Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Elite Women's Start at Boston

In the past, the elite women’s start at Boston has been a little shrouded in mystery; it seemed like you needed to know someone who knew someone to get in. After the 2018 debacle where women in the mass start beat women in the elite start, Boston tried to make it a little more obvious about how to get in (so they could put their foot down on the rule that only those in the elite start can win prize money). I still found information a little lacking, so here’s a bit more about my experience for those interested in running it in the future, especially the Type A folks like myself who need all the info upfront. Though perhaps next year things will run more smoothly!

The 2019 Elite Start.
Photo credit: @bostonmarathon

First and foremost: if you qualify, DO IT. (Read my race report for more about what a special experience it is.)

I signed up in September and paid my registration. Later (in December) a friend of mine was given free entry for running under 2:42. I didn’t know about that possibility in September and was worried if I didn’t sign up with everyone else I would have no way in, so I went ahead and paid. (Sarah Sellers also famously paid her entry to the 2018 race, where she finished 2nd and won $75,000.) I would probably pay the $200 again just for the assurance of being able to run, no matter whether the rules changed down the line.

Within a few days of registering, I emailed the address listed on the site (which said to contact to express interest and get more info). I emailed again when I ran a new PR in December and again when a new email address appeared on the site over the winter. Friends assured me my time would be good enough, but I didn’t hear anything until I took to Twitter in March after Women’s Running posted an article saying Boston was letting all OTQs in. I found it frustrating they were advertising that but not telling the athletes if we were in or not. We were officially notified on April 2.

So don't freak out if you don't hear back for a long time, but--although I realize I seem crazy for emailing so much--I definitely suggest you tell them your interest early on. Another friend waited to email until March and wasn’t initially accepted (despite an OTQ) until some women dropped out.

This year, Boston offered elite fluids to the top 40 women and top 40 men. (There were about 60-70 in each field.) You won’t know if you are in that group until the email in early April, so if you think you are borderline, I’d suggest training with what’s on the course (Gatorade Endurance).

The elite field gets special busses that leave from downtown. In the past I’ve stayed farther out and driven to the busses at Hopkinton State Park, but wasn’t sure if I would be able to access the elite holding area if I didn’t come on the elite bus. It turns out you don’t need to take the elite busses, but as a friend learned, the other busses don’t have the same time constraints (after all, everyone else on those busses has an extra 30 minutes) and making the early start can be tight.

The elite host hotel is the Fairmont Copley Plaza. If you can find/can afford a room there, take it. Bib pickup, water bottle drop off, the mandatory technical meeting (on Sunday afternoon), and the busses to the start are all at that hotel so it will help immensely. (I stayed super close by but was still concerned about all the walking back and forth I was doing.)

If you have any other questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll try to answer!

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