Kathy and Doug (Sandy's folks) asked about a reference I made to the Tucson Marathon in my Imogene post. Well my second big athletic goal this year (after the Ironman) is to qualify to run the Boston Marathon. Boston is probably the granddaddy of American marathons. It was first run in 1897 (following the introduction of the marathon as an event in the 1896 Olympics) and is the world's oldest marathon. It is one of the world's great marathons and, at least within the United States, may only be rivaled by New York in prestige.
However, the main thing runners know about Boston is that, unlike most marathons, you can't just sign up and show up to participate. No, to run Boston you have to actually qualify, by running a designated qualifying time in another sanctioned marathon in the 18 months before you want to compete. As far as I know, Boston is the only "standard" marathon that has this requirement (races like the Olympic trials and "extreme" marathons such as Pikes Peak may also have qualifying standards). And the qualifying times, weighted by age and gender, are not easy to obtain. For example, if you are a guy under the age of 34, you need to run a 3:11 or better to qualify. This is pretty fast for 26.2 miles. At last year's Denver Marathon, only 48 out of 1,578 runners broke 3:11 (granted the Denver course is pretty tough and the weather was atrocious last year). At Portland (a popular qualifier with a flat course) only 185 of 7,700 broke 3:11. In other words, you need to be pretty fast just to qualify for Boston, and for most runners, qualifying is a lifetime goal of sorts.
With that being said, there are three strategies I am using to try and qualify for Boston (something I have had my eyes on for 15 years).
First, pick a year when I move up an age group and as a result get an extra 5 minutes in my qualifying time. For me, this means that if I qualify for the 40-44 age group, I can qualify with a 3:21 as opposed to a 3:15 for the 35-39 age group. The trick here is that I can qualify for the 40-44 age group even though I am actually 39 as long as I will be 40 at the time of Boston (April of 2009). Pretty cool, huh.
Second, pick a fast course. This is a past-time of people trying to qualify for Boston, debating the fastest courses. The fastest courses are usually largely downhill, but can't exceed certain standards to be sanctioned. Maybe the most popular is the one in St. George, UT which drops 2,600 vertical feet from start to finish; last year 394 runners broke 3:11 out of 5,155.
However, St. George did not work for me this year because of its timing (early October). Instead, after considerable analysis of different marathons and qualifying times, I came up with the Tucson Marathon which drops almost 2,200 feet from start to finish. Tucson is also within driving distance of Durango and takes place December 7, which gives me enough time to adequately train.
Finally, strategy number 3 is to try and get this done before the twinkies arrive, because who knows when I'll get another chance to do it after that. In this respect, because I get 18 months to use my time I'll probably actually try to run in Boston in 2010, not 2009.
By the way, my legs are still fried from Imogene. Sunday wasn't too bad, but Monday and Tuesday, I was barely able to walk because my quads were thrashed, and stairs were a real adventure. Weds. was a little better, so yesterday I tried to do a Tempo run (2*3 miles at 7:15 with 1 mile between). That was a disaster; I did my first mile in about 7:30 and pulled the plug after 1.5 miles. They still hurt today, although it is getting better. I'm hoping I'm okay to do a long run (2:30) this weekend.
Wish me luck.