How to Qualify for the Boston Marathon? Tips for Running Fast and Getting In

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Every runner has a bucket list of races that they want to run. The Boston Marathon is one of the greats! If it’s not already on your bucket list, you might want to add it after this article!

But you may or may not know that you can’t just sign up and run this marathon. You have to qualify for the Boston Marathon by running another marathon before. And that marathon needs to be pretty fast.

Here’s our advice on how to qualify for this great race and some tips on how to run a fast marathon!

Why Run the Boston Marathon?

The Boston Marathon is the oldest continuously-running marathon in the world. It began in 1897 and it’s loaded with history. It’s also one of the most prestigious races you can run.

Despite tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, the race remains a firm favorite and a bucket list item for almost every serious runner.

It also has a finishing rate of 98.4 percent! So if you want to hang up a prestigious medal in your home and make amazing memories, working towards qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a good idea.

Boston Marathon Qualifying Times

The latest Boston Marathon qualifying times were made official in 2020. The previous times, established in 2013, were 5 minutes slower than the current ones.

For the past ten years, runners often needed to qualify even faster than the “official” qualifying times. This is based on the number of registrations received. The marathon is so popular that there are more runners who qualify to register than the race can support. So the BAA began accepting entrants based on how much faster they were vs. the qualifying time. This means someone who beat their qualifying time by a few seconds might not get in. But someone who beat their qualifying time by 10 minutes probably will.

While 2022 and 2023 didn’t have a qualifying cut-off, the 2024 does – and it’s a whopping 5:29 cut-off. That means you need to be 5 1/2 minutes faster than the times listed below if you want to run in 2024!

This is a good indication of the caliber of athletes entering this race! Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is no small feat.

The qualifying window for the 2025 Marathon will start on September 1st, 2023, and close when the full field size has been reached.

You’ll have to post an official race time at an appropriate marathon faster than the qualifying times.

Races that DO NOT qualify are any race shorter than a full marathon, indoor marathons, and virtual marathons.

Other than that, as long as the race is on a course certified by the USA Track and Field, Association for International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), or the equivalent governing body for distance running in whichever country the race happens.

Here are the qualifying times you need to hit based on your gender and age. There are also non-binary qualifying times. These are the same as the women’s times.

Women’s Qualifying Times

  • 18 to 34: 3 hrs 30 min
  • 35 to 39: 3 hrs 35 min
  • 40 to 44: 3 hrs 40 min
  • 45 to 49: 3 hrs 50 min
  • 50 to 54: 3 hrs 55 min
  • 55 to 59: 4 hrs 05 min
  • 60 to 64: 4 hrs 20 min
  • 65 to 69: 4 hrs 35 min
  • 70 to 74: 4 hrs 50 min
  • 75 to 79: 5 hrs 05 min
  • 80 and over: 5 hrs 20 min

Men’s Qualifying Times

  • 18 to 34: 3 hrs 00 min
  • 35 to 39: 3 hrs 05 min
  • 40 to 44: 3 hrs 10 min
  • 45 to 49: 3 hrs 20 min
  • 50 to 54: 3 hrs 25 min
  • 55 to 59: 3 hrs 35 min
  • 60 to 64: 3 hrs 50 min
  • 65 to 69: 4 hrs 05 min
  • 70 to 74: 4 hrs 20 min
  • 75 to 79: 4 hrs 35 min
  • 80 and over: 4 hrs 50 min

How to Qualify For the Boston Marathon

Now that you know the qualifying times, how do you train to qualify for the Boston Marathon? Here’s our best advice for doing everything right from the start.

Make It Your Main Running Goal

You can’t train half-heartedly for the Boston Marathon. If you’ve decided to go for it next year, you’ll have the best success if you make it your primary running goal or at least one of your main goals.

Of course, you’ll end up running other races throughout the year, but keep your focus on Boston and consider other races as training aids or stepping stones to reaching this goal.

You don’t need to shout it to the world that you’re planning on running the Boston Marathon, but it might be helpful to share with your friends and family, so you have support and accountability.

It’s also handy to tell your close family about this running goal so they understand why you’re training as hard as you are!

Be Realistic About Your Goal Time

The truth is, qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a tough task. You need to be committed to the process, but you also need to be realistic about your ability and your time goal.

For example, if you’re a 30-year-old man and your current marathon PB is 4 hours 30 minutes, it’s not entirely realistic to assume that you can cut an hour and a half off your time to qualify for the Boston Marathon, especially if that 4:30 came with hard training.

If you haven’t completed a marathon yet, The Boston Marathon might not be the best choice for your first one. Rather get a few under your belt and get a good idea of your time, so you know how much work you need to do to run the Boston well.

Choose Your Qualifying Marathons Carefully

You can choose almost any marathon to qualify in – most well-organized marathons will be USATF certified. But your best interest is to be a little more selective.

First, you should pick a flat course with easier-to-handle terrain. Hilly and rough courses are likely to add to your time, which may end up shooting you in the foot.

