What it Takes to Qualify for Boston in 2020

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston and four blocks to run to the finish

This route is something only a handful of runners ever get to do. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is one of the more prestigious accomplishments in the running community. Each year only about 30,000 participants get to toe the line in Hopkinton. Boston qualification is something only about 10% of US marathon finishers have achieved. The big question is how fast do you have to run to race in Boston, and how do you get there?

A few things to consider when looking at Boston Marathon Qualification:

* In order to qualify in 2020, you must have run a qualification time on or after September 15 of 2018 on a certified course

* A time qualification doesn’t guarantee a spot

* Check the official Boston Athletic Association website for complete information  

* Give yourself the best shot by strategically choosing when and where you race

What is your time qualifier?

The Boston Marathon uses an age and gender graded system to set qualification standards. The current standards are as show below. As we get older our VO2 max decreases. After the age of 40, the rate of this deterioration increases as well. This is reflected in the qualification brackets. You will see here that the men’s and women’s standards are also 30 minutes apart in each age bracket. However, achieving this standard does not guarantee you a spot on the starting line.

 Boston Standards

What does it actually take to qualify?

Unfortunately, there is a difference between a BQ time and actually being able to race on Patriots Day.  This is the tricky part about qualification. Because there is a limited field size of about 30,000 runners, spots are limited. Of those spots a certain number are reserved for charities each year. The only fair way to weed out the extra numbers of qualifiers is by moving the standard up a set number of time to eliminate the slowest qualifiers. The gap between the standard and actual entry has grown in the last several years. For 2019 the gap has grown to almost 5 minutes faster. See below.

·         2014 Participants had to run 1:38 < their age graded BQ time to be guaranteed entry

·         2015 1:02<BQ standard

·         2016 2:28 < BQ standard

·         2017 2:09 < BQ standard

·         2018 3:23 < BQ standard

·         2019 4:52 < BQ standard

·         2020 ???

Unfortunately, history tells us it is safe to assume one needs to run a few minutes faster than the published standards. We will see how the new 2020 standards impact the field. It may seem unfair at first glance, but as the years go on, the prestige of a Boston entry is growing as well.

Give yourself a shot to run a fast marathon

In our previous article Blueprint To Qualifying For The Boston Marathon, Coach Will gets into the details on choosing a qualifying attempt opportunity. Some key takeaways that are important to consider.

Time of year and typical weather for the area

There are a number of wonderful races put on around the country each year, but that doesn’t mean they are great races for running fast. Consider finding a location and race that has average temps between the upper 30s-mid 40s. The temp doesn’t have to be down to the degree, but just remember 35 is more ideal than 65 on race day. Humid locations can also cause some extra trouble. Remember, an Arizona race that is 60-70 degrees (dry heat) is different than a race in Alabama (humid) at the same temp.

Race planning

Every runner needs a plan. This plan should include a timeline for training, peaking, tapering and recovery. If you have three back-to-back marathons planned, when are you going to recover and when are you going to train? This is why a guided plan from a coach is so important. One ideally needs 16-24 weeks to prepare for a goal event. That doesn’t mean there cannot be racing in between. Simply put, give yourself time to prepare and to recover in between goal races.

The race course

Elevation and turns play a big role in how “fast” a course can be. Look for courses with lower elevation profiles and not a significant amount of turns. Have you ever run a race and wondered why your GPS watch was significantly off? If you are unable to run tangents effectively, chances are you are going to run a little long. The more turns a course has the more tangents you need to run effectively. Now this doesn’t make a huge difference, but if we are talking about things that make an impact on time, this is still something to consider. The course must also be eligible for Boston qualification.

Take a look at this guide to see what courses produce some of the highest number of Boston Qualifiers

For fall of 2019, RunningLane is taking part of our team up to the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. To give you an example of why we chose this race, let’s look at the temperature and elevation profile. The average low on race day is 39F. The marathon only has 122ft of elevation gain throughout the entire race. We believe this is an excellent opportunity to run some fast times and give our athletes the best opportunity to reach their goals.

Can I qualify for Boston?

Every athlete is different and we come from various training and skill backgrounds. A BQ for some could be just minutes away, and for others it may be an hour or more. There may be a harsh reality in what person is going to have an easier time achieving the desired time standard, but that doesn’t mean both people can’t improve. Can you remember the last time you regretted putting time into something you were passionate about. I don’t know about you, but I cannot. One of the greatest parts about coaching is seeing the people strive to reach their goals and watching them surpass what they believed was possible.

At RunningLane, we love seeing people set high standards for themselves. With every dream, there needs to be a lot of work and dedication behind it. Marathon training is difficult and it can be challenging to do it on your own, let us help. Contact to see how we can help you with your big running goals. Whether you are running your first marathon or you are dreaming of Boston Qualification, let us come beside you and help.


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Brandon York

When I finished my collegiate cross-country and track career, I felt burned out and unmotivated to continue running. As a result, I quit running for over 2 years and, as expected, lost a lot of conditioning during that time. I was out of shape. Eventually, when I decided to start running again, I needed a coach and motivation. Enter the guys from My coach Will lit the fire in me to get fast again! In a little over 2 years time, he took me from a high school level fitness to beating my college PRs in the 5k and 10k and even running well in longer races like 15k and 10 miles. With his guidance, I now have a realistic chance of qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials!

I firmly believe that this team at can do the same for you - whether your goal is to take down old PRs, win your age group at a local 5k, or be competitive on a national level.  They’re the best.