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Steve Wagner / Forum Communications Co., Published November 27 2011

Wagner: Entry into elite marathons becoming tougher to attain

With the running boom showing no signs of slowing, and the demand to get into the biggest marathons across the country increasing, now another marathon appears to be tougher to get into.

The New York City Marathon, the world’s largest, announced a change in its system for next year’s race.

According to the marathon’s website, race officials say they needed to make changes to allow runners who don’t automatically qualify – and thereby gaining guaranteed entry – to continue participating in the event.

“The demand for guaranteed entry has grown significantly in recent years, resulting in a reduction of the number of non-guaranteed entry spots to the point where the very existence of non-guaranteed entry is threatened. We believe that non-guaranteed entry is an essential element of our marathon as a means of preserving the diversity of the race and the excitement surrounding the application process,” the website says. “Our analysis shows that if we don’t make changes, and if current application trends continue, we will no longer be able to offer non-guaranteed entry starting with the 2015 race.”

There are several big changes, most notably for those who run New York after failing to have their lottery number drawn for three consecutive years. In the past, thousands enter the lottery each year, knowing the marathon would allow them into the race on the fourth year.

Runners who entered the lottery, even if 2011 was the first year they were denied, are grandfathered into the system as long as they continue to enter.

Others must hope their lottery number is drawn, run for a charity or qualify with a fast marathon or half marathon to gain a guaranteed entry.

If you thought Boston had tough qualifying standards, then be prepared to see the new times for New York. Based on age and time, New York will require a man in his 40s to run a 2 hour, 58 minute marathon or 1 hour, 25 minute half marathon to guarantee entry. A woman in her 40s will need to run a 3 hour, 21 minute marathon or 1 hour, 34 minute half marathon.

While New York has much tougher time standards, it still allows the average runner a chance to get into the race – albeit a slight one.

Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer Editor Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@bemidjipioneer.com.