19 Oct

NY Revision Raises Larger Questions

New York Marathon

With less than a month until the race celebrates its 41st year, organisers of the ING New York City marathon have announced that it will revise its guaranteed entry quota for forthcoming events.

Due to the expanding popularity of marathon running and more specifically the increasing applications the NYC race receives, the event will preserve the availability of non-guaranteed runners by regulating and restricting the system of guaranteed entry.

While previous applicants, for example, would be assured a place in the marathon if they had been unsuccessful in the last three lottery attempts - a fourth-time lucky entry, basically - the new system will no longer give automatic entry after three unsuccessful attempts. The revised process, however, will be progressive, meaning those that were denied entry between 2009-2011 will be eligible for guaranteed entry next year.

The rule changes also affect veterans of the event, with runners who have participated in previous races no longer guaranteed a place. Athletes, however, who have accumulated 15 or more races by 2015 will receive a 'grandfather' pass for all forthcoming events. In terms of its competitive application, the new system will also tighten qualification times. A 50-54 year-old male will now have to be able to finish a marathon in 3:06, rather than 3:30, whilst a female in the same age category will need to show a previous race time of at least 3:35.

The nature of these changes raises wider questions on what represents a fair application process for marathon events. On the NYC Marathon official website, the announcement reads, "analysis shows that if this trend continues, (the significant increase in applications) within five years we will no longer be able to offer non-guaranteed entry."

While there is undoubtedly a case to be made that the increasing popularity of the event - particularly the World Marathon Majors - is down to the fact running is essentially a universal sport, should the governing bodies not reward those that have shown commitment over a sustained period of time? Similarly, and perhaps conversely, does a highly competitive qualification time exclude moderate-paced runners who simply enjoy running for what it is rather than the constant need for hitting a PB?

The re-structuring of NYC Marathon guaranteed entry quota, which for some may prove to be infuriating - especially if you apply in the lottery for the rest of your life and are never rewarded a place - essentially signals heightened interest in the sport and can therefore be regarded in a positive light. The barrage of countless would-be London Marathon runners suggests this is not a problem isolated to New York. An impartial application process, of course, will raise endless theoretical permutations: as endless, perhaps, as your application to the NYC lottery marathon.