Can You Qualify for the Boston Marathon

Best Places to Watch

Boston Marathon Qualifying Times

2021 Race:  Can You Qualify?

Getting up Heartbreak Hill is hard enough . . . but first, you must meet strict Boston Marathon qualifying times to even enter the race. 

Qualifying times have changed slightly from recent years.  So yes - that means meeting the mark will be tougher than ever.


Marathon qualifying times are based on what your age will be on the day when the Boston Marathon in which you want to participate will be held.  These requirements apply to everyone:

  • You must be at least 18 years old. 
  • Furthermore, you must achieve the qualifying time on a certified course approved by U.S.A. Track and Field, or the international equivalents designated by the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), which organizes the Boston Marathon.

Fastest runners get to register first, plus if the number of qualified applicants registering for the race exceeds number that can be accepted based on the field size limit, you'll need an even faster time in order to survive the cut-off - so think of these qualifying times as just the first step to getting admitted to this elite race.

See the list below to find the exact qualifying times for each class and the cut-off times for prior years.

More about the Boston Marathon

Mile-by-mile description of the Marathon route - & best places to see the winners

Top photo:  Boston Marathon competitors

Boston Marathon Qualifying Times:  Can You Make the Cut? 

Boston Marathon runners

Are you thinking that if 31,500 athletes from all over the world can qualify for the Boston Marathon, you can too? 

To compete in the Boston Marathon, you must meet the qualification requirements within a period of approximately 19 months prior to the date of the Marathon in which you wish to participate. 

That means that for the 2021 Marathon, you need to have met these qualifying times on or after September 14, 2019. 

The next Boston Marathon registration date will be in September 2020 for the 2022 race.

Registration for the Boston Marathon opens in the September before the April race - so in other words, about 7 months before the race.  Look for the exact date to be published on the BAA website in May.  You can also find the date on Boston Discovery Guide's Event Calendar for September.

To find out if you can qualify, check your age group (remember - not your age today, but the age you will be when the race takes place) and race category below.  And be sure to check the cut-off time limits during prior years as well.

If these qualifying times seem like a stretch, get out your running shoes and start your Boston Marathon training program today!

Boston Marathon Qualifying Times by Age Group & Gender

Qualifying times for the Boston Marathon have become more difficult to meet during the past few decades.

These are the qualifying times starting from 2020 to the present:

Men

  • 18-34:  3 hrs 00 min 00 sec
  • 35-39:  3 hrs 5 min 00 sec
  • 40-44:  3 hrs 10 min 00 sec
  • 45-49:  3 hrs 20 min 00 sec
  • 50-54:  3 hrs 25 min 00 sec
  • 55-59:  3 hrs 35 min 00 sec
  • 60-64:  3 hrs 50 min 00 sec
  • 65-69:  4 hrs 5 min 00 sec
  • 70-74:  4 hrs 20 min 00 sec
  • 75-79:  4 hrs 35 min 00 sec
  • 80 & over:  4 hrs 50 min 00 sec

Women

  • 18-34:  3 hrs 30 min 00 sec
  • 35-39:  3 hrs 35 min 00 sec
  • 40-44:  3 hrs 40 min 00 sec
  • 45-49:  3 hrs 50 min 00 sec
  • 50-54:  3 hrs 55 min 00 sec
  • 55-59:  4 hrs 5 min 00 sec
  • 60-64:  4 hrs 20 min 00 sec
  • 65-69:  4 hrs 35 min 00 sec
  • 70-74:  4 hrs 50 min 00 sec
  • 75-79:  5 hrs 5 min 00 sec
  • 80 & over:  5 hrs 20 min 00 sec

Unlike earlier years, an additional 59 seconds will NOT be accepted for qualifying times.  In fact, you cannot go even 1 second over the qualifying time.

For example, a qualifying time of 4:20:59 or 4:20:01 for a 62 year old woman will NOT be accepted.

The Qualifying Time "Cut-Off":  Why Some Athletes Who Qualify Won't Be Accepted

The number of qualifying applicants has exceeded the marathon field size during recent years.  Since 2012, applicants have been cut for all but one year and the trend seems likely to continue.  This year, for example, only 31,500 applicants could be accepted.

So how are eligible runners cut in order to keep within the field size limit?

Each year, after all registration applications have been received and the number of qualified applicants over the limit is calculated, a "cut-off" time is established.  That is the amount of time that you must be below the qualifying standard for your race class in order to be accepted.  And here's the catch: you won't know what the cut-off time is until long after you've qualified and submitted your application.

Here are the field sizes, cut-off time (minutes:seconds), and number of qualified applicants not accepted for each year since 2012:

2012 Boston Marathon Cut-Offs

  • Field size:  27,000
  • Cut-Off Time:  1:14
  • Qualifiers Not Accepted:  3,228

2014 Boston Marathon Cut-Offs

  • Field size:  36,000
  • Cut-Off Time:  1:38
  • Qualifiers Not Accepted:  2,976

2015 Boston Marathon Cut-Offs

  • Field size:  30,000
  • Cut-Off Time:  1:02
  • Qualifiers Not Accepted:  1,947

2016 Boston Marathon Cut-Offs

  • Field size:  30,000
  • Cut-Off Time:  2:28
  • Qualifiers Not Accepted:  4,562

2017 Boston Marathon Cut-Offs

  • Field size:  30,000
  • Cut-Off Time:  2:09
  • Qualifiers Not Accepted:  2,957

2018 Boston Marathon Cut-Offs

  • Field size:  30,000
  • Cut-Off Time:  3:23
  • Qualifiers Not Accepted:  5,062

2019 Boston Marathon Cut-Offs

  • Field size:  30,000
  • Cut-Off Time:  4:53
  • Qualifiers Not Accepted:  7,248

2020 Boston Marathon Cut-Offs

  • Field size:  31,500
  • Cut-Off Time:  1:39
  • Qualifiers Not Accepted:  3,161

(These statistics are from the BAA website)

How can you make sure that if you qualify, you don't get cut?  The quick answer:  make sure your qualifying time is a few minutes below the below the required time for your age group. 

Although there is no foolproof way to predict or know the "safe" number in advance, you can look at the cut-off times above and see that during most years a qualifying time of 2 or 3 minutes below the official maximum time for your age/gender would have been sufficient, in 2019 you would have needed to come in roughly 5 minutes below.  

Of course there are no guarantees - but if you want to be accepted for a future Boston Marathon, history suggests that you should aim at a qualifying time of at least 5 minutes less than the maximum time for your age/gender class.


Marathon Qs & As

Boston Marathon Hotels

Need a hotel for the Boston Marathon?  Just enter your dates below, and see available rates and hotels on this hotel map from Booking.com:

Booking.com

More about how to save on Boston hotels

Fun Ways to See Boston during Marathon Weekend

More Articles about the Boston Marathon