The Boston Marathon is widely considered the Holy Grail of marathon races. It is a World Marathon Major and one of the most prestigious running races to exist. Every year, thousands of runners from all over the globe aspire to qualify for this extraordinary event. But what does it take to qualify?
Here’s a detailed plan that will help you become a part of this elite group of runners. And don’t forget, there are many ways to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
NOTE – The Boston Marathon made our bucket list of the best marathons in the US.
Basics on How to Qualify For Boston Marathon
Before we dive into the specifics of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, let’s take a quick look at what it takes to become eligible in the first place. To be eligible for entry into the marathon, you must have turned 18 by race day and be prepared to meet certain time requirements based on your age group and gender. Additionally, all applicants must provide proof of their finish times at another certified marathon within the previous 18 months prior to applying.
Ok, let’s get more into the details.
Age-Group Boston Marathon Qualifying Times
The first step to qualifying for the Boston Marathon is understanding your age-group qualification time. Each qualifying time corresponds with a runner’s age and gender; different times are designated for men and women in six different age groups (18-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, and 60+).
Qualifying Times By Age Group and Gender For 2024
In order to race in Boston, you’ll need to complete a separate qualifying marathon in under your age group’s time as outlined below. The qualifying window for the 2024 race is from Sept 1, 2022, to Sept 15, 2023.
|Age Group||MALE QUALIFYING STANDARDS||FEMALE (and NON-BINARY) QUALIFYING STANDARDS|
|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)|
Non-binary Athletes Qualifying Times
It’s worth noting that for 2024, non-binary athletes will also have their own set of qualifying times, which are equivalent to the female qualifying times.
Once you have identified your required qualification time, it’s important that you begin to train appropriately and intelligently.
Follow a training plan
There are many training plans available online that can assist you in ramping up your mileage in order to be prepared for your marathon. Some are available for free online and others are available for a cost. TrainingPeaks.com sells many good ones.
A sample training schedule will include:
- Gradual Increase in Mileage: Gradually increase your weekly mileage over several months to build endurance and avoid injury.
- Strength Training: Incorporate strength training exercises to improve running form and reduce risk of injury.
- Interval Training: Incorporate interval training to improve speed and endurance.
- Rest and Recovery: Allow adequate rest and recovery time, including regular stretching and foam rolling.
- Fueling: Ensure proper fueling with a balanced diet and adequate hydration.
- Pace Practice: Practice running at your target race pace to get comfortable and adjust it if necessary.
- Cross-Training: Include cross-training activities such as cycling or swimming to improve overall fitness and reduce the risk of injury.
- Mental Training: Incorporate mental training techniques such as visualization and positive self-talk to prepare for race day. Consider incorporating a daily cold plunge into your routine to strengthen your mental game.
Consider Hiring a Running Coach
You might consider hiring a running coach to help you with your endeavor. I have had many different coaches and they all have improved my athletic performance in various ways.
A good running coach can offer:
- Expertise: A running coach has the expertise and experience to design a customized training plan that takes into consideration your goals, fitness level, and injury history.
- Accountability: A coach provides accountability, which can help you stay motivated and on track toward your goals.
- Form Correction: A coach can help you identify and correct any form or technique issues that may be hindering your performance.
- Injury Prevention: A coach can help prevent injury by providing guidance on proper warm-up, cool-down, and strength training exercises.
- Race Preparation: A coach can help you prepare for your races with targeted training, pace practice, and mental preparation techniques.
- Personalized Feedback: A coach provides personalized feedback, including tips for improvement, encouragement, and constructive criticism.
- New Challenges: A coach can challenge you to push your limits and reach new levels of fitness and performance.
A coach can really prove helpful if you are time-crunched and need a bit more help with all the details.
Practice races and “buildup” races are essential for your success. Before attempting to qualify for the Boston Marathon, make sure that you sign up for other marathons so that you can practice your pacing skills and get feedback. It’s a good time to gauge if you need to train to run faster as well.
You will improve your performance greatly before taking on the big challenge of Boston. It also helps if you choose races in similar climates so that you can condition yourself accordingly—as weather conditions can have a major impact on running performance.
A Step-by-Step Process on How to Qualify for Boston Marathon
Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with Qualifying Times and Age Groups
The first step to qualifying for the Boston Marathon is understanding the qualifying times and age groups. For most runners, this means meeting a certain time requirement within your gender and age group. In other words, you must run within a certain range of minutes and seconds that is based on your gender and age group.
These times are outlined near the start of this article.
Step 2: Find a Favorable Race Course For Your Qualifying Race
In order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, you must complete an acceptable race course that has been approved by the BAA (Boston Athletic Association). These courses are usually certified by USA Track & Field or outlined by local running organizations such as RRCA (Road Runners Club of America). It’s important that you find a certified course because it makes it much easier for your application to be accepted.
If possible, it’s best if you can choose a course that requires little travel since this can add unnecessary stress during training and race day preparations.
When choosing a race course, make sure it suits your strengths as a runner. If you prefer flat courses, race the Chicago Marathon. If you like a few hills to break up the monotony, find a course that is less flat such as the New York City Marathon.
But above all, find a fast course. You can review the results from the previous year’s participants to see how they did. It will probably be a good gauge of how fast the course is for hitting the Boston Marathon qualifying times.
Step 3: Practice Proper Training Techniques
Once you’ve found an acceptable race course, it’s important that you practice proper training techniques that will help you reach your goals of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. This means having a well-thought-out plan that involves both strength training and running sessions tailored specifically toward marathon racing.
It’s worth noting that you should train for the course you plan on qualifying on. If you have chosen a hilly course as your qualifying race, then don’t skip the hills during training. Make sure you’re 100% ready for the environment.
Also, will it be warm at your race location? Prepare your body for the heat so you aren’t beaten by the conditions.
Proper training also means proper racing nutrition. You will use this time to understand the needs of your body and to find the exact equation that will allow it to race hard for 26.2 miles.
Alternate Ways to Qualify for the Boston Marathon
While most runners will qualify through the steps above, the Boston Athletic Association has other entry methods to race. We’ve outlined all ways to qualify for the Boston Marathon here.
Qualifying for any major marathon is no easy feat; it takes dedication and hard work in order to reach one’s goal. That being said, if athletes follow these steps—they familiarize themselves with qualifying times and age groups; find an acceptable race course; they practice proper training techniques—then they should have no problem achieving their goal of participating in one of the world’s most prestigious marathons.
The Boston Marathon is an incredible event that requires dedication and hard work on behalf of its entrants. As long as you meet all eligibility criteria outlined above—including age restrictions and USATF certification—then you can try qualifying for one of running’s most iconic events!