Last updated October 14, 2018 20:05:00

I hope to someday run all six Abbott World Marathon Majors:

Their site doesn’t do a great job of telling you upcoming important dates in one concise place, so I’ve found myself Googling this info over and over. I’ve compiled all the important dates for these in 2018/2019 and hope that someone will find this useful. If you notice any issues, please email me and I’ll get it corrected: dtran320@gmail.com. I’m just a runner doing this for fun in hopes that it’ll benefit someone else doing the research, so I can’t make any guarantees about the data!

Marathon 2018 Race Date 2019 Race Date (1 = provisional, see footnote) 2019 Registration Info 2020 Registration Info
Berlin Marathon Sunday, September 16, 2018 Sunday, September 29, 2019 Registration opens on October 17, 2018 12:00 CET and goes until November 7, 2018. Likely mid-October 2019
Boston Marathon Monday, April 16, 2018 Monday, April 15, 2019 (Patriot’s Day) Took place from September 10 - September 19, 2018 Qualifying window started Saturday, September 15, 2018, registration will likely start in September 2019. See new qualifying standards
Chicago Marathon Sunday, October 7, 2018 October 13, 2019 Guaranteed entry: 10 a.m. CDT on Tuesday, October 23; Non-guaranteed entry: 10 a.m. CDT on Tuesday, October 30. Applications close at 2 p.m. (U.S. Central Time) on Thursday, November 29 Likely late October through November 2019
London Marathon Sunday, April 22, 2018 April 28, 2019 2019 Ballot closed on May 4, 2018, winners were notified early October 2018; charity entries are still available Likely April 2019
New York City Marathon Sunday, November 4, 2018 November 3, 2019 1 Early 2019, likely mid-February Early 2020, likely mid-February
Tokyo Marathon February 24, 2018 March 3, 2019 August 2018 Likely August 2019


Footnotes

1 New York Marathon 2019: Not yet announced, but typically first Sunday in November

Getting into each marathon

There are generally four ways (not including wheelchair participants and athletes with disabilities) to get into each of the majors, although this is much more difficult for non-UK residents hoping to run the London Marathon and non-Japan residents hoping to run Tokyo:

  • Run a qualifying time (Berlin, Boston, Chicago, New York open to all)
  • Raise money for a charity (all, I believe)
  • Won a lottery entry (all except Boston)
  • Purchase a package through a tour operator such as Marathon Tours (all), although I don’t know much about how legit these are. They seem to generally be really pricey.

Some races also offer special entries such as legacy finishers:

  • Berlin Marathon: Completed the Berlin Marathon at least 10 times.
  • Chicago Marathon: Completed the Chicago Marathon at least 5 times in the last 10 years
  • New York Marathon: Completed the New York Marathon at least 15 times

But most of us are concerned with getting into these for the first time, so here are the qualifying standards.

Qualifying time standards

Note that for Boston, in 2019, the registration cutoff was 4 minutes, 52 seconds under the age-group standards, e.g. for a males aged 18-34, you had to run 3:00:08 or under to actually be able to register, up from 3:23 in 2018 and 2:09 in 2017. Because of this, the BAA decided to adjust the qualifying standards to make them five minutes faster for every age group for 2020.

For the New York Marathon, you can also qualify using a half marathon time.

For all of the marathons I believe, your age group is your age on the day of the race.

Men

Age Berlin 2019 Boston 2020 3 Chicago 2019 New York 2019 1 New York 2019 (Half)
18-29 2:45 3:00 3:10 2 2:53 1:21
30-34 2:45 3:00 3:15 2:53 1:21
35-39 2:45 3:05 3:15 2:55 1:23
40-44 2:45 3:10 3:25 2:58 1:25
45-49 2:55 3:20 3:25 3:05 1:28
50-54 2:55 3:25 3:40 3:14 1:32
55-59 2:55 3:35 3:40 3:23 1:36
60-64 3:25 3:50 4:00 3:34 1:41
65-69 3:25 4:05 4:00 3:45 1:46
70-74 3:25 4:20 4:30 4:10 1:57
75-79 3:25 4:35 4:30 4:30 2:07
80+ 3:25 4:50 5:10 4:55 2:15

