The 40-44 male age group, randomly chosen from the one I'll be in as of next year jumps from 3:10 to 2:50! On the other hand, the corresponding Half Marathon qualifying time is 1:23 which is a time I have already beaten myself (although, admittedly, at the spritely age of 39). According to Jack Daniels, the legendary running coach and author of "The Daniels Running Formula" (as opposed to the legendary Bourbon whiskey), a time of 1:23 equates to a Marathon time of 2:54. If anything I would expect the Half Marathon qualifying time to be even more stringent but I'm not complaining because it may well be my only ticket to guaranteed entry after 2012. The qualifiying times for the other age groups are very close to the predictions made by the formula which is interesting, given that they are supposedly based on a 75% percentile. Personally, I find it hard to believe that if I were to run the New York Marathon in 2 hours and 50 minutes I would only be in the top 25%. In fact, looking at the results from this year's New York Marathon, the guy who came in just under 2:50 finished in 61st place in his age group, out of 5,884 runners in the same age group who finished the race. Maybe the "75%" is based on the times that people hope to achieve, rather than the times they actually achieve.
So it looks like the New York Marathon is trying to knock the Boston Marathon off its pedestal, as the race that many amateur runners aspire to qualify for. People talk about getting a "BQ" - Boston Qualifier - more than they talk about getting a "PB" - Personal Best. Boston is to Marathons as Kona is to the Ironman (although I do think that it is a lot easier, relatively speaking, to qualify for Boston). The qualifying times for Boston are as follows, although it should be noted that they are not guaranteed: instead, slots are opened up first to those that have a qualifying time more than 20 minutes faster than the cutoff and then those who are 10 minutes faster, etc.
2013 Qualifying Times (effective September 24, 2011)
|18-34||3hrs 05min 00sec||3hrs 35min 00sec|
|35-39||3hrs 10min 00sec||3hrs 40min 00sec|
|40-44||3hrs 15min 00sec||3hrs 45min 00sec|
|45-49||3hrs 25min 00sec||3hrs 55min 00sec|
|50-54||3hrs 30min 00sec||4hrs 00min 00sec|
|55-59||3hrs 40min 00sec||4hrs 10min 00sec|
|60-64||3hrs 55min 00sec||4hrs 25min 00sec|
|65-69||4hrs 10min 00sec||4hrs 40min 00sec|
|70-74||4hrs 25min 00sec||4hrs 55min 00sec|
|75-79||4hrs 40min 00sec||5hrs 10min 00sec|
|80 and over||4hrs 55min 00sec||5hrs 25min 00sec|
|Unlike previous years, an additional 59 seconds will NOT be accepted for each age group time standard.|
So, as you can see, in the 40-44 male age group, for example, the qualifying time for Boston is 25 minutes slower than the qualifying time for the New York Marathon. The difference is that there is no lottery system in Boston so, other than a limited number of people who gain access through specialized running travel agencies (paying lot's of money), the qualifying times apply to everyone. Ironically, a "BQ" time no longer guarantees entry to the Boston Marathon while the much more demanding "NYQ" time does at least guarantee entry to the New York Marathon.