Way before MarathonInvestigations wrote this article about transgender runners at Boston, I had already made my goal for 2017: Qualify for the Boston Marathon within the Male standards for my age. Was this even a realistic goal? Why would I go for the 3:05, when I would qualify as a female under 35 years old “needing” to run 3:35? Who actually determines the speed I can run?
Let me break down how important it was TO DO THIS FOR RESPECT OF WOMEN everywhere.
How are Boston Marathon qualifications determined? READ HERE
Women were only allowed to run marathon distances starting in 1972. At the Boston Marathon from 1972 – 1976 women of all ages were held to the same time standard as men of all ages of 3h:30m. Between 1977 -1979 in order to reduce the number of participants, BAA adjusted the times based on age for men: 19-39 3:00; 40+ 3:30. The adjustment made for women in this boom of 1977 -1979 was all ages must run a 3:05.
At those standards almost 8,000 runners ran in 1979 with just 6 years after women were allowed to publicly run the marathon female entrants doubled to 141! In 1980, you’ll see the Male 18-39 had to run 2:50, 40+ 3:10…. but women’s times were dropped to 3:20. The next year the times split for women, 19-39 3:20, 40+ 3:30. This enabled many more female masters to get into Boston Marathon where entrants doubled again to 456!
Between the years 1987-1989 the race was bought by a larger organization that could now accommodate up to 10,000 runners so BAA decided to slow the times, add age divisions by gender to encourage more runners to come out to run it. Only in 2012 did the “rolling” registration process start where instead of allowing everyone that qualified at the minimum times to get in, the field size limitations were filled by those that get invited by running faster.
Which brings me to the purpose of this blog post – who determines how fast I can run?
Women aggressively pushed their way literally into the marathon sport because they believed they could perform and compete toeing the line with any gender. The gender accommodations were primarily to inspire a runner of any age to discover what it would take to run The Boston Marathon.
Key 1) Courage & Work Ethic, not magical natural ability.
The challenge to figure out what it takes to qualify for Boston in the time standards by age is not about just a finish line, it has the impact of influencing how you look at your abilities, fears or any struggle in life. My husband’s first marathon ever in 2009 was 3:54. He did not grow up running, and for most of his 20s he weighed 275 lbs. He wore headto toe sweats and carried a Redbull can to refuel for each hour. He was super happy when his bucket list item was completed. Soon after that Roger’s asthma was one of the 2 reasons we moved to warm California, 2nd being the sun. While running for him is often painful and stiff, due to a damaged spine disc from power weightlifting injuries, he enjoys the freedom in it.
Two years went by with getting into short distance triathlon and half marathons only, the desire for running was a one and done. In the social meetups, he met a couple drunkard barely training peer runners that were still running sub-3:30s!? He decided to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon which at his age meant a 3:05! He had to not only work at getting back into marathon shape but also shave off almost an hour from his personal best! I watched him train, and after 5 marathon attempts in 3 months, which he only missed by 1 minute or 2… he qualified into Boston 2014 with 3:01! His courage and work ethic proved to me it was not just for the runners since birth.
Key 2) Discover your own spark, your why, in order to run as fast as YOU Can for Yourself – not for BAA.
Running a “Boston Qualifying Time” does not guarantee entry into the following year’s race because of the “rolling” registration and the course capacity. The way Boston satisfies the entry cut-off is by allowing the people that finished faster than the minimum required qualifying time to register first. In a sequence of anxiety-inducing email invitations to OTHER people the slots of entries fill up, 30 minutes under your age standard, 20 minutes under, 10, 5, etc. The closer you were to the standard qualifying time the lesser the chances of having slots left. This is not prejudice or sexist at all because the entry time emails are equal opportunity. If you can learn to run that time, regardless age or gender, you can get in.
