A few post-season running observations


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Paul Oppenheim

High school cross-country competition and the road race scene (mostly adults) seem to exist in different worlds. However, it's nice to see the OPRF High School boys cross-country team currently ranked as one of the state's top teams. They're a serious contender against perennial powerhouse York of Elmhurst in a run for state honors. Go Huskies!

    The Boston Marathon sold out in only eight hours! Boston is the only marathon that requires entrants to meet qualification standards in a prior marathon, and to achieve a "Boston Qualifier" time is a mark of distinction. But, over the years Boston has eased its qualification standards, perhaps as a reflection of the huge increase in marathon participation throughout the country along with the gradual slowing of average marathon finishing times. Carey Pinkowski, director of the Chicago Marathon, noted that the average finishing time in his race during the mid-90s was about three-and-a-half hours. Ten years later it was an hour slower.

    Local runners who achieved a "BQ" in the 2010 Chicago Marathon, or a week later at Grand Rapids, barely had time to reflect on their success. As soon as the Boston website opened it was inundated with hits, registering for next April's race. Dave Chen, of the Oak-William Runners (the OWies), said that he started to sign up, but realized he couldn't recall his exact qualification time at an earlier marathon (not Chicago or Grand Rapids), so he waited until he got home from work to check. But too late — Boston had sold out in the interim. Maribeth Ward, of the Oak Park Runners Club, said she tried 20 times before finally getting through to the website to register.

    Those running the New York City Marathon on Nov. 7, or another fall marathon in hopes of a Boston Qualifier are out of luck. The obvious answer would seem to be tightening up qualification standards. In 1998, for example, when I entered the 55-59 age group, Boston qualifying time was 3:35. Now it's 3:45. And I've seen one article that suggests the 30-minute gap between men's and women's qualification times should be narrowed. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

      My first-ever road race was the 1979 Wright Run 10K, and I've run it most years since. This year I ran yet again — Race No. 413 (yep, I keep records). There were a number of bad years where one thing or another always went wrong, and many of us regarded it as more of a fun run ("the Wrong Run") than a serious, well-run race. But in more recent years the Wright Run has greatly improved, with good amenities, prompt and accurate results, and a minimum of problems. And this year, for the first time in my memory it sold out. I know that some people were angry they couldn't get in, but race brochures and the website noted the limit of 2,500 participants. Those competing on the Chicago Area Runners Association Circuit who wanted a score in its final event were out of luck. So it always pays to sign up early.

      Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club.

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