Can Qualifying Times Be Mandatory For Endurance Sports?

As you may know I am racing Rocky Raccoon 50 this coming weekend and that race along with the Rocky Raccoon 100 last weekend made me think about qualifying times for these races.  Really it was about cut-off times which lead to the thoughts about qualifying times.  Anybody who is involved in endurance sports knows that there is a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon and the Ironman World Championships in Kona, but what about having qualifying times for other races.  Would you run in a race that required you to qualify somewhere else?

Bear with me as I explain this and then give me your opinion about qualifying times.

The cut-off time for a 100 mile ultra is typically 30 hours while the time for a 50 is 15 hours.  When you think about these times in a per mile pace they are quite generous as is the 17 hour time limit for an Ironman, which I have written about here.  For example, the per mile pace for a 100 or a 50 with those cut-offs is 18:00.  That does not seem daunting does it?  Seems quite feasible to make it across the finish line at that pace.  Of course, this does not take into effect the terrain, weather or other factors but all things being equal this seems quite doable yet people are not finishing these races in these times and are getting pulled off of courses.  This past weekend the DNF rate for the RR100 was ~57% so I have  been told.  That is high and there are going to be a myriad of reasons why.  Weather certainly played a role but what about the person that is just not ready for this type of event? Would a qualifying times system of races prevent the 57% DNF rate?  I do not know but it couldn't hurt.  It also couldn't hurt to protect people from themselves.  I understand that there is no fail safe built into this idea and not every variable can be addressed but there could be a system that works for people. Let's say a race organization decides it wants to only conduct half-marathon or greater distance events.  In order to register for the half-marathon distance you must have completed a 15k in XX:XX.  I do not know what that is so let's just assume it is 2 hours which is a 12:54 per mile pace.  Now on the course the cut-off for the 13.1 miles is 3 hours which is a pace of 13:44 per mile.  Not impossible by any means but would you do it?  Would you register for this race if you knew that you would be close? Let's take another example.  In order to register for a 50 mile or 100 mile race you had to have done a 50k with a time of 8 hours and 30 minutes or a pace of 16:27 per mile.  If the cut-off for the 50 mile race is 15 hours and you could run the 50k in 8:30 then you should have no problem getting to that finish line in time.  The same can be said for the 100 mile race.  Would this make these races a sort of elite racing organization? [caption id="attachment_9409" align="alignright" width="276"]qualifying times - marathon - triathlon - endurance sports Ironman World Championships - Kona[/caption] The organization would not be built to eliminate anybody from doing it but it would certainly create a system in which the bucket list person, who has no desire to train thoroughly enough, was forced to think twice before registering.  It may also save them from themselves.  If you are on a 100 mile race course for 30 hours that means that you are most likely awake for nearly 32-34 hours straight which just cannot be good for your system.  You are stressing the body in an unsustainable way by not completing the 100 mile race in 30 hours and a system like this may just save that person from long-term harm. I know people are going to say that everybody should have a chance to race and I do agree with that which is why I am saying that it would be one race organization and not every single race.  This would allow anybody who wanted to cross half-marathon off of their list of things to do to be able to do just that, but it would also give those who wanted to race a race that did not have tens of thousands of people who had no desire to push themselves to the limit be standing at the starting line as well.  And before you say that people are pushing themselves remember that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal of half-marathon and marathon times shows that runners are getting slower. I know for me that this would be enticing.  An opportunity to qualify for a race that only allowed a certain few in and those few were the fastest on the day they raced.  I have been at the starting line of the Las Vegas marathon in what seemed like a race only to come across people who had no business to be at the front of the start of the half-marathon be in the way when we merged. By in the way I mean walking before Mile 1 and be in the marathon lane.  It was frustrating and maddening for me when I wanted to run as fast and as hard as I could to have people who seemed more intent on looking at the fountains of the Bellagio than to be racing be in my way.  I worked my ass off for that race and the people sauntering along did not seem to care about their finish time or the race in general and were just happy to be in Las Vegas. Let's also talk about the sense of accomplishment.  If you wanted to race that marathon from XYZ Race Company but knew that you had to finish a half-marathon in 3 hours but kept falling just short wouldn't that sense of accomplishment be amazing when you did cross in 2:59?  The person that is finishing the half-marathon in 3 hours is going to have a hard time qualifying for the Boston Marathon but having qualifying times for a race series may give them that sense of accomplishment.  From the marathon finish they may decide to work just a little bit more to compete in the 50k and then the 50 and 100 mile races. For triathon a similar series of events could take place with athletes having to qualify at the sprint distance in order to race the Olymic distance and then 'graduate' to the Half-Ironman and eventually Ironman.  If they are 'crazy' enough (I use that term lightly) to go for a double or triple Iron distance event then the race director will want to know that they finished an Ironman in 15 hours (making it up!)  The opportunity to continue to grow in the sport just makes too much sense to me.  Maybe because it is my idea…..who knows.

What are your thoughts on qualifying times?

 
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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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