Three months after crossing the finish line, excitement has turned to frustration for some Vancouver USA Marathon runners.
Runners who thought they had qualified for the 2017 Boston Marathon are being told their Vancouver times won’t count.
That’s because of an error that left the course 1,126 feet shorter than the standard marathon distance of 26.2 miles.
To gain entry to the Boston Marathon, runners must achieve a qualifying time based on their age and gender. Typically, anywhere from 20 to 30 Clark County runners participate in the world-famous race each April.
Kristen Morin, 45, of Brush Prairie finished the Vancouver USA Marathon on June 19 in 3 hours, 46 minutes and 28 seconds. That was faster than the Boston qualifying standard of 3:55 for her age.
She applied to run her third consecutive Boston Marathon when registration opened earlier this month.
Tuesday, Morin was notified by the Boston Marathon that her entry would not be accepted due to the Vancouver course being short.
That left Morin with no recourse. She hadn’t run another marathon below the qualifying time during the one-year window that ended on Sept. 18.
“You have a goal in mind, and then to have it shot down is very frustrating,” Morin said.
Vancouver USA Marathon race director Brian Davis says he empathizes with runners. He said some have demanded refunds because they can’t say they ran a full marathon, a bucket-list achievement for some.
“I get it; people are frustrated,” said Davis, who said the marathon is unable to offer refunds. “Many of them trained six months for this. We care about our runners. I want to make that clear.”
The course error occurred at Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park, about 7½ miles into the race.
After starting in downtown Vancouver, the course heads northwest to Frenchman’s Bar before turning back. This year, runners turned around short of where they had in the race’s five previous years.
In past years, runners ran a loop around the entire parking lot at Frenchman’s Bar. This year, a misplaced course marker directed runners onto a path that cut that loop short.
Davis said carelessness was to blame for the error and the failure to detect it before the race. Because the race was run largely on city streets, he said his team had a short window to set up the course and wasn’t able to gauge the entire distance with measuring tools such as a handwheel.
He said race organizers will be extra diligent, including additional distance measurements, to make sure such errors don’t happen in the future.
Davis learned of the course error from runners who said their GPS trackers showed they had covered less than 26.2 miles.
Davis notified Vancouver USA Marathon runners of the error in an email sent on July 2. On July 22, he emailed Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray and other Boston officials to explain the error.
In past years, the Boston Marathon has accommodated runners whose qualifying times came on courses deemed too short. Times can be adjusted by using a runner’s pace during the race.
Davis submitted adjusted Vancouver times to Boston organizers on Aug. 7. Yet, he was notified earlier this month that Boston would not accept qualifying times from Vancouver.
“They said they had to draw a line in the sand,” Davis said.
Of the 459 runners who finished the Vancouver USA Marathon, Davis said 19 sought to use that race to gain entry into the Boston Marathon. It’s unknown how many had achieved Boston qualifying times at other marathons in the past year.
“Our team feels terrible,” Davis said. “We were very upfront with this, both with our runners and with (Boston race organizers).”