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January 7, 2010 / elodie kaye

Bee Queue

I am an elitist.  By definition, because I graduated from one of those snotty Boston schools, I have to be.  I like the idea of qualified races, and in fact wish there were more of them.  Having admitted this, I don’t particularly have any burning desire to run Boston.  I’d like to qualify, sure.  I assert that the greatest value of the Boston marathon, and the reason it gets discussed so much is exactly because they have drawn this line in the sand.  Virtually everyone who has run more than one marathon knows whether they have met the qualifying time for their age group. There are more scientific, more accurate (frankly more just) age-graded performance measures to be sure, but none of them have such great marketing behind them.  No one cares.

One of my running acquaintances, Josh, is 22 years old.  His slow jog covers a mile in 7:30 minutes, a speed which is almost a minute per mile faster than my best 5K time.  The other day, I learned that his one marathon was about 25 minutes off his BQ.  Though we will never run together, we have something in common.  Some day, our running ambitions may align.

Another of my running friends, Sheila, is 46.  On any given day we can run together, chattering like a couple of magpies the whole way, no matter what each of us may be training for.  She has attempted a BQ seven times.  That’s the number of times she has actually lined up and either finished the marathon, or conceded because conditions made it clear she would not achieve her goal time.  If we counted the number of times she’s been injured before marathon day, that number would be nearly twice as many.  Like a general going to war, she has analysed her nutrition, cross-trained, surveyed the most favourable courses, and sought the advice of wise men.  Not once, but Seven Times.

She thinks she’ll probably never have a BQ.  For her, it has become an absolute measure of her limits.  I don’t have the same limits, but she is the better runner for having touched hers.  It’s disappointing to be sure, but how many recreational runners have trained so hard that they can honestly conclude that they’ve approached the boundaries of their genetic inheritance? I haven’t, but I want to.

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