How to Qualify for the Boston Marathon

This is NOT a post with an expert opinion and a surefire way to get into Boston. No, no, no…. This is simply a post with a few tips that I learned when chasing my BQ dream. You see, I don’t have a background in competive sports. I took up running later in life (well, post-college) and had not a clue about the Boston Marathon when I first started running. 

Know your Qualifying Time. Below are the 2017 qualifying standards based on your gender and age (on Boston Marathon race day). To qualify to APPLY for registration, you must run a race deemed as a ‘Boston Qualifier’ event at this time or less. Keep in mind that not all runners who apply to run will be accepted. Click here to read more about the qualifying standards.

Be aware of the cutoff. During week one of registration, qualifiers who beat their time by 20 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 5 minutes will get to apply first (in recent years, all have been accepted during week one). If spots remain, week TWO of registration opens and any runners who have beaten their qualifying time at all can apply. Depending on the numbers of spots available, the runners who have beaten their time (based on their gender/age) with the most time to spare will be accepted, thus creating a cutoff time.

Train for 5 minutes+ less than your qualifying time. Don’t train for the exact time you need to qualify. Train for 5 minutes less than this time. For example, if your qualifying time is a 3:35:00 (8:13 pace), train for a 3:30:00 (8:00 pace). Set yourself up to have a buffer, not squeeze in with seconds to spare. I have trained for and ran two races aiming for my BQ time and both times, I missed it by seconds. After aiming for a time 5 minutes less than what I needed, I ended up with a 4 minute buffer.

Choose a goal race and a back-up. There are so many factors out of your control during a race (weather, course mishaps, physical ailments). Choose a race as your goal to qualify but also have a back-up race a couple of months later just in case things don’t go your way.

Choose a certified course and make sure it is ideal for a fast time. Not all courses are certified Boston Qualifier courses. Check the race website or ask the race director if their course is certified.

Know your goal pace. Become comfortable and familiar with what your goal pace feels like. Get it engrained in your mind so on race day you know exactly what it should feel like.

Train faster than your goal race pace. Spend some time focusing on speed work. When I first started running, I thought I just needed to run more to get faster. In reality, you need to run faster to get faster. Think quality over quantity. Designate some runs to log intervals faster than your race pace or tempo runs at your race pace.

Run shorter races to gauge your progress. Run some 5Ks, 10Ks, or half marathons during training to get an idea of how your training is going. Use this race predictor calculator to measure your progress. Bonus: these shorter races act as speed work.

Don’t get caught up in chasing a BQ. Don’t lose the joy in running by chasing this goal. If I had measured my worth based on my race performances, I would have given up running years ago.

Qualifying for Boston doesn’t have to be your goal. Just because you’re a runner, doesn’t mean this needs to be your goal. We all have different goals. Do what makes you happy, not what you think you need to be doing.

Boston Marathon website


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  1. These are great tips! I just ran my first marathon in 5:43. I would love to know a few things you did to train to be faster. 🙂 BQing isn’t necessarily on my bucket list, but maybe in the near future. 🙂

  2. Thanks for all the tips! Some great things to think about.
    Trying to qualify for Boston is going to be my next goal after I conquer my current goal 🙂