Update on Sep 7, 2020
Last Thursday, the BAA announced that registration for Boston 2021 is delayed, and that’s all we know for now. If you’re taking part in any of the virtual marathon majors, good luck and have an amazing time! I’ll be running Boston virtually with a few friends this Saturday!
Update on July 7, 2020
The 2020 Berlin Marathon, rescheduled Boston Marathon, rescheduled London Marathon, and New York Marathon have been canceled. The Chicago Marathon has not made an official announcement yet, but I would assume that it’s likely going to be canceled as well. I am generally not a huge virtual race person, but I loved that the BAA refunded everyone, tried to keep everyone updated as well as they could, and generally handled things very well. So when they opened up the virtual race to all previously registered participants today, I signed up to run Boston virtually for fun with friends socially distanced on a fun route that we’ll come up with in San Francisco!
I know a lot of people who were hoping to run Boston in 2021 have questions about how qualification for that will work, so I found this on in their announcement from July 1st:
Participants who were entered by means of a qualifying time may use their 2020 Boston Marathon time to apply for entry in the 2021 Boston Marathon. The beginning of the qualifying window to be used for application and entry into the 2021 Boston Marathon has been established to be September 15, 2018.
Assuming registration for the 2021 Boston Marathon opens around September 15, 2020, that means that the qualifying window will be September 15, 2018 - September 15, 2020. That’s two years instead of one. Note: everything here is just my best guess. To be clear, there haven’t been any qualifying races that I know of after March 15th or so (with the Los Angeles Marathon being the last big one), and I don’t expect there to be too many before September 15th of this year (although fingers crossed that things improve for those of y’all I know that are training and holding out hope for a late Summer qualifier🤞), so rather than assume that there’ll be <2x as many potential qualifiers (of course, 2x is the the max since a lot of people who ran the races again the next year are just repeating their qualifiers), it’s likely closer to <1.5x as many. However, it does still mean there are two Chicago Marathons (2018 and 2019), two New York Marathons, two Los Angeles Marathons, two Houston Marathons, two California International Marathons, and two Philadephia Marathons, etc.— all of which are towards the top of the list for qualifying the most runners for Boston recently. So this is pure speculation, but this will probably lead to even larger cutoff times than we saw this past year (after they lowered the standard by 5 minutes).
Update on May 27, 2020: I hadn’t been updating this because we don’t have great information about a lot of these races given everything going on in the world, but at least made sure cancellations/current tentatively postponed race dates are up-to-date as far as I know. Hope you’re all staying safe!
Update on January 13, 2020: Updated likely qualifying window for 2021 Boston and NY 2020 Registration dates.
Update on December 20, 2019: Lots of people have requested that I put together an updated list for 2020, so here’s my best attempt! Congrats to the recent Berlin and Chicago marathon lottery winners!
As great as the Abbott site is, it 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 2019/2020 and hope that someone will find this useful. If you notice any issues, please email me and I’ll get it corrected: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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||2019 Race Date||2020 Race Date (1 = provisional, see footnote)||2020 Registration Info||2021 Registration Info|
|Berlin Marathon||Sunday, September 29, 2019||Registration was open October 1 through October 31, 2019||Registration will likely open up October 2020|
|Boston Marathon||Monday, April 15, 2019||Registration for the 2020 Boston Marathon opened on Monday, September 9, 2019 at 10am ET. The qualifying window for the 2020 Boston Marathon: Sep 15, 2018 - Sep 9, 2019||Qualifying window for the 2021 Boston Marathon will be from
|Chicago Marathon||Sunday, October 13, 2019||Sunday, October 11, 2020 No announcement yet as of July 7, 2020.||Ballot occurred in November 2019, charity entries are still available||Likely November 2020.|
|London Marathon||April 28, 2019||Ballot occurred in April 2019||Likely April 2020|
|New York City Marathon||Sunday, November 3, 2019||Guaranteed entry will be open Jan 30 - Feb 13, 2020. Drawing opens February 26, 2020.||Early 2021, likely early-February|
|Tokyo Marathon||March 3, 2019||Sunday, March 1, 2020 (Elites Only)||August 2019||Likely August 2020|
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, Tokyo via Run as One program)
- Raise money for a charity (all, I believe)
- Win 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, not your age when you ran the qualifying standard.
Note that for the Tokyo Marathon, these standards are for their Run as One program, and DOES NOT GUARANTEE entry since it is limited to 300 participants.. Additionally, these must be run in IAAF Gold Label, Silver Label, or Bronze Label Races and/or AIMS Certified Races.
|Age||Berlin 2020||Boston 2020||Chicago 2020||New York 2020||New York 2020 (Half)||Tokyo 20202|
|Age||Berlin 2020||Boston 2020||Chicago 2020||New York 2020||New York 2020 (Half)||Tokyo 2020 2|
1 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.
2Note that these are the times for Tokyo’s Run as One program, and DOES NOT GUARANTEE entry since it is limited to 300 participants.. Additionally, these must be run in IAAF Gold Label, Silver Label, or Bronze Label Races and/or AIMS Certified Races.
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, 20 minutes hours (3:05 to 5:25)||2 hours, 35 minutes (3:35 to 6:10)|
|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!
|Boston Marathon||April 16, 2018||Registered through qualifying standard, finished in 2:55:46|
|Boston Marathon||April 15, 2019||Registered through qualifying standard, finished in 2:48:31|
|Chicago Marathon||October 13, 2019||Registered through qualifying, finished in 2:47:27|
|New York City Marathon||November 3, 2019||Registered through qualifying standard, decided not to run because I wasn’t feeling recovered after Chicago 3 weeks earlier. I ended up running a PR at CIM in 2:41:31!|
|Boston Marathon||Registered through qualifying standard|
|Berlin Marathon||Registered through the lottery!|
Sources I found useful
- The official sites: Berlin Marathon, Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, London Marathon, New York City Marathon, Tokyo Marathon
- Runner’s World: “New Qualifying Times Guarantee Entry to the 2018 Chicago Marathon”
- Travel Run Repeat: “2019 WORLD MARATHON MAJORS TENTATIVE DATES”
- Travel Run Repeat: “How to get into an Abbot World Marathon Major”
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