Yellow and blue take on a whole new significance come Marathon Monday. These Boston Marathon qualifying tips might just be your ticket to pull on the coveted runners jacket. Step one is is all about understanding Boston Qualifying Times and standards.
After a weekend of watching our friends snap photos with that iconic finish line and gather their nerves, many of us find ourselves dreaming of having that special moment too.
What does it take to reach a Boston Qualifying Time? What does a Boston Marathon Training Plan entail?
We’re going to dive in to this from the perspective of numerous everyday athletes who have worked hard to achieve that goal. We’ll cover the Boston qualifying times, Boston qualifying races and then training to qualify for the Boston marathon.
Whew that’s a lot of qualifying.First, let’s start with a few Boston Marathon must know facts.
Boston Marathon Qualifying Times
What are the current Boston marathon qualifying times?
Since they keep changing, this is a great question.
Here are the current Boston Marathon qualifying standards by gender group and age group.
What’s important to know here is that so many often qualify in each category that people have started aiming for 5 minutes faster than the listed goal to help ensure they get an entry.The Boston times you need to earn a spot change each year based on the volume of those who have qualified and the pool of applicants. Not everyone who has qualified will opt to register.
When registration opens up, those with the fastest times in their group are allowed to register first and then spots open up in waves after that to other qualifiers.
Based on the delay of 2020 and the increasing number of runners applying, it’s ideal to work on a training plan that gives you plenty of padding around that goal time, so you aren’t stressing about getting in the Boston registration if the race itself is your big goal.
The field size limit is 30,000 runners and roughly 20% could be charity runners according to the BAA (Boston Athletic Association).
The allotted field size was higher in 2022, but it appears they have moved back to a previous maximum field size and will be sticking with it for at least the next few years.
When is the Boston Marathon Cutoff?
For 2023, you will need to have a run a qualifying time by Sept 16, 2023.
In general, the last day of registration is the cutoff date to qualify for the next year’s Boston Marathon. So your qualifying window runs roughly from the beginning of Sept through mid-September for the following year.
Boston marathon 2024 qualifying races start on Sept 1, 2022. So there is a two week period where you could qualify and then choose which year to put it towards.
When is the Boston Marathon Registration?
A window of about 5 days is opened each year where you can submit your official race time from a qualified race for a chance to earn an entry in to the Boston Marathon.
This year that window is Sept 12-16.
Every year they send out emails letting you know when it opens. It does not matter how quickly you submit your registration.
As noted above, they will then take all submissions and by category let in a set number of runners. This will determine how much under the BQ time you nee to be to earn a spot that year.
How Many Boston Marathon Charity Spots?
Charity running is another way to get your Boston Marathon experience if you feel like qualifying is out of reach.
You’ll likely need to raise $3500-5000 and work with a specific team to ensure you have a guaranteed entry. They must be an official charity of the race, so check before signing up with anyone!
The other way to get in is through a sponsor, much like the opportunity I was given to run New York City when Asics was a primary sponsor.
When is the Boston Marathon?
The race is always held on Patriots’ Day in April and is there for known as Marathon Monday.
2021 was the only year to host a September race due to an extension from COVID-19.
What’s with the Boston Marathon unicorn?
The athletic club was founded in 1887 (the first Boston Marathon took place in 1897), and the unicorn was associated with all the organization’s sports. The theory is it was part of the family crest of one of those founding members..
Boston Marathon Qualifying Races
First you need to find out if the course is certified, which they usually list on the race details because it’s a big deal.
A Boston marathon qualifying marathon is actually pretty easy to find. They know it’s a huge bonus to you as the runner and therefore they take the extra steps to ensure the course receives certification and you have a net time that can be submitted for verification.
But what’s more exciting is a race where the most people finish with a BQ, let’s take a look at the fastest qualifiers by %.
Best Races to Qualify for the Boston Marathon
Based on finish times, there have been a number of different studies that say indeed the right race can improve your odds of nabbing a chip time that gets you in below the cut-off times.
