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  • Writer's picturecoachmk

Standards of Performance (The Boston Marathon Post)

Updated: Mar 9, 2019

Bumping this to the top.  You can find the history of BQ standards here:

Ever heard an old school coach say, "why would anyone want to run a marathon if they weren't fit enough to run it in less than 4 hours?"  Boston is why.  You had to have a coach or AAU official certify that you were fit enough to reasonably expect to finish in under 4 hours.  When the number of qualified entrants skyrocketed to 1000 in 1971, officials were concerned about traffic jams on the course, so they came up with a new method.

1996, the year I ran my first marathon, was Boston's Centennial.  It changed everything.  You can read about it here:

Now you know.  Xoxoxoxoxo

Coach MK


"Thank you" I whispered as he shoved the bib in my hand.  It was humiliating to admit I couldn't afford the race entry.  It wouldn't be the last time I would have to swallow my pride. "She's your best shot at winning your age group!" they laughed.  

To these guys, giving your bib away was only blasphemous if you mattered, and you only mattered if your name was on your bib.  This guy wasn't important enough to have a named bib, and neither was I.  No one was cheering for us, no one was watching us.  We weren't even underdogs, we were ghosts. 

I still don't know what my official finish time was; I was too ashamed to approach that guy and ask if I could have my finisher’s certificate.  I had finished behind everyone else and made my carpool late to lunch, so the only thing I knew for sure was that my finish time sucked.  That I sucked.  That I didn't belong there and never would.  But I had nowhere else to go so I kept showing up. 

That was my first marathon.   I am reasonably certain it was around 3:23. These guys were an hour faster than that.  They didn't think I was fast so neither did I.  I didn't even keep the race bib. 

Talking to my friends didn't help; marathons weren't widely known so your average person had no idea what a 'good' finish time was.  "how did you do?" was a social nicety, right up there with 'how are you doing?" A polite question that begets a polite answer, no one really cared.  No one said, “you ran WHAT?  That’s AMAZING!”  Nowdays most people have enough experience with racing to know that a 3:23 is nothing to sneeze at.  I mean, that would qualify any woman for Boston.  It wasn’t until 2007 that I realized all along those guys were comparing themselves, and me, to the Olympic qualifying standard.  A number so high and so ridiculously out of reach even experienced runners can’t quote it offhand. 

I tell you all this to give you perspective.  No one ever told me I was fast.  No one ever told me that ‘fast’ is relative and the people I wanted to be like were asshats.  No one ever told me I had nothing to be ashamed of.  My driving goal in life is to hit all of my PRs one more time, in my own name, hopefully when science says I’m just too old to even think about it because btw that’s not how science works but that’s how asshats use it.  Because now I know to whom I should be compared, and that I was indeed fast, by all standards other than Olympic. 

Tomorrow morning, a whole bunch of people will run an iconic race, the oldest in America.  A race you have to qualify for.  A race you may not be fast enough to run just yet…BUT CAN.  When I snarl at you to stop talking down your abilities and resetting your expectations, when I tell you that you have NO idea what you are much less what you could be, when you complain about where you are and I show you where you were and measure how far you have come, take pride in that.  When I tell you that you are amazing, that you are doing well, that you can and absolutely WILL get where you want to go, don’t you dare argue with me.  I’m not wrong. Maybe you’ve been using the wrong standards to measure your own performance.  Fast is relative, and in endurance events, teach-able.  Only an asshat would use an unreasonably high standard to tell you that you suck or science to prove that your dreams are out of reach.  Don’t be an asshat.  If you are rejecting my compliments, I guarantee the only skewed perspective is your own.

I see you.  You are not a ghost, and you will never again be an underdog.  I got you, and you got THIS.

You are coached, you are loved, you are WELCOME.

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