The Boston Marathon represents the epitome of marathon racing for many runners. It’s the only one race that you can’t simply sign up for – you must qualify. Most people think that you have to hit the Boston Marathon qualifying times in order to race in it. But as you’ll read below, that is only one way to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
You might be surprised that many thousands of runners that are racing each year did not qualify by meeting the Boston Marathon qualifying times. They got there from one of the many alternative methods that you can use to legally to race in April. Similar to the various ways to qualify for the Kona Ironman World Championships.
We’ve painstakingly created our list below based on documented methods and feedback from past runners. We will be adding to this list as additional feedback is presented to us. We hope you enjoy the list.
Let’s get to it.
Eclipse the Boston Marathon qualifying times for your age group in a previous marathon
The majority of the Boston Marathon runners qualify for the race by finishing a previous marathon (a certified Boston Marathon qualifier) in under the qualifying time for their age group within the last 18 months or so.
Qualifying times can be found here:
Be a qualifier from another race who missed entry into Boston due to the race’s field size limit
If you’ve actually qualified by hitting your Boston Marathon qualifying times, but couldn’t get in due to field limits, you might be in luck.
The Boston Marathon has a cap of approximately 30,000 runners each year, so certain runners might not get entry if field limits have been reached. You might get special admission in a future race in this situation. We’ve been told of this method but cannot confirm it. If you can confirm, please let us know.
Be a returning Boston Marathon champion
If you have won a previous Boston Marathon, you really don’t need to qualify for entry ever again. The world acknowledges you are worthy and you can race it anytime you want. You get a lifetime pass. Seriously.
Run for a Charity
Why try to meet the Boston Marathon qualifying times when there are over 40 charitable organizations you can raise money for to get into the race? Fundraise to help your fellow people, and be rewarded with a ticket to race.
Typical fundraising amounts are between $5,000 and $8,000 per athlete, but check out each charity for the exact amount. Raise money for a charity that resonates with you, and it will be extra rewarding.
These charities raise tens of millions each year and have thousands of race entries to hand out to their fundraisers. You can qualify for the Boston Marathon and feel good about how you got there at the same time.
Be a Boston Marathon Sponsor
Currently, John Hancock and Adidas are the big sponsors for the Boston Marathon. Sponsors get special privileges, so they will often get a certain amount of race invitations to hand out.
We don’t have a number of bibs that they can hand out, but my guess is that it’s variable based on need. Don’t quote me on that though.
If you have a family member or friend that works in either company, be sure to reach out soon “just to see how they’re doing”.
Be a member of the BAA Team
The Boston Athletic Association Team is separated into three groups – Pro, Elite, and Club Level. You can join the BAA, and guess what? They give their members special privileges to get into the Boston Marathon.
One caveat – you must currently reside in the New England region.
Become an elite runner
If you are wicked fast, and have won other high profile races that are not marathons, you have a good chance of racing Boston. The BAA often extends invitations to runners who have not officially qualified but would like to see how they compete at the 26.2 mile distance. Think of “elite” like a recent Olympic medalist in the 10k – that kind of elite runner.
Run the Last 10 Consecutive Boston Marathons
Run the last 10 and you might get an email like this:
Become a Celebrity
Are you famous? Are you in the news and widely respected by the world in general? The Boston Athletic Association has routinely extended invitations to celebrities that wish to race in the Boston Marathon.
Buy an entry from An International Tour Organization
Kind of a VIP package where you purchase a package that includes a hotel, VIP treatment as a runner, and entry into many sold out races including the Boston Marathon.
One such company is Sports Tours International – https://www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk/ . They cater primarily U.K. residents for the Boston Marathon.
Here’s a full list that are often country-specific:
I’m assuming this is to make the Boston Marathon as global as possible, which is why most tour companies tend to only sell spots to their own country residents. I’m not saying you need to fake a British accent, but it’s up to you.
Receive an entry from the John Hancock Non-Profit Program
Non-profit organizations can form their own teams under this program. Teams can recruit their own runners and fundraise accordingly. There are over 1000 Boston Marathon race entries handed out through this program.
Get the details here:
Be a Guide or Support Runner to a Para Athlete
If you’re an able-bodied athlete and want to assist an impaired athlete, you can both run together on race day (assuming you meet the requirements). A few things to know:
- The Boston Marathon qualifying times are separate for the visual, physical, or intellectually impaired athlete.
- You as the guide are helping the Para Athlete and do not receive a medal or finishing time.
- BAA does not provide a matching system for a guide to be paired with a para athlete. This should be done pre-Boston Marathon and typically the two athletes would have raced elsewhere as a team to gain experience.
- There is no entry fee for the Guide athlete.
More details can be found here:
So that’s it! Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is more than just hitting your Boston Marathon qualifying times. There are always more ways than you think to get to this race in April, so try some of these out and let us know what you think.
If you know of any other ways to qualify for the Boston Marathon, please contact us and let we’ll add it to the list!