The Path Ahead

For over 20 years, AMAA through American Running had annual agreements to market x-number of “invitational” or charity entries into the Boston Marathon. In June 2016, the BAA notified us that we would have to compete as a “Boston Charity”. That turned out to be a situation where ARA could not compete to obtain charity entries.

Boston was synonymous with an annual pilgrimage for members of AMAA. Heck, it’s where AMAA under its original name AMJA was formed back in 1969. Over the years, the folksy way of operations for the oldest and longest standing marathon in the world had to change. Their first crisis occurred in 1985 when professional runners boycotted Boston due to lack of upfront payments and prize money. Geoff Smith of the UK won in a now-considered pedestrian run of 2:15. In came John Hancock and the professionalization of the venerable Boston Marathon changed. In a rough way, so did AMJA and the BAA. Through some uncomfortable times, AMJA – AMAA continued to obtain “numbers”. After the 100th Boston in 1996, the advent of charity running came into the sport of marathoning. Boston had a partnership with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. They began marketing “charity entries” that required no qualifying time. As other marathons began to grow through the partnerships with charity organizations, it became more accepted to have “charities” participate in a much more visible manner in a marathon. Boston saw it and joined others. The push began to “value” the entries as the market would bear. AMAA was told to get aboard and raise the rates, develop a “Cause” and have members raise funds for that cause. It was more the case since 2010. Charities were expected to raise $4K per entry. AMAA got the message and started scaling the value of our entries upward. Our goal was to be in alignment with the official Boston Charities in 2 years. At the same time, the “Invitational entries” were being sought by more charities each year. Things took another change after the 2013 Boston Marathon: the year of the Boylston St Bombings. Then new charities that had a cause tied to victims of the bombings came to being. They were given charity slots. Others like AMAA had to give back numbers from their allotment. From 115 in 2012, AMAA was down to 75 in 2016. Yet we were matched up with the BAA requirement of valuing the entries at a “minimum” of $5K.

Move to the summer of 2016. Boston’s Executive Director notified AMAA that they would no longer have an agreement with the BAA to obtain entries. Our only recourse was to request to be considered to compete for “official Boston Marathon Charity entries”. We still had hope but one key requirement for these official charities was near impossible for AMAA: provide services or benefits to the Boston Area. That was our downfall. No numbers for 2017. No income for the American Running “cause” of Youth Fitness in our “NATIONAL RUN A MILE DAYS” Program in schools around the country.

AMAA and American Running may have to cease operations, as the organization is constituted. Some sort of nonprofit may emerge that can still focus on the mission of both organizations: to increase the physical activity of all Americans from youth to adult. Education, motivation and “showing the way” are subsets of that mission.

Losing our core business feature requires change. Keep your eyes ahead and dream big. We can improve lives through running, waking and exercise.

In gratitude for this journey that will keep moving down that path of life

---Dave Watt

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