Boston Marathon won't adjust times for Santa Rosa Marathon runners who went off course
Confusion and frustration turned to disappointment for some runners Thursday when they learned that a wrong turn in the Santa Rosa Marathon on Aug. 28 is likely to exclude them from participating in the 2017 Boston Marathon.
“Unfortunately, after reviewing the information received from the Santa Rosa Marathon’s organizational team, the B.A.A. is unable to accept adjusted finish times from — or make adjustments to — the 2016 Santa Rosa Marathon. Official times must be kept intact and based on the course which each participant ran,” Jack Fleming, marketing and communications director for the Boston Athletic Association, wrote in a statement that Santa Rosa Marathon race director Orhan Sarabi forwarded to affected runners.
Entrants must hit time standards within their age-and-gender categories to qualify for the Boston race, one of the most prestigious in the world. Some runners did officially meet those standards in Santa Rosa two weeks ago. But a few are convinced their chance of qualifying for Boston went off course.
To recap the event in question: An estimated 130-150 runners turned right instead of left at the corner of Hope and Fifth streets in downtown Santa Rosa while running the full marathon early on the morning of Aug. 28. Some of them continued for close to a half-mile before realizing their error. Most, but not all, then retraced their steps back to the intersection.
By the time they crossed the finish line, some runners had covered 27 miles or more, rather than the 26.2 of the standard marathon. Obviously, this inflated their times.
One of those runners was Abe Sheppard, who lives in Irvine and has relatives in Santa Rosa. Sheppard is 41, meaning his time standard for the Boston Marathon is 3 hours, 15 minutes. Sheppard has run Boston nine times, including the past eight editions. But he has fought through injuries recently and was relying on the Santa Rosa race to qualify.
Sheppard was charting carefully on his watch that day, and says he ran 26.2 miles in 3:10:30. But after his unplanned detour, his official time was 3:16:38.
“Other people might be in my position but already qualified in another race,” Sheppard said. “I’m stuck right in the middle.”
Even hitting the qualifying standard is no guarantee a person will get an opportunity to run Boston. Registration begins Monday. Organizers will fill the race roster in stages, with the fastest qualifiers being accepted first. Once the race is at capacity — last year it took about a week and a half — no one else gets in.
It’s hard to know the cut-off line in advance, but some relatively slower qualifiers are almost certain to be left out. Last year, Fleming said, you had to beat your qualifying mark by about 2 minutes, 30 seconds to get in.
That’s bad news for someone like Duane Howard of Los Angeles. Howard, in the 35-39 age group, needed a 3:10 to qualify for Boston. His Garmin device told him that he ran 26.2 miles in Santa Rosa in about 3:03; unfortunately, he ran 27.1 miles overall. Howard’s official time was 3:09:37. He qualified for Boston, but just barely.
“There is very, very little chance I will get into Boston,” said Howard, who referred to running the famed marathon as a “bucket-list item.”