How to Qualify for the Boston Marathon: A Step-By-Step Guide

Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment and requires dedication, hard work, and careful planning. The Boston Marathon is one of the most prestigious races in the nation, and qualifying for it can be a major challenge. And it requires more than just clocking a qualifying time.

This article will provide you with an easy-to-follow guide on how to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Step 1: Consider Age Restrictions

To run in the Boston Marathon, there is only one age requirement. You must be at least 18 years old on the day of the race in order to qualify. That means you can sign up for the marathon as a 17-year-old if you are 18 on or before race day.

Step 2: Check Qualifying Times for Your Age Group

The next step in qualifying for the Boston Marathon is to look up the qualifying times for your age group. The Boston Athletic Association sets standards for different age groups and gender categories, so it’s important that you check these before you sign up. You can find a list of all qualifying times on the BAA website.

Here is a quick reference list for 2024’s required times based on gender and age.

For Men-

  • 18-34:  3 hrs 00 min 00 seconds
  • 35-39: 3 hrs 5 min 00 seconds
  • 40-44: 3 hrs 10 min 00 seconds
  • 45-49: 3 hrs 20 min 00 seconds
  • 50-54: 3 hrs 25 min 00 seconds
  • 55-59: 3 hrs 35 min 00 seconds
  • 60-64: 3 hrs 50 min 00 seconds
  • 65-69: 4 hrs 5 min 00 seconds
  • 70-74:  4 hrs 20 min 00 seconds
  • 75-79: 4 hrs 35 min 00 seconds
  • 80+:  4 hrs 50 min 00 seconds

For Women and Non-Binary-

  • 18-34:  3 hrs 30 min 00 seconds
  • 35-39: 3 hrs 35 min 00 seconds
  • 40-44: 3 hrs 40 min 00 seconds
  • 45-49: 3 hrs 50 min 00 seconds
  • 50-54: 3 hrs 55 min 00 seconds
  • 55-59: 4 hrs 5 min 00 seconds
  • 60-64: 4 hrs 20 min 00 seconds
  • 65-69: 4 hrs 35 min 00 seconds
  • 70-74:  4 hrs 50 min 00 seconds
  • 75-79: 5 hrs 5 min 00 seconds
  • 80+:  5 hrs 20 min 00 seconds
how to qualify for the boston marathon

Step 3: Find an Official Qualifying Race

Once you have checked the qualifying times for your age group, it’s time to find an official qualifying race. Only certain races are qualifying events, so do your research and pick one that is officially certified. The Boston Marathon does not specifically designate which races qualify. You must contact the race directly to confirm whether it’s certified.

Races sanctioned by the USATF (USA Track and Field), AIMS (Association for International Marathons and Distance Races), or foreign equivalent certified courses will be considered with your application.

You can check out the list of approved races on their website. Status can vary, so it’s best to double-check. Here is a sample of the most popular qualifying races:

  • Boston Marathon (to qualify for the next year)
  • Chicago Marathon
  • New York City Marathon
  • California International Marathon
  • Philadelphia Marathon
  • Erie Marathon
  • Mountains 2 Beach Marathon
  • REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon
  • Berlin Marathon
  • Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
  • Twin Cities Marathon
  • London Marathon
  • St George Marathon
  • Richmond Marathon
  • Grandma’s Marathon
  • Ottawa Marathon
  • Phoenix Marathon
  • Baystate Marathon
  • REVEL Big Cottonwood Marathon
  • Lehigh Valley Via Marathon
  • Steamtown Marathon
  • Marine Corps Marathon
  • Mohawk Hudson River Marathon
  • Jack and Jill’s Downhill Marathon
  • Bayshore Marathon

Whichever race you choose, it needs to be run before between May and September, when registration opens for the race the next year.

Step 4: Start Training

Once you’ve found an official qualifying race, it’s time to start training if you aren’t already. Training for a marathon is not something to be taken lightly. Make sure to give yourself enough time to properly prepare your body and mind for the physical challenges ahead. However, if you’re training for the Boston Marathon, you’ve likely run a marathon before.

It typically takes 16 to 20 weeks to prepare for a marathon. Your training should involve building up both distance and speed with a combination of short runs, long runs, and interval workouts. Take it slowly and gradually build your mileage until you reach your peak training distance.

Cross-training can also help in between running days to strengthen muscles. Swimming, cycling, or even yoga are great ways to supplement your running routine. Plus, a strength training routine designed to target your muscles functionally for running can help you feel your absolute best for race day and promote optimal muscle balance.

Step 5: Find a Running Coach

This step is optional but highly recommended if you are serious about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. A running coach can provide personalized advice and help to improve your technique and performance. They can also create a plan that fits your goals, lifestyle, and schedule.

There are various options for finding a running coach, including local running clubs, online programs, and individual coaches. Choose one that aligns with your needs and helps you stay motivated to reach your goals.

Step 6: Run Your Qualifying Race

On race day, the most important thing is to stick to your plan and pace yourself. Keep a consistent pace throughout, and don’t let any external factors throw you off. Getting enough rest the night before and fueling up properly with carbohydrates is also important to put your best foot forward.