It’s obviously much harder to hit your best race time on course with tons of hills or crazy weather conditions…making Boston itself amusing because it’s not really PR friendly course
Here’s a fun breakdown of the potential races which will help your odds of achieving that Boston Qualifying time thanks to their fast courses.
The Chicago marathon is a tricky one because it’s super flat, but very often it’s a hot race. So go in to that one with eyes wide open! Meanwhile the New York City Marathon is full of rolling hills, but has so much energy it often leads to stellar times.
I absolutely recommend making weather a HUGE consideration. As well as number of turns and hills.
Now that you know the best marathons to qualify for the Boston marathon, I can’t wait to see which one you pick… I’ve certainly got my eye on a few of them.
One final fact that I think is extremely important: Boston is an amazing, incredible and wonderful achievement. It’s a special moment because of all the work that goes in to making it happen.
Not running Boston doesn’t make you less of a runner.
Maybe you’re an ultra runner, maybe you crush the 5K, maybe like me you’ve found that you love running and pushing super hard often leaves you sick or injured. Boston is incredible, but it’s not the definition of a runner, so don’t let it leave you discouraged!
6 Keys to Training to Qualify for the Boston Marathon
How to qualify for the Boston marathon? It’s always going to be a variety of things from consistent training to smart training to strength training, which is why so many people find success once they get a running coach.
But, we all have the friend who BQ’s on their very first marathon or who just seems to naturally rock a pace that we have to work hard to hit…those are not the friends I reached out to for advice today, ha!!
I wanted to talk with runners that had to put in miles and miles, sometimes years of effort to reach their big goal. Because if you’re reading this, I bet that’s exactly where you are too and it’s important to know the goal is still within reach.
Tip 1: Practice Even Splits
In order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I decided to run even split’s during the Boston marathon qualifying race. This helped me to maintain my energy level during the race so that I still had some left to give in the final miles.
When trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon it is so important to run your own race and to not get distracted by the other racer is around you on race day.
I love this tip because we so often hear about running negative splits (faster in the second half than the first), but data has now shown us that it’s much smarter to try and find 1 consistent pace to hit from start to finish!
Learn more about how to pace a marathon >>
- Do workouts at your goal race pace, not just faster and slower
- You want to train your legs and brain to know how that pace feels
- Do a half marathon a couple months ahead of your marathon to practice even splits
- Remember that working on your short speed also helps your marathon speed
Tip 2: Increased Overall Mileage
I think what helped me qualify for Boston was gradually increasing my overall mileage and a mid week long run that I built up to ten-twelve miles on Wednesdays.
About 3 weeks out from the race, I ran ten of those miles at goal race pace which really boosted my confidence that I could hold the pace in the marathon. The combination of a stronger, race specific training plan and confidence in my abilities helped me hit my goal!
Another incredible Boston Marathon Training tip. Matt Fitzgerald has shown us in numerous books and studies that there is a correlation between being able to increase your total running volume and dropping your marathon time.
- This means learning how to to easy runs correctly
- Utilizing recovery runs to get in miles without tearing down the body
- Sticking to an 80/20 model with only a small portion of your work being intense
- Trying double run days to increase mileage
- Understand how long your longest marathon run should be (i.e. you may do 22 miles or multiple 20’s)
Again she also mentioned using goal race pace in some training.
So often we practice faster than race pace in speed workouts or slower to get in long runs, but knowing exactly how race pace should feel is so important.Jenna McHugh sporting the 2018 Boston Marathon jacket.
- Remember the 10% rule of adding mileage, slow and steady increase
- Keep 80% of your mileage easy and this will help you add miles
- Don’t neglect your glutes and hips as the miles increase, it will keep you injury free
Tip 3: Find that Inner Belief
I think runners should believe in themselves and not let others’ opinions limit their own expectations of themselves. If you want to reach for the stars, go for it!
