Monday, April 21, 2008

Patriot's Day and The Boston Marathon Debate

Today is Patriot's Day. If you live west of the Appalachian mountains you may be asking, 'What?' Courtesy of Wikipedia comes our definition:

Traditionally it was designated as April 19 in observance of the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. Since 1969, however, the holiday has been observed on the third Monday in April, providing a three-day long weekend. It is also a school holiday for many local colleges and universities, both public and private.

Patriot's Day is also the day the Boston Marathon is run. This year I have two female, younger cousins running. So it is an exciting day for the entire family. Although, I'm reasonably sure that I am the only person in my family watching it online and taping it; I'll watch the pre-game, the entire marathon and the post-game. I know...geek!

The cousins just finished; one re-qualified for Boston (at Boston) with a minute to spare and the other just missed by 1:15! Aw! We talked about their races and the qualifying times over the holidaze in December. One of my cousins (the younger one from a killer university level running program) feels the women's qualification times are too easy. (Yes, you read that correctly.) She believes that they will be lowered in the near future because of the great running going on in the world of women's marathoning. I'm not sure I agree with the "times are too easy" part, but at 26 years old, age hasn't caught up with her...yet, and she is an elite runner. My older cousin feels that they are just about right for the "old ladies" - since she is slightly younger than I am - what the hell does that make me? (He said pulling on a gray hair behind his ear. Its from work you know. I'm not getting old(er). De-Nile isn't only in Egypt.)

Not being a woman, I have no idea if these times are right or wrong. So I put a poll on the top of the blog to ask what you think. Is Krista right? I'm not sure. So we'll settle it here!

I can speak to the men's times. I think they are somewhere between about right to a little fast. I know to qualify as a "pup" (under 34 yrs old), that a man has to run 3:10:59 or better - that is 7:14/mile for 26.2 miles. Seems to be about right. What the Boston Athletic Association is saying is that you must be a pretty good runner to get into arguably one of the most prestigious running races in the world. Up to 35, you get another five minutes - 3:15:59 or 7:26/mile. Again...about right.

Let's look at the pros and the world record where we really see a difference.
Over the last 25 years the men's world marathon record has gone from roughly 2:09:00 to 2:04:26. A difference of 4:34. I have said or at least 10 years that someone will break 2 hours in a marathon in my lifetime. I think we are getting into that "mental block" zone just like the four minute mile. Nobody will do it for years and then everyone will do it; what I mean is going 1:59:59 for the marathon or 4:34/mile pace for 26.2 miles. Talk about puke! 2:04:26 is 4:44/mile, which is 1:11/quarter mile for 26.2 miles. Impressive - only because I don't know of a better adjective.

The women have had a much larger drop in the marathon world record over the same period of time. The world record has dropped from 2:27:00 to 2:12:25 which is 5:03/mile. That time drop is 12:25! My two cents on this; now days women are getting more of a chance to compete and train which has yielded these faster times. Remember, it wasn't too long ago when women had to bandit a marathon race because "medical professionals" thought that a woman would drop dead if they even tried to run a marathon. Women are just starting to get to their potential and now many think women have an "advantage" running ultra marathons and Ironman races.

What have I decided? Well, I say leave the times where they are for now. We are still coming out of a period of inequality for women's sports. We need to keep women involved in sports as we all age. Not necessarily for our own health and fitness, but for children and children to come. Kids these days are seeing mommy finish a marathon or an Ironman and that has to be good to see a parent plan, train and work hard to achieve a goal. I think this "rubs off" on the kids and is a lasting impression on "who" they are and what their family is all about.

This really puts people like Joanie, Paula (PNF), Natasha and other elite women's accomplishments into perspective doesn't it?

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