How to Get Into the Boston Marathon

Runners react after crossing the finish line to complete the 120th Boston Marathon on April 18, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts
 Maddie Meyer/Getty Images 

As the oldest consecutively run the marathon and one of the most prestigious road races in the world, the Boston Marathon requires that participants meet tough qualifying times or participate in one of their charity programs to get a number for the race.

The Boston Marathon is on the third Monday in April (Patriots' Day in Massachusetts) every year, and registration usually opens the previous September. If running in the famed marathon is on your bucket list someday, here's what it takes to get into the race.

How to Qualify for the Boston Marathon

To "BQ" (Boston Qualify) is a goal of some marathon runners because the time standards are fast times and only a small percentage of marathon runners achieve them.
Qualifying times must be run on a certified marathon course on or after the deadline (usually in September). Here are the qualifying times for the 2020 Boston Marathon:

Age Group Men Women
18-34 3:00:00 3:30:00
35-39 3:05:00 3:35:00
40-44 3:10:00 3:40:00
45-49 3:20:00 3:50:00
50-54 3:25:00 3:55:00
55-59 3:35:00 4:05:00
60-64 3:50:00 4:20:00
65-69 4:05:00 4:35:00
70-74 4:20:00 4:50:00
75-79 4:35:00 5:05:00
80+ 4:50:00 5:20:00

The following rules apply to the qualifying times:

  • The acceptance of official race entrants will be based on qualifying time, with the fastest qualifiers (in relation to their age and gender) being accepted first until the race is full.
  • All qualifying times are subject to review and verification.
  • Minimum age requirement for the Boston Marathon is 18 years of age on race day.
  • All standards are based on official submitted net time.
  • The qualifying times are based upon each athlete's age on the date of the Boston Marathon in which they are participating.

Many runners make numerous attempts at a BQ before they're successful. It helps to choose the right marathon. Some marathons have more favorable conditions—such as flat courses, cool temps, and uncrowded course—for Boston Qualifying. Check out this list of fast and flat U.S. marathons if you're looking for a good BQ race.

Get Into the Boston Marathon Through the Charity Program

The Boston Marathon Official Charity Program began in 1989 when the American Liver Foundation became the first charity to receive official entries into the Boston Marathon. Since then, the program has grown to support at least 30 charities each year.
The official Boston Marathon Charities begin accepting runner applications in September for the following year's marathon. All charities offer unique training and fundraising programs and require a minimum fundraising donation. 

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.