree.  I would LOVE to qualify for Boston.  With a lot of dedication and hard work I do think it is possible…one day (based on my 1/2 marathon time-post on this to come at a later date).

I am a charity runner.  I 100% support people who run for a cause.  Not only are you putting your blood, sweat and tears into training, you are raising thousands and thousands of dollars for a cause that is near and dear to your heart.  And I know, especially in this economy, that fundraising is not easy.  It can become a part time job in addition to your training.   I know that, at least with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 76% of the funds goes towards the charity.  I know my money is being used in a very powerful way and I know families who have benefited from it.

I feel as though Marathonjunkie’s elitist tone was a bit unnecessary.  Yes, it is his blog, but come on.  He knew he would strike a few nerves.  He speaks of runners who can’t run a sub 3:30 marathon as waste-of-space type of runner.  While I may be “fast” in many peoples eyes, I still suck in his.  THAT I don’t understand.  I continue to work on getting faster, I want to have fun, and quite frankly, I bust my ass to toe the line for 26.2 miles like any other runner and shouldn’t be thought of in a negative way.

I think it is absolutely ridiculous that he thinks the charity runner should have a different medal.  WTF. Should all race medals get smaller and smaller as the clock time ticks on?  Those runners will still run 26.2 miles.  They deserves whatever medal is given to everyone–no matter how you got to the race.  I guess my Big Sur medal and Goofy Challenge medal deserve an asterisk because I ran them with TNT?

Do I think that there should be more spots open for the faster runners?  Sure.  Cut back on the charity spots by one to two thousand and give those who “earned” their way there a shot.  Would I be pissed if I had a qualifying time but couldn’t get in?  I’m sure I would.  Make all of them start at the back of the race, I think that is totally fine.  But again, there is no reason to speak of these runners in such a negative way as if they aren’t even human.

I don’t think that I personally would run Boston through a charity—I do want to earn my way there.  But I by no means judge those or think negatively of those who do.  A race is a race and this running community is supposed to be one of support.  It is not typically one to judge and discredit those who train really hard and really enjoy this sport but can’t quite get “fast enough” to qualify for Boston.

Bottom line: I agree with moving the charity runners to the back and cutting back on those runners (or adding more spots for “faster runners).  I do not think that they should have a different bib or medal.  I also do not think that charity runners deserve to be treated in a negative way.  And honestly, that is what bothered me so much about marathonjunkie’s post.  His tone.  Just be positive.

I am proud to be a runner.  I am proud of what I have accomplished.  I love the support I have found through this blog, Twitter, Runitfast, dailymile, Facebook, and Half Fanatics.  Thank you for letting me BE a runner-even if I haven’t hit my BQ qualifying time yet.  Hopefully, Marathonjunkie, one day I will.

What are your thoughts?  Would you run Boston as a charity runner?  Do you think it is that big of a deal?  Or do you agree with his thoughts (or tone)? Should charity runners get a different medal?


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  • I understand where he's coming from, but I don't agree about his tone or the different medal idea. As someone who is trying to qualify for Boston, selfishly I do want a distinction once I do qualify. But I think that runners out there understand the difference between "I ran the Boston Marathon" and "I qualified for the Boston Marathon". I think that's a good enough distinction. –Owen

  • His tone is pretentious, but I understand the sentiment. I have never run a marathon. Who knows if I will ever qualify for Boston. However, with the time requirements getting more and more difficult to achieve, it is a true honor to get a BQ. It makes me sad to read about all the people who finally BQ, only to not gain entry into the race due to space limitations… these spaces that go to charity runners who have not qualified. I think it would better serve Boston and the whole notion of the sought-after BQ to make it so that the majority (if not all) charity spaces go to runners who have qualified but might not have gotten into the race.

  • I suppose I can see both sides of it. I do not know the statistics of how many people qualified and tried to register but did not get in (I'm sure I read it somewhere!). I do not see a problem with having a certain number of charity spots available but perhaps it will come to the point where Boston charity spots still require some sort of qualifying standards as well. I have absolutely nothing against charity runners and think it's a great thing and motivator for many people and many reasons.

  • Ok I have nothing wrong with charity runners either but I don't think they should take up qualified runners spots. Lets go back to the roots of the race itself. It was started as a local competition event, not a fund raiser. I am all for raising $ for your cause but this happens to be the most famous marathon in the US! For those of us that qualify and run it for the competitive nature, we should not be denied a spot. Although his tones may have been offensive, I think Marathonjunkie makes a good point. This race at its heart is meant to be for elite level runners who qualify. What about choosing from runners who qualify to rep the charity as opposed to the person who raises the $?? Or what about a separate Boston event for those who raise the funds? The problem I have is that I feel like the is getting "used". What would the Olympics be like if people were able to fund raise their way in? Extreme example, yes, but there are qualifying standards for a reason for the Olympics. Shouldn't those be upheld for Boston too? I may very well be one of those runners who does not get a spot when registration opens and you can bet I will be upset.

