Qualifying for Boston has been a long term goal ever since finishing my Marathon a couple of years ago. After selling out in less than eight hours last year, however, it was evident that they'd have to do something about the qualifying standards and that has brought a new urgency to taking a shot at that goal. With the existing standards, I was looking at having to run the distance in 3:10:59 or less to make the cut (an average pace of 4:31/km or 7:17/mi). That is within the realm of possibilities, but it's skirting the outer edges of what I can do so if it is tightened much more it'll likely close the door.
Today the BAA announced it's verdict on what will be done for the 2012 and 2013 marathons. For the 2012 marathon, the qualifying standards remain the same but they've added a graduated registration system that will allow faster runners earlier access. For 2013, the base qualifying standards will be tightened up by 5 minutes and the 59 second grace period will be removed (effectively meaning 6 minutes). Given the scenario they had little choice but to do something, and this seems to be about the fairest way to handle it that I can imagine. Given a finite supply of spots, it's certainly better for them to go to faster runners rather than those who are lucky enough to get through an overloaded web server.
With that said, it does make things a bit more complicated on my end and is going to require some consideration. I don't think that the 3:05 standard coming in for 2013 is possible for me, so this year will likely be my last opportunity in the immediate future to take a realistic shot at it. Unfortunately, with the progressive registration there is a high probability that it will be sold out before the general qualifiers round comes up (effectively tightening it to 3:05 (or worse) anyway). Shooting for 3:10 will require a lot of work and likely some significant compromises on my Triathlon training, so the thought of working my arse off, getting that time and it all being for naught is disconcerting.
Naturally, the other option would be to simply wait until I'm 35 and aim for a 3:10 marathon at that juncture. At this point I've only run one marathon, and I would have liked to have a few more under my belt before taking a shot at such an aggressive target. Working a few longer distance Triathlons into the mix would be beneficial as well, as their longer duration (~4-5 hours for a HIM, ~11-12 hours for a full) would do a lot to boost my confidence. I'm not that far off so the extra age likely won't hurt me too much, and while I'll have to be 59 seconds faster that's not likely a huge problem. The other benefit is that I'll have a better idea of how big a risk things selling out are as right now that's an unknown quantity. Further, depending on when I run the qualifying race, it may be possible to try and register the next year.
Either way, I've got a lot of thinking to do at this point and have to come to a conclusion quickly as formal training will have to start soon. Given the Triathlon schedule I had hoped to do the marathon in the fall, but with the registration deadline on September 19th I might have to do it in the spring (as most of the fall marathons are after that date). With that said, it's good to finally have a concrete answer on what I'm up against as it will allow me to make a more objective assessment of the different options.
With all of that said, as much as this arrangement doesn't work out terribly well for me I do have to give the BAA credit for coming up with a fair system to handle this. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place here and a tough decision had to be made. Given a fixed number of openings, the standards need to be designed so that the fastest runners are the ones that get them.