Once you cross the finish line, be sure to record your time and keep it for reference. Your official race time will likely be posted a few days after the race. Make sure to bookmark this time. This will help you when applying for the Boston Marathon.

how to qualify for the boston marathon

Step 7: Apply to Run the Boston Marathon

Once you have recorded your qualifying time, you’ll be ready to apply for the Boston Marathon when registration opens in September of each year (for the race in April or May of the next year). You must submit a completed application and proof of your qualifying time to be considered.

The application will require your birth date and a few other details so that they can confirm the qualifying time.

Step 8: Pay the Application Fee

The application fee for the Boston Marathon is currently $225 for U.S. residents and $235 for international participants. Payment via credit card is accepted and must be paid when you submit your application, so ensure this is ready.

There is no statement about whether a refund is possible if you are not accepted. Currently, purchasing insurance upon checkout is the only way to guarantee a refund. This will allow you to ask for a refund in the event of an injury, pregnancy, job loss, and more.

Step 9: Wait for Your Acceptance or Rejection Letter

Once your application has been processed, you will receive an acceptance or rejection letter. If accepted, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) will send you a confirmation email and race number, which is required for race day.

If rejected, don’t despair! You can always try again the next year with a faster qualifying time.

Step 10: Start Training Again

Once accepted to the Boston Marathon, it’s time to start training again. Make sure to give yourself enough time to prepare and stick to your plan.

As mentioned before, a good training plan should involve gradually building up speed and distance over 16-20 weeks. Make sure to stay consistent with your training and be aware of the risks associated with running such a long-distance race. Pay attention to pain or other signs that might indicate an injury, and adjust accordingly.

A training program will vary significantly depending on how much time you have, your goal time, and your age.

FAQs: Qualifying for the Boston Marathon

You might still have some questions left unanswered or want more general information. Browse these frequently asked questions.

Can I qualify for the Boston Marathon?

Yes! Anyone can qualify for the Boston Marathon by taking the right steps (as long as they’re 18 or older on race day). Make sure you run a qualifying race that has been certified by an accredited organization and submit your time before registration closes.

Can I qualify for the Boston Marathon with a virtual or indoor race?

No, races that are done indoors or virtually are not accepted as qualifiers for the Boston Marathon. Only runs at approved outdoor races are accepted. See the full list of options above or inquire about the race you’d like to complete.

What are my chances of qualifying if I’ve never run a marathon?

Over 25,000 people qualify for the Boston Marathon yearly; why can’t you do it too? Well, that depends. If you’ve never run a marathon, your chances of qualifying might be lower than someone who has. However, it is not impossible by any means, especially if you’ve been training for 10ks, half marathons or other long runs recently. With proper training and determination, anything is possible!

What is considered a qualifying time?

Qualifying times depend on age and gender. See the reference times above or check the BAA website.

If I clock a qualifying time, am I guaranteed an entry?

No. Even if you achieve the qualifying time, there is no guarantee of entry due to the limited number of spots available. Shoot for running faster than the qualifying time to enhance your chances.

How much time do I need to rest and retrain between my qualifying run and the Boston Marathon?

After a big race, it is best to give the body a minimum of 4 weeks to rest and recover. For more information, see our full guide on recovery after a race. Then, once you’re ready to jump back into training, you’ll likely need around 15 weeks to get ready for race day.

If I don’t get accepted one year, can I try again the next year?

Yes! If your application is rejected or you didn’t get a spot in the race, you can always try again the following year with a faster qualifying time.

I haven’t been notified yet of my acceptance; should I follow up?

If you haven’t received a response within the announced timeframe, it’s best to follow up directly with the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.). However, do not email or call for a response before that time.

Do I need a running coach?

While it is not required, having a running coach can be beneficial and help ensure you reach peak performance on race day. A running coach can help you set and crush your running goals for qualifying races and the big race day.

Can I just run for charity instead?

The Boston Marathon does provide a unique opportunity to raise money for charity, even if you don’t have a qualifying time. You can apply for one of the limited spots if you run on behalf of an approved charity. The primary requirements for running for charity include raising a minimum of $5,000 and finishing the race within 6 hours.

Is there a prize for winning the Boston Marathon?

Yes, there is a prize for the overall winners of the Boston Marathon. The overall winner will receive a cash prize of $175,000. The second-place runner receives $75,00, and the third place $40,000. There are also smaller awards given to runners in the wheelchair division, masters division, and para division.

How can I get more information?

For up-to-date, detailed information about qualifying and registering for the Boston Marathon, visit the official website of the BAA. You can also check out their Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter feed to stay informed.

how to qualify for the boston marathon

Tackle Your Biggest Marathon Dreams – How to Qualify for the Boston Marathon

Running in the Boston Marathon is a dream for many long-distance runners. With the right steps, you can make that dream a reality. Most importantly, take it one step at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Follow these ten straightforward steps to qualify for the Boston Marathon and get ready to race in one of the most prestigious marathons in the world.

Good luck on your running journey to your biggest race day!

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JayDee Vykoukal

JayDee is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and ex-collegiate Division 1 athlete. Through her own online platform, Health Means Wealth, she is dedicated to helping her clients live their best lives through the power of healthy habits.

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