What’s the Deal with the New Boston Marathon Qualifying Times?

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Boston What’s the Deal with the New Boston Marathon Qualifying Times? www.runnerclick.com

The most famous race in the world has officially changed the qualifying times for 2020. The Boston Marathon has kept the same standards for six years, but due to the increasing amount of applicants each year, new standards are set for the next registration. Now, is this good news at all? There have been loads of responses on social media regarding the new qualifying time and as you can guess, many are not positive comments.

Achieving the Boston Marathon qualifying times is no easy feat, but it is on every serious runner’s list of personal goals. Before getting upset at the new change, it is best to understand why it was necessary and not let it discourage you from achieving your running dreams.

Race Cap

In order to run the Boston Marathon, you had to run faster than 4 minutes and 52 seconds under your age group qualifying times in your qualifying race. This left out 7,384 qualifiers. If you were one of those unfortunate cases, it surely is not the end for you! Many factors go into the selection size of applicants and this may fluctuate every year. Races must cap out the number of runners due to considerations such as the actual size of the city and available security.

For the Boston Marathon, this cap is 30,000 runners. About 80% of this cap is from the qualified entrants and the rest are those who run as a part of specific charities or connected to the association by another means, possibly employees of certain companies.

Qualifying Times

The majority of the responses on social media regarding the changes in qualifying times have been negative. Hundreds of thousands of runners struggle through training and racing to meet the old standard of the Boston Marathon. It is heartbreaking for many of these to meet the standard and still not get a spot in the race due to the entry limits.

Now, cutting five more minutes off of each qualifying time in every age group makes it an even bigger struggle. This made many runners angry enough to make a choice to quit trying to BQ, while others used it as fire to their furnace to train even harder and get in for the 2020 Boston Marathon. The new qualifying times look like this:

Age Group2019 Men2020 Men2019 Women2020 Women


Those who are not that into running probably think five minutes is no big deal, but in reality, it is cutting about twelve seconds off of each mile. This can be a huge deal to avid runners since marathon records are often broken only by a few minutes each race. It takes extremely hard work to train for a race, so it is understood why this change in the qualifying standards for the Boston Marathon has to build excess anxiety in many.

When a race makes these changes they do so in a timely manner, to make sure athletes have enough time to adjust their goals and training to work towards the new standards. Therefore, runners on the edge of these qualifying times can make great strides over the next year if they put their heart into their training. And when they don’t achieve the needed qualifying times for joining the Boston Marathon, it can get discouraging.

No Goal is Unachievable

Since the Boston Marathon uses a rolling registration process beginning with the fastest runners in each age group, all runners should try as best as they can to get into this first group. Those who qualify for the race by 20 minutes or more are allowed to register on day one and are pretty much guaranteed a spot at the Boston Marathon. Even those who meet the standard by 10 minutes and 5 minutes can almost guarantee a spot as well.

So, ideally, you should make your goal to be between 10 and 20 minutes faster than your age group qualifying cut-off time. And I know this may sound extremely difficult, but setting your goal at this point will put you ahead of the game. Even if you do not quite reach under that 20-minute marker, you will most likely be closer to getting a place at the Boston Marathon than if you set your goal at the cut-off time.

For those of you at the edge of the cut-off time, consider switching up your training program a bit. Small changes go a long way and can make all the difference when it comes to the Boston Marathon. If you are not doing so already, add in cross-training and daily stretching to keep away injuries.

Start adding in more speed work to your program as well. This is the key to breaking through plateaus and gaining speed for long distance. Hiring a coach may also be a great idea if you are struggling with finding the right training plan for you. Do not let these changes to the Boston Marathon qualifying times discourage you from one day running down the most famous finish line in the world.


  1. Boston Athletic Association, Qualify for the Boston Marathon, Websitee