Believe in yourself, not in what others tell you.
When I mentioned to two of my friends (one man, one women – both of whom had been collegiate swimmers) that I was planning to run my first marathon, they both independently questioned if I knew what I was getting myself into, and reminded me that running a marathon would be very difficult.
I took it as, “You’re not athletic enough to run a marathon and don’t have it in you to train that hard.”
I decided that not only would I run that first marathon (Marine Corps Marathon), but that I would qualify for Boston at it – I’d show them.
Not only did I finish that first marathon with a smile on my face, but I BQ’d and went on to run 40 more marathons with 20 BQ’s, always remembering that those two friends didn’t think I could even complete one marathon.
The mental side of marathon training is so often overlooked as we focus on the mileage needed. But training your brain is for sure one of the fastest ways to make progress!!
- Dial in to a running mantra that will help drive you through the many miles of training
- Work on visualization techniques and learning how to shutdown negative thinking during the run
- Find people who do support you and can pick you up with doubt creeps in
- Connect with other runners either on social media, a local running group or in places like Virtual Run Club
Tip 4: Get a Coach and think about Race Day
Lauren of Breathe Deeply and Smile
In reaching my goal, I think the biggest thing was using a coach to see where I could tweak my plan and more importantly come up with an actual race day plan for the marathon.
In my previous marathons I always had a really loose plan in my head, but never sat down and discussed a more detailed race plan ahead of time with anyone.
Another factor in Boston-Qualifying, which was maybe the biggest factor, was staying really relaxed during the race. I remember getting to mile 18 and being in shock of how relaxed and good I felt.Enjoying one of the many iconic photo ops from Boston!
- Know that not every coach is right for you! Find the right running coach.
- Commit to following the plan, not jumping around from idea to idea!
- Do the strength training!!! And don’t work with a coach that isn’t making you do it.
- Create a race day plan, practice every bit of it during your long runs
Tip 5: Recover Right
Learning when to work and when (and how) to recover. Those work days? Work hard, put your all into it, and be purposeful and focused on what you are doing. Otherwise? Relax.
Stressing only begets injury; overwork begets injury or at the very least slower times because you are too exhausted. Have a real recovery plan, and stick to it. Recovery starts the moment you start your cool down.
She couldn’t be more right! If we aren’t recovering between workouts then we don’t have the energy needed to push the pace on our next speed workout or to hit those long run miles.
- After long runs take an epsom salt bath to relax tired muscles
- After any run make sure you are refueling with protein to help with muscle repair
- Eat a true marathoner runners diet – ENOUGH food, not just quick carbs.
- Know when you’re pushing too far and need a complete rest day
- Utilize active recovery days
- Enjoy a massage gun at home!!
Bonus tip: Strength Training
The one thing that I snuck in to a tip above, but want to reiterate is strength. A good Boston Marathon Training Program must have strength training.
It’s become more and more obvious in recent years that running and weight lifting done in combination are the best way to get faster, leaner and stay injury free.
- Start with even 2 days a week of body weight workouts for 20 minutes
- Work on building up to using dumbbells
- Then start to work on increasing the total weight so you’re only doing 4-6 reps
The benefits will compound from each level to the next. Elite runners are absolutely doing heavy lifting now and while we are not them, we should absolutely be learning from what they have found works.
Still looking for more tips on running your best race?
Here are some of the very practical training tips that can help:
- Speed Drills to improve form and power
- How to pace your marathon
- How to fuel your marathon
- Best marathon training shoes
As someone whose career revolves around all things running, it’s true I sometimes feel like I’ve failed by having not BQ’ed. Especially around this time of year, hearing the stories of perseverance and overcoming incredible odds!!!
There’s still a chance that if I can put this knee surgery behind me and keep my health steady a Boston Qualifying race could be in my future. I’m 100% pushing for a large group of us to #BQby80 based on many of your social media responses.
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish
Get more running tips: Pinterest