Yesterday was the Boston Marathon. If you’re a runner, you might have been stalking the results, not just for the winners, but for your friends running. A number of my friends and teammates were out yesterday and I had tracking setup for each and every one of them. I couldn’t watch the live stream this year, but I was following the race through Twitter and other updates.
An interesting debate came out in the afternoon over charity runners. I’ve talked a bit about what it takes to get into Boston, and how some people think it’s okay to cheat to get a Boston entry, but I really didn’t dwell on the charity entries too much.
Boston is the holy grail for marathon runners. People will work an entire season to get a BQ time. But that’s not the only way to get into the race. You can also get a charity entry. And according to some things I’ve read, the number of charity entries has been growing. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but according to a post on Runners World, 80% of the entries into Boston are time qualifiers, meaning that 20% of the runners get in some other way. But that entire 20% isn’t charity runners.
In 2016, there were 30,000 entries available. That makes 24,000 qualified runners. I’m not sure of the numbers for 2016, but in 2015, there were 2,585 charity entries.
(Who are the other 3415 runners? This is a good question. I’m guessing the pros fall into this field, since I don’t see them having to submit qualifiers. I also know that sponsors get some entries to do with what they wish. And I’m sure the race itself gives out entries to deserving people, like those injured in the bombing in 2013.)
It seems people have differing opinions of the charity runners. Some people think that they’ve done the work and raised a good chunk of money for charity, so they deserve to be there. Others think that Boston should be only for those who qualify, because it is such a high bar.
How do I feel about it? My opinion is sort of mixed. I’m also coming at this as a person who will never qualify for Boston but who is also a retired marathoner, so I’m pretty confident in saying that I will never run Boston.
I don’t take issue with the charity runners. Raising $5000+ is no easy feat for a lot of people, and this is a really important way for a lot of great charities to raise money. With 2585 charity runners, that’s almost 13 million dollars, and that’s assuming each person only raises $5000 and doesn’t go over that amount. That’s pretty awesome.
But I do think that there should be some limits. I think that maybe running Boston as a charity runner should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, or at least a rare experience. I see posts from people who are charity entrants every year for Boston, and I think that does take something away from how special it is. In many ways, that is taking a spot from another person who could have raced.
Second, the attitude of some charity runners bothers me. Yes, you did an awesome thing fundraising. But you shouldn’t just be fundraising, you should be talking about that charity. On race morning, you should be saying how proud you are to race for the cause, not just brag about how you are running Boston. Because when you’re out there for a charity, you’re out there for something more than yourself. Yes, you get the privilege of running an awesome race, but I’d like to think that you’re also there to benefit the charity, that you chose your charity because it’s something you’re passionate about and not because “This charity is letting me run Boston.”
So that’s where I stand. How do you feel about Boston charity runners?