  • I realized that my early response might have appeared directed to one person. I am reposting with that statement omitted.

    I said nothing of it being a smaller medal. I said nothing about not respecting a 3:30 marathon. I have run several myself and I am very proud of those races. Hell I ran Chicago one year in OVER 5 HOURS and it was an absolute joy to finish that 26.2 miles. My post was about BOSTON and I think people are taking liberties with my words. Re-read what I wrote. I stand by it.
    I think it would be an AMAZING feat for the Boston charity runners to INCREASE in number an be given a BIGGER medal. It was my hope to motivate them to see Boston the way I grew up seeing it. As an unique race with a history, tradition and legacy of being for some of the better runners. DO NOT take my words out of context or put words in my mouth. If you think I am elitist….GOOD. Understand that my 2:31 pr is faster than many runners and my nearly 300 marathons in a few more than most. I like to run. It's that simple. My times may be better than some, but that DOES NOT make me better. I know my place and it is in wave 1 of Boston….at least this year….BEHIND the true elites. I have been a charity runner and I have raised funds. I NEVER expected nor did I ask to be recognized, honored or given an entry based on my ability to raise money. It should be a selfless act done without expectation of remuneration of any type. That, to me, would be truly selfless. I stand by my statements. Fortunately, for the haters, the BAA runs the race as a business now and certainly having more charity runners looks good for the image of the BAA. I suspect that if they go strictly time-qualifiers only the number would drop by more than half. That would be bad, but I'd like to see 'em do it for one year and find out.
    If you think this was controversial. Wait unitl you see my thoughts on tuesday.
    How many of you would have had a chance to express your opinion or even bothered to post something about the "charity" thing if I had written about it… I'm just glad I was able to make you ponder maybe just a little bit.
    Thanks for writing and #RIF while #RUNMORE


  • It is so funny that so many people get ruffled about this year after year. The charity runners are not taking the qualifiers spots at all. BAA sets a number of spots for the qualifiers and once they are gone the qualifiers still have time to join a charity if they really want to experience Boston. If people don't want to raise money then that is their choice. Also the charities usually set up their own bus transportation and meeting locations in Hopkinton, so even there they are not taking up "qualifier" space. BAA also gives a bunch of bibs to the race sponsors, all the towns, police departments and hospitals along the course… who cares. Those folks unlikely qualified but they still get to go because it is good business for BAA.
    Several Boston-area charities are raising money for organizations that are near and dear to Bostonians hearts and that have helped so many people – The Jimmy Fund, Children's Hospital, Shriner's, Dana Farber Cancer… how can anyone think anything less of people raising money for these organizations? So weird. An old friend of mine not only was a BQ runner time and again, she was also a part of the Children's Hospital charity team. Suddenly she is my new hero.
    As far as I am aware, the start corrals are based on time, so while there may be some overlap with charity/qualifiers once you get to the blue corral, I doubt the slower folks are mixed in with the sub 3:30 runners. Everyone knows that the red bibs are the super fast runners, white is the middle of the (Boston) pack and blue are the slowest.
    And really the only folks that truly matter are the ones who were at the press conference this morning in Boston with their yellow elite vests on. That's where the race is at and where the world's eyes will be fixed on Monday morning.

  • I proudly ran the 2012 Boston Marathon as a charity runner. I spent 10 years chasing a BQ after missing by 5 seconds in 2001, and when I finally caught it, the BAA changed the enrollment process. To top it off, the race course that I BQ'd on got slack for their start time and a hill that people didn't like, so they changed the start time of the race and they redesigned it to remove the hill.

    What have I learned from all this? The rules change all the time, and all you can do is the best you can and play by the rules. Last time I checked, supporting a charity was an official route to Hopkinton. People shouldn't look down on the charity runners. If they have such a problem, then boycott the BAA for selling out on its 'principles' about Boston only being for qualifiers. (#sarcasm)

    I am considered a pretty decent runner by many, but in the greater scheme of things, I'm just another race number. Literally, an also-ran. I'm just another guy trying to do the best he can with what he's got. I have a passion for running, but I have to say that the biggest negative to the sport are the smug elitists that thing their efforts are better than those of others.

    Good for you for your efforts!

    • I am running in a charity race this year. I am raising funds for the Fallen Heroes in Boston. Next year I hope to run for Multiple Sclerosis, which is what I am afflicted with. I don’t know if I will ever get a BQ or if I will even be able to walk let alone run next year, so this will be a life changing experience for me to look back on. I know that all my training runs will be worth every drop of sweat and blood knowing my 26.2 miles whether slow or speedy went to great causes.

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