Amazing how times change. For decades the Boston Athletic Association was the most staunchly conservative organization in all of running, fighting tooth and nail against the encroachment of open prize money into the Boston Marathon. After their Luddite stance led to a major reduction in overall participation and an evisceration of the elite field in 1985, Boston Mayor Ray Flynn entered the picture and threatened to pull Boston city permits. Only in the face of that force was the B.A.A. dragged, unwillingly, into the 20th century. By 1986 John Hancock Financial Services was signed as the major sponsor, and the addition of prize money- and Hancock appearance fees – returned Boston to its rightful place at the forefront of world marathons.
Today, the B.A.A. announced the creation of a new B.A.A. Distance Medley, combining three of its annual events into a single series with a payout to the male and female winners of $100,000 each. The three events, the B.A.A. 5K, B.A.A. 10K, and B.A.A. Half Marathon will be scored by combining times in all three races, and will help celebrate the 125th anniversary year of the organization in 2012.
The only odd thing about the series is that the men and women who might be most likely to win may not participate at all. You see, with the B.A.A. 5K run on Boston Marathon weekend in April, the athletes who run the marathon on Patriot’s Day won’t run the 5k, too, and therefore will be ineligible for the Distance Medley title and purse.
This year Marathon podium finishers Geoffrey Mutai, Moses Mosop, and Gebre Gebremariam returned to run the B.A.A. 10K in June. Under the new Medley format, they could still race the 10k, earn prize money for that race, and even compete in the half-marathon (though historically, the B.A.A. Half-Marathon fields in October have not been on par with the marathon fields in terms of quality). Problem is, they wouldn’t have a 5k time to add for Medley pay-off purposes.
Notwithstanding, the B.A.A. Distance Medley is another welcome sign in the fully reformed resurrection of one of the sport’s signature organizations. Kudos to Executive Director Tom Grilk, under whose leadership the B.A.A. continues to exemplify the bold direction it first displayed during its 19th century beginnings, a goal Grilk articulated earlier this year New Direction Outlined for Boston Athletic Association.