2023 Boston by the Numbers
Wet conditions on Patriot’s Day 2023 did not dampen the spirits, or the results, of what turned out to be a very quick day in Beantown. Preliminary numbers when compared to 2022 results show just how fast April 17th was.
According to data collected on Findmymarathon.com, in 2022 for the 126th Boston 39.4% of race participants earned a qualifying time. That total adds up to 10,168 people across all ages and genders. Nothing to sneeze at really. Remember The Boston Marathon is the single largest qualifying race by sheer numbers. The next largest race qualifier by participants is Chicago, which last year saw 15% of the field earn the coveted Boston Qualifier. Chicago, for those who aren’t familiar, is a flat – pancake flat – fast race. Those who want a shot at a solidly quick time without hills to slow them down, know to go run Chicago. Even so Boston 2022 had 4,000 more qualifiers – the field is simply top notch.
How then is it possible that Boston 2023 was able to turn out so many more fast runners in what is already a top notch field? There’s no way to say for sure but I will take a stab at some guesses after we go over the numbers for 2023.
Again referencing data from Findmymarathon.com, the 127th Boston saw a whopping 51.7% of the field earning a qualifying time. That total is 13,755 people across all ages and genders, an increase of 3,587 people in a single year. That’s a significant jump. For reference, California International Marathon, another race known for its top notch fast field, turned out a total of 2,558 qualifiers in 2022. That means the difference between Boston 2023 is equivalent to more than a single CIM. That’s a lot of fast runners!
What else do we currently know about the field and results for 2022 Boston versus Boston 2023? Well strava has put together a nice graphical comparison that shows the increase in qualifiers isn’t isolated to any specific age or gender. It might have been easy to assume the 2023 race, which marked the 10 year anniversary of the Boston bombings, might have attracted an older field on average eager to commemorate that tragic day. But the strava results show just how pervasive the speed up was for everyone across the board.
Now for some hypothesizing on why I think the race was so much quicker this year. I will note this is pure speculation on my part, I don’t have any top secret information. It does seem clear to me however, that we are finally (officially) out of the pandemic doldrums. It’s no secret running and races, like the rest of the world, were heavily influenced by the disruptions and turmoil, that took a toll both economic and personal. That isn’t to suggest things are as before, but to say the new normal is a closer resemblance to the “before times” than the during. I also think it possible we are now seeing the results of all that training folks were able to put in when most things were cancelled or postponed and much of the workforce (not all but most) were able to be remote.
I think we are also seeing the effects of the continuing innovation, diversification and prevalence of the super shoe. Not that long ago you could only find 2 or 3 different carbon plated shoes on the market. Now we have every major, and many minor shoe brands, out with a model and most with multiple iterations. Lower price points, particularly for older versions, and models with different designs to accommodate different preferences and different feet have made the super shoe more accessible and more easily adoptable for the masses. In short, there is finally something for everyone, and there is no doubt in my mind these shoes make a discernible difference. Remember even placebos are effective, that’s why we call it the placebo effect.
Lastly, I believe the age old aphorism applies here: a rising tide lifts all boats. That is to say, the Boston push is real and one can’t help but be swept up in it. Long before the BAA increased the time standard, runners put in the work on their own accord to increase the cushion necessary to actually get a place in the race. In 2020 when the BAA finally changed the standards by 5:00 across the board, it was only after the cushion had increased to 4:52 by collective will. Here too I can picture the Boston push carrying racers along on Marathon Monday. Boston is well known for its lack of pacers but the beautiful thing about Boston is, every runner beside you becomes a de facto pacer lined up as you are by verified qualifying time.
The 127th Boston just might be an exemplary example of how we are stronger together. Or it might just prove that pent up demand and money buys a competitive advantage. Either way there’s no doubting the Boston Marathon field is in a league of its own. The world’s oldest marathon continues to inspire and drive countless runners to excellence.