How Fast Do You Need to Be to Qualify for Boston?

There was no cutoff time for the 2022 race, but based on history, that’s unlikely to happen again

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Kevin Morris

The Boston Marathon, the holy grail race for serious distance runners, has become even harder to get into. Race organizers announced in September 2018 that the qualifying standards for the race going forward would be 5 minutes faster for every age group.

That’s because for six years in a row, the race turned away applicants who had met their qualifying time. In order to enter the 2019 race—which had a field of 30,000—runners had to be at least 4 minutes, and 52 seconds faster than their qualifying standard.

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While the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) thought that the new standards would cure some hardships for the 2020 race—the first year that the new standards were in place—it wasn’t the case. Runners hoping to participate in the 2020 Boston Marathon still had to be at least 1 minute and 39 seconds faster than their qualifying standard to enter the race. That left out 3,161 runners out of 27,288 who applied for the race.

Unfortunately, the pandemic hampered the 2020 race. The 2021 race—the only to ever occur in October—curbed the field size to a slim 20,000 to prevent mass spread of COVID-19. As a result of fewer racing opportunities during the pandemic’s initial spike, the 2022 race had no cutoff time. Anyone who had a verified qualifier made it in.

      The 2022 Boston Marathon field was capped at 30,000. More than 80 percent of those were time qualifiers, and the time required varies based on a runner’s age and gender. The rest of the field gained entry by running for charities or through a different connection to the race.

      Registration for Boston typically happens over a two-week period, with fastest runners able to register during the first week, usually early in September. Runners who bettered their qualifying standard by more than 20 minutes have the first crack at registration, followed by those who were 10 minutes faster, followed by those who were 5 minutes faster. The BAA has used the rolling registration system since 2012.

      If space remains in the field, registration continues that following Monday for all runners who had met their time standard. Some who made last-minute qualifying attempts at marathons were able to register with times earned at those races.

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      Every year, the BAA evaluates registration data and the appropriateness of qualifying standards, the officials say. Before the most recent standard change, the times were last tightened for the 2013 race.

      The 2021 race had a record cutoff time of 7:47 due to the smaller field, with 9,215 entrants not accepted. That time jumped more than five minutes in just a few years from what was needed for the 2017 race: a time 2:09 faster than the qualifying standard, when 2,957 runners were turned away. (Is it because of the rise of super shoes?)

      All qualifiers were able to register was 2022, because there weren’t many qualifying opportunities during the pandemic years 2020 and 2021. But with more and more races starting up again, how fast will athletes have to run to qualify for the 2023 Boston Marathon? Only time will tell.

      Boston Marathon Cutoff Times By Year (Pre-Pandemic)

      Brian Cariaga

      Each year, as the registration period opens and closes, runners speculate about where the cutoff time will land, and those who don’t make it commiserate on social media with others who were denied entry.

      Latest Boston Marathon Qualifying Standards

      Brian Cariaga
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