Yesterday, the BAA announced that approximately 5600 runners who were unable to finish the 2013 marathon would be invited to register for the 2014 race. I’m happy that the BAA decided to make that offer, and I hope the opportunity to run again will help heal some of the emotional wounds left behind after the events on Patriot’s Day. But that decision will have consequences for an even larger number of people, both runners and non-runners. By adding extra runners to the 2014 field without saying how they will fit them in the race, the BAA created more questions than they answered.
No one knows how the BAA intends to make room for the runners who accept their invitation. Maybe the race will get bigger in 2014, but all they’ve announced so far is, “No decision has been made on the maximum field size for the 2014 Boston Marathon, including the number of qualifiers and invitational applications available.”
The BAA has to finish working with local officials in the cities and towns along the race course to determine how many people can run. If the field doesn’t grow by at least as many runners as get waived in, then those numbers have to come from somewhere, either from charity bibs or from the numbers available to qualified runners.
After the BAA introduced more stringent qualifying times for 2013, everyone who qualified by the time registration opened in September was able to get in, but that might not be the case for 2014. More qualified runners than usual will be competing for the number of available slots, however many they may be. If the field isn’t big enough to include all qualified runners, inevitably someone who had a bad day in 2013 and dropped out of the race well before the bombs went off will get a number that could have gone to a 2014 qualifier.
Charities may see a bigger impact. If the field doesn’t grow, they could see a reduction in the number of numbers they have to hand out to their fundraising volunteers. But even if the charities get as many numbers as they usually do, there will still be consequences.
Since most of the 5600 people who will be getting waivers were charity runners, the pool of fundraisers the charities have to draw upon will be significantly smaller. In a normal year, there are always some charities looking for runners at the last minute. With as many as 5600 people taken out of the pool, some of them hard-core repeat fundraisers, even more charity numbers may go unclaimed.
Most of those dedicated volunteers who return year-after-year will still work to support their charity. But they may not collect as much. There’s a big difference between “I need $5000 to get in” and “I’m in, but it would be nice to collect a few bucks, too.” Are there enough additional runners who will collect the full amount to make up the difference?
And the task of collecting donations may be harder for those runners who do volunteer for a charity number. Already, there have been charities who have noticed reductions in donations because money is going to the One Fund to assist the victims of the bombing.
It will be interesting to watch and see how it all plays out. The BAA has a tough job ahead, trying to balance out all the competing interests. Let’s hope that all parties cooperate and allow the size of the 2014 field to grow enough to make the job easier.