Recently, registration for the Chicago Marathon introduced a lottery system, to help deal with the overwhelming demand that crashed their servers in 2013 and caused mass frustration. This new lottery also includes several options for guaranteed entry including via time-qualifiers for those who have previously run a marathon in 3:15/3:45 (male/female). As far as can be seen, there are also no limits on the number of these guaranteed spots for those who qualify with a fast time. You run the time, you get in. Guaranteed!
I was personally very pleased with this decision and direction and applaud the organizers for even considering guaranteed entry based on time qualifiers, which needless to say is not popular among many in the running community. Apparently, this allowance which favours the fleetest of foot is too "elitist" for the many who are 'unable' to run the set qualifying times, and who prefer a more fair and democratic approach to the SPORT of running. And in case you didn't know, running races (i.e events that are timed and occur over a set distance) clearly fall under the definition of sport, which 'unfortunately' are inherently UN-democratic, and thus highly unfair.
This also has me thinking about the "guaranteed entry" for the other big US major marathons and running events in general. There are few who argue or complain about Boston for using their very specific (and exclusive) qualifying times in order to gain access to the event. My guess is that the historical significance of Boston (118 years running) trumps the more recent attitudes about fairness and equality in sport. Any new event that attempted to introduce a similar approach would fair without doubt.
I would also like to note that although the New York City Marathon appears to have guaranteed entry for those with time qualifiers (which at 2:45/3:10 are far more demanding than both Boston and Chicago), this is in fact not true. Upon closer inspection, the time qualifier spots for guaranteed entry into NYC (which are also limited to a set, and so far unpublished, amount) are only available to those who run NYRR sanctioned events. From the website: "Those who meet the time standard in a non-NYRR race will be required to complete the non-guaranteed-entry application". So it seems that NYC does not care about time-qualifiers, unless you've (paid) and run one of their own events (in a very fast time). Berlin and Tokyo both also opted to use lottery systems for registration but at this point, do not have time-qualifier spots available. London does, but only for UK athletes.
I don't want this post to be too much of a rant (too late perhaps), but I really don't understand why people are so opposed to the idea that those who run the fastest and are most skilled at the sport of running, should not be allowed certain privileges and priority when it comes to access to a running race. I mean no one is complaining that the Olympics are exclusive (or maybe they are?) or that everyone should have a fair and equal opportunity to apply for the 100m finals!
Ultimately, as a consumer of running races and events, I can choose how I spend my money and where I choose to race. I am not and will never be good enough to demand access to every and all events but I am grateful and appreciative to races that do show respect and offer allowances to those who compete at a high level. For this reason, I prefer to spend my consumer dollars on events that cater to such participants. These include some significant marathons in Japan (Fukuoka has a time standard of sub 2:40; Lake Biwa, 2:30), and many 'smaller' events (such as Toronto Waterfront,Vancouver, Calgary, etc.) that also offer (more reasonable) time qualifiers to secure guaranteed (and complimentary) entry.
My personal preference would be that all events, be it a 1500m or 5K, offer access (and perhaps discounted prices) to those who meet time-qualifiers. Ultimately, this is the only way to help ensure that the sporting values of competition and excellence are upheld and maintained in running.