Running the Boston Marathon is a dream for a lot of people. For amateur runners, it's almost the Olympics for people that want to run the marathon distance. It’s this big goal to work towards and achieve when you aren't good enough to be a professional runner, which is the vast majority of us. So, how do you actually qualify for Boston, and what are the pitfalls that you can run into?
The first thing to realize is that Boston is kind of a mecca for runners, which is probably why you're here trying to figure out how do I actually qualify for Boston. Down in the description, I will have a link to the Boston Athletics Association page, which has all the details.
But I'm going to summarize it and talk about some of the pitfalls here for you when you want to try to figure out how to qualify. Really the first step in qualifying to run Boston or actually getting to go is to meet your qualifying time. Pretty simple, right? You want to run the race, you gotta meet the qualifying time.
Now, it varies depending on your age group. And for the men's side, it starts at three hours and goes all the way up to four hours, 50 minutes for men over the age of 80. On the women's side, it starts at three and a half hours and goes all the way up to five hours and 20 minutes for women over 80. A common pitfall here is to realize that just because you met your qualifying time does not mean that you automatically get to run Boston.
Because there are so many people that want to run the race, the qualifying time is simply the minimum that you need to be able to submit your entry for the possibility to run the race. And that really makes sense, right?
The race is merit-based. So, if you run faster, you're more likely to qualify. So, basically, they go from fastest to slowest for all the people that meet the minimum qualifying standard and then fill up the race. There's usually people leftover that met the qualifying time but did not meet what they refer to as the cutoff time, which varies from year to year, depending on the times that were submitted.
Now, your cutoff time is all published on that Boston Athletics Association page. So, check that out in the link in the description. But they vary anywhere from a minute 30 to all the way in 2019, it was almost five minutes, four minutes and 52 seconds, which is, you know, a chunk, but doable in a marathon because that's not going to be a considerable amount of time over all those miles.
So, what does that actually mean when I say cutoff time? In the minute 30 example, that would mean for men 18 to 35, with that three hour qualifying time, you would actually be two hours, 58 minutes and 30 seconds to be able to go. Anything slower than that those people did not get to go. Now, that is an average, which means it's probably faster for that group that's faster than 18 to 35 group and possibly slower for others because they average it over all of the age groups and the cutoff time.
So, if you understand how math works, you know that there's probably a skewed distribution in that the faster people usually have a faster cutoff time, and the slower people will usually have a little bit closer to the actual qualifying time before that cutoff takes place.
Now, if we want to continue to talk numbers, Boston also publishes the number of people that are in the race as well as those that were left out. And on average, of the people that qualify, meet that minimum qualifying time, 10 to 20% are left out. So, although that's a little bit scary, you say, I don't want to be left out. You also know that if you had the physical capability to meet that qualifying time, the vast majority of people that are eligible do get to race Boston.
So, make sure you get in, get on a fast course, that's always nice. That's a little bit of cherry-picking. But know, that if you qualify and you enter, you are most likely going to be able to run the race.
Now, one of the other qualifying pitfalls that you can run into is running a marathon course that is not certified. This doesn't happen very often, at least in my opinion, because so many of these marathons are certified. Now, if you're here in the US, the easy thing to check is, is the course USATFs certified. So, it's USA track and field, did they certify the course?
That basically means, yes, this is the correct distance, and then Boston will consider that particular course as a legitimate qualifying time.
Now, if you don't know, if your race is qualifying for Boston, you can send an email into the race director, go to your race’s website, find the race directors contact or the contact for whoever's in charge of answering customer questions, and they should be able to tell you whether it's qualifying. If they cannot tell you, just as a suggestion, that means it's probably not.
For any marathon, it's gonna be pretty important that they know that because of how big Boston is. So, make sure just check, is it USATF certified. Other countries are gonna have different certifications. So, if you're a foreigner, gotta check that out. But if you're certified, you're pretty much good to go. Run your time. And then if you make it, submit to Boston.
So, that's the gist. And now, if you get your time, submit it, you're probably good to go. That's really all you can do. If you want to learn more about the lure around Boston, things to do with Boston, I actually interviewed a really great person, Hope Phelan who is an artist. She was present during the bombings at Boston several years back.
And from that, she's kind of become an integral part in the Boston community by painting scenes of Boston and runners. And also she's actually showed her paintings at Boston, at the race through a corporate sponsor. So, if you want to check out my interview with her see her work; that interview should be popping up on the screen right now. A really wonderful person to talk to. So, I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.