Support the news

It's Getting Harder To Qualify For The Boston Marathon

Workers from Accurate Graphics lay down the finish line on Boylston Street in Copley Square for the 2019 Boston Marathon. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Workers from Accurate Graphics lay down the finish line on Boylston Street in Copley Square for the 2019 Boston Marathon. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Registration for the 2020 Boston Marathon opens at 10 a.m. Monday on the Boston Athletic Association website, and the way it now works says something about how popular the famous race is and how fast the runners who want to participate are.

The BAA is again using a registration system that the organization put in place after 2010, when a crush of runners trying to sign up for the race overwhelmed the site.

Now, runners with the fastest qualifying times get to register first.

In fact, on the first day, you can only sign up if you have a time from another marathon that is 20 minutes or more faster than the qualifying standard for your age and gender.

On Wednesday, you can sign up if your qualifying time is 10 minutes or more faster, and then Friday, registration opens to runners who have a qualifying time that's five minutes or more faster.

If any of the roughly 24,000 spaces in the field remain after that, then runners who have simply met their qualifying standard can register on Sept. 16.

Those slower runners (and it seems wrong to even describe them that way) are probably holding their breath this year.

If history is any guide, they aren't going to get a coveted bib number for the iconic race.

"None of us take any joy in ... turning away an athlete who has gone to all the time and trouble to meet those very difficult qualifying standards."

Thomas Grilk, BAA CEO

To get into this year's marathon, you had to have a qualifying time nearly five minutes faster than your age and gender standard.

More than 7,000 qualified runners didn't get to run the race.

To address this issue, the BAA has actually made it harder to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

"At the end of last year's registration process, we tightened the qualifying standards by five minutes across the board, across all age and gender categories," says Tom Grilk, BAA's CEO. "And one interesting element of this year's registration process will be to see just what people's performance is.

"Does that mean that this year there'll be room for everyone who submits an entry or will we see that athletes redouble their efforts and simply get faster? We've seen some of that kind of behavior in the past, and it will be very interesting to see how it plays out this year."

A 40-year-old man now has to run another marathon in 3 hours and 10 minutes to qualify for the Boston Marathon. A 40-year-old woman has to do it in 3 hours and 40 minutes. Those standards used to be five minutes longer for each.

"None of us take any joy in ... turning away an athlete who has gone to all the time and trouble to meet those very difficult qualifying standards," says Grilk.

"Once upon a time, I was one of them and I had several failures before I finally met the qualifying time some years ago. It would be very disappointing to make the time and still not get a place in the race. We're very sensitive to that."

The 124th Boston Marathon will be run on Patriots' Day, April 20, 2020.

Related:

Alex Ashlock Twitter Producer, Here & Now
Alex Ashlock has been a producer for Here & Now since 2005. He started his WBUR career as senior producer of Morning Edition in 1998.

More…

+Join the discussion
TwitterfacebookEmail

Support the news