The Boston Marathon is famous as the country's only annual 26.2 race with a qualifying time requirement. Only slightly more than 10% of all marathon runners are able to meet that standard. But there is another way to make it into the field -- qualify as a runner with a participating charity.
In the wake of the bombing that marred the 2013 race interest in running next year's Patriot Day event is at an all-time high. The demand for slots in the 2014 began almost immediately after the tragedy and hasn't lagged since. The Boston Athletic Association has already expanded field size of next year's race by a third to 36,000 in order to accommodate the demand.
And the 138 race's qualifying charities that have 3,000 bibs to distribute have seen a corresponding bump in demand as well. Some charities have reported a fourfold increase in applications and many have substantially increased their minimum amounts for runners to commit to raise, according to the Boston Globe.
The intense desire to be part of the 2014 race - which the BAA's executive director, Tom Grilk, calls "inspiring" - is upping the pressure on applicants. Grown adults are finding themselves thrust back into college-application mode. They're applying to multiple charities; they're trying to outshine the competition by pledging to raise more than the required minimum - a promise that must be backed up with a credit card; they're sending in photos and heartfelt "pick-me" essays.
The Boston Marathon Official Charity Program began in 1989 when the American Liver Foundation became the first charity to receive official entries into the Boston Marathon. Since then, the program has grown to support at least 30 charities each year. Race sponsor John Hancock also sponsors an array of charities with runners in the race.
In addition to the charity runners, the BAA has also invited runners who were not able to complete the 2013 race to return and extended invitations to those who were "profoundly affected" by the tragedy.