It’s also a good idea to pick a marathon during shoulder seasons like spring or fall. This gives you the best chance of running in 50-degree weather, the ideal temperature to run fast. Heat and humidity will surely slow you down and prevent you from qualifying.

If you’ve run marathons and there’s a course you particularly like, aim for that one. You should also have a good idea of your times if you’ve run these races before, so you can analyze and figure out which ones are likely to be your best choices.

Consider Upgrading Your Shoes

Your shoes can make a bigger difference than you realize. If you’ve been training in your current shoes for a while, it’s a good idea to get a new pair for training and a second new pair for race day. Make sure they’re the same shoe, though!

New shoes will give you the best cushioning underfoot, so your joints will be protected from jarring. They’ll also provide good support to run pain-free and effectively with your feet fully aligned.

You’ll wear your shoes as you train, so it’s a good idea to have a new pair for race day to take full advantage of the cushioning. This will also help to preserve energy in your muscles so you fatigue more slowly.

Commit to Your Training

You must be dedicated and disciplined to train effectively and make that qualifying time. This means sticking to a rigorous training plan and incorporating all kinds of runs in your training.

  • Easy runs
  • Speed work
  • Interval training
  • Hill runs
  • Recovery runs

Make sure your training regime is structured in a way that’s easy to maintain and allows you enough time for recovery.

Also, be aware that just because you’ll be aiming for flat courses for your qualifying races doesn’t mean you can neglect hills in your training. Training for uphills and downhills builds endurance, making the flat sections seem that much easier!

If All Else Fails… Try a Charity Spot

This is a way you can get a Boston Marathon spot without meeting the qualifying times. While we highly recommend training hard to meet that qualifier, if you don’t quite make it up but still want to run this race, you may be able to run for a charity.

There are around 2,500 charity spots open in the race, but you’ll need to find a charity on their list that suits you. Part of this gig is raising funds for the charity, so it’s not just coasting your way in!

There’s usually a minimum amount that you need to raise to be allowed entry. However, it’s important to note that you will need to pay your own entry fee.

Tips to Run a Faster Marathon

Planning on hitting a new PR at the Boston Marathon? These tips will help you no matter what marathon you aim to run.

Do Strength Training

You may be shocked at how effective some leg and core training can be for your running skill. Stronger legs mean you propel yourself forward faster, and a strong core means you stand strong and stable, taking stress off the pelvis.

Strength training and running is the best way to strengthen your legs and core. While you definitely shouldn’t neglect your upper body, aim to strengthen your legs and core specifically. Try some of these exercises:

  • Deadlifts
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Hip thrusts
  • Romanian deadlifts
  • Hamstring curls
  • Weighted calf raises
  • Leg raises
  • Russian twists
  • Air bicycles

Experiment With Fueling

You’re missing out if you’re training your muscles but not your gut! Nothing ruins a great run like being hit with runner’s stomach on race day.

Experiment with your fueling to know what foods and fuels work for you. For example, you might find that dry toast works best for you before a run, or you may prefer creamy oatmeal with fruit. The only way you’ll know is to test.

Mid-run fuel is also important. Does your stomach deal well with gels, or do you prefer energy chews? What about electrolytes? Aim to experiment with all these during training so your body doesn’t rebel on race day.

Focus On Recovery

Recovery is an essential part of training. Overtraining can wreak havoc on your body and make it harder to reach your goals.

Make sure you get at least one full day of rest per week. You should also have one cross-training day and mix running with cross-training throughout the week.

You can also incorporate foam rolling, ice baths, recovery runs, compression gear, and staying hydrated and eating well.

Pace Yourself

A huge part of marathon success is down to pacing. If you blast off out of the starting blocks too fast, you’ll quickly use up the glycogen stores in your muscles, making you fatigue much faster.

Although it’s tempting to keep up with the pack or push yourself, stick to your pacing. It’s wise to practice pacing during your training to know your ideal pace for your goal time and then stick to it throughout the race.

Resist the urge to run faster because you’re feeling good! This could come back to bite you as you fatigue earlier.

Practice Mindfulness

We don’t mean to meditate every day for an hour. But learning how to be present in the moment is a skill that will serve you well on the road during a marathon. Mental toughness is something every runner should build!

Running a marathon is hard. You’ll need to distract yourself from the aching in your legs and the burning in your lungs at some point, which is where mindfulness training can come in handy.

Invest In a Coach

If you aren’t sure how to train for the best improvement, then investing in a running coach might be your best move.

They’ll be able to analyze your form, help you set realistic goals, and put together programs to get you to those goals as fast as possible.

Train In All Weather

Don’t forget that you have no idea what weather will happen on race day. We advise training in the rain if you wake up on a training day to find that it’s rainy. That way, you’ll be ready to handle anything that comes your way on race day!

Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Process

Running the Boston Marathon is a big deal. Even training towards it is a huge achievement, and you should be proud of yourself for having such a great goal! The key is to enjoy yourself and be proud of how far you’ve come.

When you set foot on that race course, remember everything you’ve done to get to this point. Congratulate yourself and remember, whatever happens in this race, you deserve to be here. Get out there and enjoy it!

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.