The Boston Marathon represents the epitome of marathon racing for many runners. It’s on the marathon bucket list for many people and it’s the only race that you can’t simply sign up for – you must qualify. Most people think you have to hit the Boston Marathon qualifying times 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 race in April. Similar to the various ways to qualify for the Kona Ironman World Championships.
We’ve painstakingly created our list of qualifying standards and methods based on 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.
What are the Boston Marathon Qualifying Times?
Consider yourself fast if you can beat the minimum qualifying time for your age group. The majority of the Boston Marathon runners qualify for the race by finishing a previous marathon distance race (a certified Boston Marathon qualifying marathon – races that meet qualifying standards) in under the qualifying time for their age group within the qualifying window (roughly the last 18 months or so). The Boston Marathon 2024 qualification times for each age and gender group are outlined below.
Check out this marathon pace chart to compare your times to the Boston qualifying times.
1 Qualifying Time By Age Group and Gender For 2024
|Age Group||MEN QUALIFYING TIMES||WOMEN (AND NON-BINARY) QUALIFYING TIMES|
|18-34||3hrs 00min 00sec (6:52/mile)||3hrs 30min 00sec (8:00/mile)|
|35-39||3hrs 05min 00sec (7:04/mile)||3hrs 35min 00sec (8:12/mile)|
|40-44||3hrs 10min 00sec (7:15/mile)||3hrs 40min 00sec (8:23/mile)|
|45-49||3hrs 20min 00sec (7:37/mile)||3hrs 50min 00sec (8:46/mile)|
|50-54||3hrs 25min 00sec (7:49/mile)||3hrs 55min 00sec (8:58/mile)|
|55-59||3hrs 35min 00sec (8:12/mile)||4hrs 05min 00sec (9:21/mile)|
|60-64||3hrs 50min 00sec (8:46/mile)||4hrs 20min 00sec (9:55/mile)|
|65-69||4hrs 05min 00sec (9:21/mile)||4hrs 35min 00sec (10:29/mile)|
|70-74||4hrs 20min 00sec (9:55/mile)||4hrs 50min 00sec (11:04/mile)|
|75-79||4hrs 35min 00sec (10:29/mile)||5hrs 05min 00sec (11:37/mile)|
|80 and over||4hrs 50min 00sec (11:04/mile)||5hrs 20min 00sec (12:13/mile)|
NOTE – Starting in 2023, the BAA has stated that non-binary athletes can qualify separately from male and female runners. For 2024, the non-binary qualifying times will be equivalent to the female qualifying times.
Keep in mind that in the past there have been more qualifiers than spots in the Boston Marathon. This has led to only the fastest runners who have qualified in each age group being extended an entry ticket by the Boston Athletic Association. So even though you might have met the marathon qualifying times in a qualifying race, you may not be able to race. So even if you hit the times above, you are not guaranteed entry.
It’s cruel and unfair, but that’s why meeting the Boston Marathon qualifying times and racing in Boston is so special. You’re truly the best of the best. Just train to run faster and you can qualify this way too!
The Full List of Ways To Run the Boston Marathon without Qualifying by Time
Many people are not capable of running the qualifying times above but still want to run in the iconic race.
The beautiful thing about the Boston Marathon is that it’s set up so many non-elite athletes can participate legally. Let’s go over all the ways for you to run in April. Some methods mentioned below are still based on race times, but I’ve included them since they are one way to get in.
2 Be a Qualifier From a Previous Boston Marathon Who Was Denied Entry 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.
As mentioned previously, the Boston Marathon has a cap of approximately 30,000 runners each year, so certain runners might not get an 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.
3 Be a 5-Star Runner In The Abbott World Marathon Majors
If you have already run all of the World Marathon Majors except Boston, you may be able to complete your quest. Abbott World Marathon Majors sent out an email in late October explaining how 150 spots were available and how to get in.
4 Be a Returning Boston Marathon champion
If you have won a previous Boston Marathon, you 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.
5 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? The Boston marathon charity slots in 2024 will allow you to fundraise to help your fellow humans and be rewarded with a guaranteed entry to the 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.
6 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 its 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”.
7 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.
8 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.
9 Run the Last 10 Consecutive Boston Marathons
Run the last 10 and you might get an email like this:
10 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.
11 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 to U.K. residents for the Boston Marathon.
Here’s a full list that is 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.
12 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:
13 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.
Regardless of your entry methods, be sure to take care of your feet. Wear great running insoles and recover well in between workouts. Using a portable cold plunge is becoming quite popular. We’ve outlined a lot of cold plunge varieties here.
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!
You Might Also Like
Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase the product. This site is not intended to provide medical advice and you should always consult with a physician prior to beginning any physical activity.