This May Be the Craziest Way to Miss Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

Runners in Pennsylvania were forced to wait while an unscheduled train cleared their course.

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon photo by Olga Khvan

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is notoriously difficult. Marathon runners miss the brisk cut off time for many reasons—exhaustion, poor training, waiting for a train to pass through. You know, the usual suspects.

For runners in Sunday’s Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon, in Pennsylvania, the last reason proved most, well, derailing. An unscheduled freight train unexpectedly rumbled down tracks that crossed the race course around mile seven, forcing a sea of runners to stop and wait, or tempt fate by leaping between the cars. Some competitors were stalled for as long as 10 minutes.

That’s incredibly frustrating for any racer, but it’s especially crushing because the Lehigh marathon is known as a good Boston qualifier, thanks to its flat, fast course. It also takes place the day before Boston Marathon registration begins, so it’s the last chance for many runners.

While Lehigh race organizers promised that affected times would be “addressed,” the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), the governing body of the Boston Marathon, has said it will not accept compromised times from the race, according to AP reports.

It’s an unfortunate ending for the affected runners, but not altogether surprising. The BAA adheres to strict qualification standards, and even made headlines last year for handing down a lifetime ban to a runner who flouted the rules.

Still, competitors like Charlie Young, who told Lehigh Valley Live he missed qualifying by roughly the amount of time he was forced to wait, are unlikely to look kindly upon train travel any time soon.

“You put in so much time, money, and training and you put your body through a lot, especially with this summer we had, and to just watch it tick away,” Young told the outlet. “I don’t know how to explain, it is just totally demoralizing.”