Foot Notes: The (virtual) Boston Marathon throws open its doors, and that's a good thing
One by one, the world's biggest events were shut down and by last summer, the announcement was made that the Boston Marathon, too, would meet its fate. While live racing was out of the question, the Boston Athletic Association was able to salvage its race by flipping the switch to a "virtual" event.
The 2020 virtual Boston Marathon raised $32.1 million for charity, its lowest amount of money raised since 2016 ($30.6 million), but all things considered, it was more successful than any of us could have imagined.
So it should come as no surprise that Boston will once again have a virtual option this fall, in addition to the legendary in-person race on Oct. 11. The big shocker, however, came when the B.A.A. also shared who was able to register for the virtual event: Any runner over the age of 18, with no qualifying times required.
Understandably, some runners are upset and concerned this ruins the sanctity and mystique of the Boston Marathon. You don't see your next-door neighbor pitching for the Yankees, or your co-worker playing in the Super Bowl, so what sense does it make to allow an average Joe to run with the world's elite in Boston, right?
I disagree. And I type this knowing that I'm going to be blasted, probably by folks who can run a half marathon in the same amount of time it takes me to run a 10K. But allow me to ask this question: Why are there qualifying standards to begin with?
The answer should be obvious: Any given race can only accommodate so many runners. The B.A.A. has said as much dating back to the 1960s, when it was stated that "more than 1,000 athletes may create a congested course that could compromise the overall quality of the Boston Marathon race experience."
Of course, the race has swelled to an average of more than 30,000 runners per year, including a world record 38,708 entrants in 1996. The qualifying standards to get accepted into Boston get painstakingly more difficult by the year.
But with an option to run a virtual race, the game is changed: There is absolutely no reason now to bar any runner from being a part of the Boston tradition.
Offering an open virtual option won't take the live race away. The epic, movie-like crowds will still be there, and so, too, will be the superhuman runners that elevate our sport while the entire world tunes in to watch.
I've read complaints about the virtual event giving out official race medals to participants. Some runners may consider this an act of "stolen valor," so to speak, and while I believe they are entitled to this opinion, I think the real material crown jewel of the Boston Marathon is the celebration jacket. From what I've read in the hours since the announcement, I see no indication that jackets will be given to virtual participants.
My biggest argument to support the B.A.A.'s recent decision is the positive impact it will have on the world around us. Every virtual runner that registers and completes this race will be helping a child with cancer, assisting a recovering addict, giving the world a better understanding of autism, and encouraging female empowerment through running.
Those are just a handful of the causes supported by the B.A.A.
Running is just as competitive and difficult as any other major sport, but what I think separates us from the others is our inclusion and our unwavering drive to be the positive change we seek in the world. Almost all of us can point to a local race that has made a life-changing difference in our community. The B.A.A. is doing the same, but on a much larger scale, and I applaud them for this.
Registration has not yet opened for the virtual Boston Marathon, and when it does, only 70,000 spots will be available. I plan on signing up.
I don't want to do this to be called a "Boston finisher," nor am I particularly interested in a race medal, but if I can grind out 26.2 hard miles in the world's biggest race to help someone else in need, that would be a dream come true.
Thank you, Boston, for giving the rest of us a chance.
Race results: 15-year-old the one to beat in the Winter Series
With his second win in as many races, Dylan Cunningham has become the man to beat in the York County Road Runners Winter Series.
The 15-year-old Cunningham, a two-time PIAA cross country qualifier for Kennard-Dale, breezed through the YRRC's Springettsbury 10K last weekend, earning a comfortable victory in 35:58 over Stewartstown's Dan Gibney (36:31) and York's Dellas Edmisten III (38:22). Harrisburg's Lindsay Leigh (45:36) was the top female and was chased by 14-year-old Isabella Navarro of Seven Valleys, who clocked a 45:54, as well as Etters' Billie Jo Heistand (46:11).
Other top finishers from the 121-runner race include York's Anthony Roselli (38:30), Caleb Roth (41:56), Karson Daugherty (46:07), Raymond Vogel (46:27), Mae Treml (46:45), Nathan Eveler (47:06), Janel Kinard (47:29), and Julie Bortner (51:03), Dillsburg's Andrew Fisler (40:55) and Jennifer Fisler (51:23), Hanover's George Nicholas (40:55), Etters' Brent Zeiders (42:46), Red Lion's Justin Immel (43:35), Lebanon's Michael Landis (46:25), Dallastown's Sarah Wenger (47:08), Jacobus' Nicole Register (47:08), and Manchester's Travis Coeyman (47:27).
The Springettsbury 1 Miler was won by 11-year-old Leah Navarro of Seven Valleys, who broke the tape in 6:16 to edge out Register (6:16) and York's David Fogle (6:17). Other top times from the race were produced by York's Seiju Berg (6:21), Joe Zelis (6:28), Mae Treml (6:47), Blaze Fogle (6:52), and Nathan Tedesco (6:58), Red Lion's Richard Eric Dix (6:39), and Seven Valleys' Isabella Narvarro (6:47).
At Bald Eagle Mountain in McElhattan, participants in the Frozen Snot 13.5/8.3 were cautioned about boulder fielders, steep descents, frostbite, and hypothermia. A total of six locals finished, or shall we survived, the torturous adventure race.
We'll start with the 8.3, where York's Jessica Eager claimed third in the 30-39 AG with a 3:34:14 and Roxana Strine took third in the 60+ AG with a 5:00:57. Other finishers included York's Grayce Langheine (3:59:48), Sam Gingrich (4:10:03), and Palmyra's Bradley Rhine (5:18:23). David Seibel, from Palmyra, completed the 13.5 in 6:42:42.
We move from the frozen mountains of Clinton County to a 73-degree day on the Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Wellsville's Michael Ball took on the Atlanta Marathon. Sticking with a conservative gameplan, the 67-year-old Ball zipped around the 1.5-mile track in 4:22:31 to finish as the champion of the 65-69 AG, 15 minutes ahead of the runner-up.
Finally, a pair of races in Reading drew local attention. Red Lion's Howard Courtland laced 'em up for the Arctic Blast 5K and posted a 24:59 to finish second in the 60-67 AG, while Lebanon's Rick Showers (32:47) and Dianne Showers (32:53) also crossed the finish line. The Shiver by the River 5K once again brought Rick Showers (32:19) and Dianne Showers (32:53) to the starting line, as well as Palmyra's Jennifer Mills (27:24) and Myerstown's Larry Gattens (29:06).
Upcoming running events in the area
John Rudy 5 Miler: Saturday, 9 a.m., in Emigsville. The York Road Runners Club Winter Series reaches its fourth of five stops this weekend. Check out yorkroadrunners.com for more information.
St. Patrick's Day 5K: Saturday, March 13, 10:30 a.m., in Shippensburg. The Cumberland Valley Race Series kicks off its 2021 season with this hilly race, in its eighth year. Register for the race at timberhilltiming.com.
Little Patuxent Half Marathon: Saturday-Sunday, in Williamsport, Md. Registration is full for this race, which takes participants through the Patuxent and Wincopin trails. Look up the race on runningintheusa.com.
Also: Two Rivers Tread "Vernal V" Winter vs. Spring 5K (Saturday, Virtual); Celtic Canter 5K (Saturday, March 13, in Westminster, Md.); Lucky Leprechaun 5K/10K (Saturday, March 13, Virtual); Lucky Leprechaun 5K/10K (Saturday, March 13, in Frederick, Md.).
Andy Sandrik writes about running in central Pa. for the USA Today Network Pennsylvania. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.