Women

Age Berlin 2019 Boston 2020 3 Chicago 2019 New York 2019 1 New York 2019 (Half)
18-29 3:00 3:30 3:40 2 3:13 1:32
30-34 3:00 3:30 3:45 3:13 1:32
35-39 3:00 3:35 3:45 3:15 1:34
40-44 3:00 3:40 3:55 3:26 1:37
45-49 3:20 3:50 3:55 3:38 1:42
50-54 3:20 3:55 4:15 3:51 1:49
55-59 3:20 4:05 4:15 4:10 1:54
60-64 4:10 4:20 4:55 4:27 2:02
65-69 4:10 4:35 4:55 4:50 2:12
70-74 4:10 4:50 5:45 5:30 2:27
75-79 4:10 5:05 5:45 6:00 2:40
80+ 4:10 5:20 6:30 6:35 2:50

1 The standards for the 2019 New York Marathon will be the same as for 2018 2 The Chicago Marathon actually lists ages 16-29 and appears to the be only Marathon that lists a qualifying standard for runners under the age of 18. 3The BAA announced that the qualifying standards for 2020 would be adjusted to be five minute fasters for all age groups.

Some quick observations from the above qualifying standards that I found interesting (I may have gotten some of these wrong, so please do let me know if anything sounds off):

  • In order of difficulty from easiest to hardest to qualify for for men and women under the age of 35: Chicago (for runners under 30: 3:10, 3:40; for runners age 30-34: 3:15, 3:45), Boston (3:00, 3:30), New York (2:53, 3:13), Berlin (2:45, 3:00)
  • Berlin, Boston, and Chicago like multiples of 5-minutes for all their qualifying standards, whereas New York has a different system. It’s not clear how they came up with these, but their site says:

    We pride ourselves on offering many methods by which runners can gain entry. We intend for our time standards to offer equal access to our most competitive applicants across all age categories and to allow the highest possible percentage of runners from each category to earn guaranteed entry into the TCS New York City Marathon.

  • True to that statement, New York seems to be the friendliest in terms of qualifying standards for older runners, with a range of 2 hours, 2 minutes on the men’s side from ages 18-34 to 80+ (2:53, 4:55) and 3 hours, 23 minutes on the women’s side (3:13, 6:35), and a good increase from the age 65-69 group to 70-74 group: 25 minutes on the men’s side, 40 minutes on the women’s side. This “range” metric obviously isn’t the best metric, but it gives a good starting point— this could just be an oversight on my part to not look at the percentage difference in times, but in order of most to least friendly as runners get older:
Marathon Range of Qualifying times for Men as you get older Range of Qualifying times for Women as you get older
New York 2 hours, 2 minutes (2:53 to 4:55) 3 hours, 23 minutes (3:13 to 6:35)
Chicago 2 hours (3:10 to 5:10) 2 hours, 50 minutes (3:40 to 6:30)
Boston 1 hour, 50 minutes (3:00 to 4:50) 1 hour, 50 minutes (3:30 to 5:20)
Berlin 40 minutes (2:45 to 3:25) 1 hour, 10 minutes (3:00 to 4:10)


  • Berlin is by far the toughest to qualify for out of these 4, and having only 3 age group buckets likely doesn’t make it much easier for older runners, although they do give a 30-minute increase for men and 50-minute increase for women from the age 55-59 group (2:55, 3:20) to 60+ (3:25, 4:10), which is a much bigger jump than the others going from age 59 to 60. Seems like if qualifying for Berlin is on your radar, targeting to run it not long after you turn 60 is the way to go!
  • Boston has increases of exactly 15 minutes for the qualifying standard as runners go from the age 55-59 group (3:35, 4:05) to the age 60-64 group (3:50, 4:20) to the age 65-69 group (4:05, 4:35) to the age 70-74 group (4:20, 4:50) to the age 75-79 group (4:35, 5:05) and finally to the 80+ age group (4:50, 5:20), which is interesting since Chicago and New York both increase differently.
  • It’d be interesting to see how well these qualifying standard strategies lead to equal distributions of runners from the different age/gender groups. That might be a good followup post.
  • I wrote up all the above thoughts just in a quick glance-through of the qualifying times table and I’m a 30-year old male who has been running for as long as I’m sure many of you have, so if you have more experience with any of the above or have more nuanced thoughts about how fair the qualifying standards are for different age/gender groups, I’d love to hear from you!




Sources I found useful