BOSTON (AP) — Boston Marathon organizers announced changes to their registration system Wednesday to ensure the fastest runners have spots at the starting line.

The move by the Boston Athletic Association comes after this year’s field filled up in just eight hours, frustrating qualified runners who were left out.

Starting with the 2012 marathon, the association will begin a two-week online registration period that gives those with the best times multiple chances to apply before the process opens to slower runners.

And to reduce the pool of runners in the future, the BAA will lower qualifying times in each age group by five minutes, beginning with the 2013 race.

The association’s executive director, Tom Grilk, said the changes have two basic goals: rewarding excellence and increasing fairness to avoid repeating “one of the most troubling days we’ve ever had.”

Grilk said the association heard from a flood of intensely disappointed runners who’d put in the grueling work to qualify this year.

“For us to tell people who have done that that there was no room for them was a very bitter pill for us,” he said. “Not as bitter as it was for them, but bitter nonetheless.”

Runner Anthony Anscombe, 50, admits he’ll “always be ticked” he was shut out this year of what would have been his third Boston Marathon, a race he’s truly enjoyed. He added, “I’m just not going to sweat it going forward.”

It’s hard to complain about the marathon’s tougher standards, but it will shut the race off to a large group of runners, Anscombe said.

“They’ll probably have really good races, and they’ll have really hardcore people,” said Anscombe, a Chicago attorney. “But for people who I guess who would describe themselves like me as a recreational marathon runner, I think it’s going to be very hard to run it anymore.”

During the new registration process, which starts this Sept. 12-23, qualifying for the race doesn’t guarantee entry for an applicant.

Only runners who have exceeded the qualifying standards for their age and gender group by at least 20 minutes will be allowed to apply on the first two days. Runners who surpassed the qualifying standards by at least 10 minutes can begin applying on the third day. Those who beat them by at least five minutes can begin applying on the fifth day.

If spots remain after the first week, runners who have qualified by any amount of time can begin applying on Sept. 19. The fastest qualifiers in each age and gender group who apply during the second week will be accepted next. If space remains after that, any qualifier can apply on a first-come, first-served basis.

Marathon officials said they made the changes after three months of study. The elite runners are recruited separately by race sponsor John Hancock.

The 26.2-mile race, scheduled for April 18 this year, begins in Hopkinton, Mass., and ends in Boston’s Copley Square.

Organizers were caught by surprise in October when this year’s field of 26,800 runners was filled online so quickly. The fastest the field previously had been completed was 65 days, the year before, race director Dave McGillivray said.

Just four years ago, it took four months to fill the field, so last year organizers used social media to warn runners the window to get into the race was getting smaller. That might have contributed to the rush in October, McGillivray said.

Besides changing the application process, the marathon also decided to tighten qualifying times, which haven’t been adjusted in every category since 1980. By shaving five minutes off the times starting in 2013, men between the ages of 18 and 34 will have to run a 3:05 marathon and woman will have to run 3:35 to qualify, for instance.

“The whole reason for tightening the standards for 2013 and beyond is to minimize the amount of disappointment because less people then would obviously qualify,” McGillivray said.

He added runners will “work harder to try to make those standards, and that’s akin to who we are. We’re about excellence, and we want people to get better.”

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