My first marathon time was 3:29 in 2013, which turned out to be enough cushion to fulfill Roger’s dream of running Boston together on the same year of 2014. But until Boston Marathon happens in 2014, BAA lets you submit updated marathon finish times which can bump up your starting corral on race day! This is a HUGE advantage to start the race sooner because Boston Marathon is a giant race with thousands of runners. At Boston, Roger beat his qualifying time with a 2:54 and I ran 3:22, we were over the moon that could not imagine how to possibly run faster than that which re-qualified us for Boston at Boston! The “Spirit of Boston” is to stay hungry empowered to set a goal that scares you to get out of bed in the morning to not give up trying to reach it to learn what it takes to become it. We have not ran Boston again to allow others who haven’t had the chance yet to get in. An entry saved is an entry given – they still have to earn it.
At Boston we found out about the World Marathon Majors, that Boston qualifying times are faster than Chicago’s minimum requirement, but that we were both just about 10 minutes off from qualifying for NYC Marathon! WHAT??!! But NYC Marathon is for REAL RUNNERS! How could we ever find 10 minutes??
Key 3) Learn about your body and nutrition to address the facts & challenge the expectations of females (body frame size, menstral hormones, uterus will fall out, etc).
What happens when the weakness hormones are removed? The natural woman’s physiology has many obstacles, mainly menstrual cycle that effects how the body behaves from one week to the next… primarily bleeding. Granted both male and female bodies have hormones, but they are not alike. When I got the IUD that eliminates menstrual cycle, my body felt pretty stable all the time. I had the heart and mind of a female, but with the bodily freedom of a man’s. I felt it was part of my responsibility towards women that were progressing forward in running despite still having her cycle — to run the time of a male body that did not have the menstrual cycle. I had no excuse, why couldn’t a female try to run a male standard? I have legs, lungs, and will power too. I’m the same physically 31 days of the month.
I trained so dedicated for my A marathon in June 2017, my times were on point to get my sub-3:05… until mile 8. In training, due to not liking running in the dark my weekday runs were only 1 hour so I didn’t make the habit of taking a gel at mile 8. Unfortunately, I also forgot to eat on race morning & forgot my mile 8 gel… so I totally nose-dived that race attempt.
I re-trained nutrition & decided to visit my family in Philadelphia in Nov 2017. I needed to build my confidence again with a new course. The Philadelphia Half & Full Marathon sets up a weekend challenge, if you do the Half on Saturday and Marathon on Sunday you complete the Liberty Challenge and get a huge Liberty Bell medal! I decided to test my nutrition and run like a bat outta hell in the half marathon that was supposed to be 40 degrees out. Then see what else I had in my tank in the marathon on Sunday. I ended up going out too fast on Sunday that the 30mph winds got me at the end. I kept running until gear check to put my entire sweat layers on immediately. It was so windy the porta-potties were flipping over. HALF 1:26; FULL 3:10.
Now with my nutrition mission fixed, I could recover for 2 weeks before the next A race attempt at sub-3:05… California International Marathon (CIM). This race was near my grand-aunt so it was a win-win to visit them.
I kept humble expectations to follow my own plan of the pace, of positivity, of nutrition & courage. Not because I was a woman, not for fear of failure, but because I wanted to fight the way 1972 women fought their way to the Boston marathon with performance – within the men’s standards because on the course we all become runners.
I finally saw 3:02 on the clock!
Now that people are changing their genders, sport should respectfully become basically unisex standards again & only accommodation for Masters or 18-39. Having a female body is completely different variables to the transgender female dynamic. While I have my hormone-suppressant IUD that stops my menstrual cycle, I should aim to run male standards. Wouldn’t it be respectful to have the female category cushion be to those that experience the 2 genuine M’s: menstruation or menopause?
BAA allows transgender-category athletes to qualify within the gender age specific standards only if the hormone therapy and operation have been completed and after 2 years. For now that’s as far as they can go. I did notice though, the time standards have reduced by 5 minutes from now on… so this shows both women and men are getting faster again.
Stay hungry to push the limits of your “Boston Qualifying Time” and stay humble to remember how to put in the work. Regardless what the times change to, work on your mistakes, build on your strengths, believe in your work ethic and keep trying to run as fast as you can!