Yes, You Can Run the Boston Marathon Without Qualifying – Here’s How…


It’s a tough job to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but it’s one of the most coveted race spots in the world. Boston is the world’s oldest, continuously running marathon, loaded with history!

If it’s on our bucket list, but you’re worried about qualifying times, there’s good news. You can run the Boston Marathon without officially qualifying if you know how and go through the right channels!

So if running a fast marathon to qualify is daunting to you, why not try one of these alternative methods of getting into the race?

How Do You Qualify For the Boston Marathon?

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon entails running a full marathon in a time that comes under the official qualifying times for your age group and gender. You can choose any marathon as your qualifier but getting that time is essential.

The finishing time needs to be achieved within the official qualifying time period for the upcoming race, which is announced on the Boston Athletics Association’s website.

Once you have a qualifying time, you must register for the race online. Remember that there’s also a registration period; once all spots are filled, you’ll lose your chance. Register early to avoid disappointment!

How To Run the Boston Marathon Without Qualifying

So what if you didn’t manage to get that qualifying time?

Or you got your time, but the field was full before you registered? Or maybe hitting that time in a marathon is a little daunting and makes you anxious!

Whatever stopped you from qualifying for the marathon, there’s good news—there may be another way to get in.

Here are the ways you can run the Boston Marathon without qualifying. See if any of them work for you!

Run for Charity

Every year, the Boston Athletic Association and the John Hancock Company give away a number of entries to various charity organizations.

If you want to run but haven’t got a qualifying time, you can approach a charity and ask to partner with them to raise funds in return for an entry into the marathon.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, though! You’ll be required to raise a certain amount of money before the end of the marathon, and you’ll also have to take part in a training program, so they know you’re well-prepared.

It’s an excellent choice if there’s a cause that’s close to your heart and you want to tick this marathon off your bucket list but don’t have a qualifying marathon time.

Get a Sponsor

This one only applies to athletes who are already experienced and are catching attention with their achievements. If you can find a known athletic sponsor who’s willing to sponsor you and has guest entries available, then this may be a viable route for you.

New runners and those without any big running achievements yet are much less likely to be able to get this type of entry into the race.

By Special Invitation

In some cases, media outlets and businesses also get a certain number of entries. And if you’re somebody they feel could represent them or promote the business, you may be in luck of scoring a special invitation.

For example, running bloggers, store owners, journalists, and others may be offered an invitation to run in return for promotions. Again, this is only relevant to certain people and is unlikely to be a good option for many.

On the other hand, you may get an invitation by asking around if any of your running buddies know someone involved with the race’s organization.

Run the Race Virtually

The marathon organizers have introduced a virtual version of the Boston Marathon, offering over 70k spots for those who won’t be running the event.

As you can run your virtual marathon wherever you like, and you won’t be held to the race course’s standards, you don’t need a qualifying time for this one. You’ll receive a slightly different medal from the real race medal, but it’s still a way to complete the prestigious race without qualifying!

Enter Giveaways

Businesses, organizations, and sometimes influencers in the marathon running world may have competitions or giveaways in which you can win a race spot.

You should be able to find opportunities by Googling it or checking out #bostonmarathon on social media. Keep in mind that this is usually the luck of the draw! Although in some cases, you may be able to win a spot by showcasing some kind of talent!

Join a Tour Group

Boston Marathon’s International Tour Program may be your ticket to the race if you live in a country other than the USA. The B.A.A. has partnered with various tour organizations to provide Boston Marathon packages that take care of your race’s logistics and help you get there safely to run.

Be careful, though. Some of them require you to be qualified, so double-check carefully if this is a route you’re interested in.

If All Else Fails… Qualify

While these “sneaky” ways of getting into the Boston Marathon are effective and allow a limited number of athletes to run even if they miss the qualifying time, we always recommend training hard and earning that qualifier!

Limited spaces for charities are open, and they fill up quickly too! So while these are good options, they’re also not a sure thing, so don’t rely on them as your ticket to the race.

There’s also no feeling like knowing that you’re in the race because you made that cut! So while there’s absolutely no shame in running for charity or doing a virtual race, why not train towards hitting that qualifying time next time around?

A large part of the challenge of running is constant improvement and performance. Run your Boston Marathon with gusto if you manage to use one of these methods to get in, but use it as a springboard to improve your performance the next time. Best of luck, and have fun!

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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.