I am counting down the days until this year’s Boston Marathon with some fun facts about the world’s greatest race. Last week I talked a little bit about the history (I had no idea it only measured 24.8 miles at one point either!). And this week is all about getting that Boston qualifying time.
After I ran my first marathon in 2006, which I ran in exactly four hours thanks to this book, I started to get the idea that maybe… Just maybe… I could qualify for the Boston Marathon.
At the time, my age group needed to get a 3:40.59 or under to qualify. The BAA will review the times periodically and determine if they are too slow and not keeping the field fast enough. In 2011 they did that, and for the 2013 race, dropped the times. For my age group, it went down five minutes. The BAA also dropped the :59 across the board. See the current qualifying standards HERE.
It was the 1970 Boston Marathon that first introduced qualifying times. At that time, runners had to provide a written declaration, signed by a coach, that they could break four hours. The field at that time was only slightly above 1,000 runners, but organizers wanted to preserve the integrity of the race and keep the people who wanted to do something crazy out of it.
Fast forward 45 years, and a Boston Marathon qualification time is an honor that only 10 percent of American marathoners can claim.
So, how do you qualify? Blood, sweat and tears. No joke.
When I ran the 2009 Madison Marathon, only my third ever marathon, I had a lofty goal to cut 20 minutes off my time and qualify. You may be thinking, “are you nuts?“
I crossed the finish line and it said 3:42-something and was immediately crushed. I needed a 3:40 and barely missed it. A guy next to me must have noticed my disappointment and asked if I was trying to qualify. When I said yes, he told me to check out my gun time, not the net time, because there was still a chance that I could have hit my time.
There was still some hope! I rushed out of the finish line area, and hustled over for my official race time.
I qualified by 12 seconds. 12 seconds! And that moment has become one of my top 10 favorite in life.
The plan that worked for me to qualify and shave 20 minutes was Pete Pfitzinger’s “Advanced Marathoning.” I am currently using the plan now. It focuses on high mileage and “old school” running philosophies but it works for my body.
If you want to qualify for Boston, you have to do three things:
- Find the training plan that works for you. I tried Hanson’s Marathon Method last time I ran Boston in 2013 and hated it. I’ve heard it works for other people, but it doesn’t fit my running style. If you opt for a coach, find one that fits your running style.
- Choose your qualifying race. No, I’m not going to tell you to pick this marathon because it’s the fastest and flattest. That doesn’t work for everyone. Again, find one that fits your running style and sets you up for success. I do better on courses where I have some hills, for example, versus all flat.
- Get dedicated. You don’t qualify for Boston by half-assing your workouts, eating like a teenage boy and skipping strength training. It may mean you have to go to bed early and skip those weekly happy hours. But you know what? So worth it.
Even though I am running this year’s Boston Marathon, I don’t have a qualifying time yet for next year. I am planning to change that in 28 days.
Join me next week as I share more insight about the Boston Marathon, as I’ll talk about the coveted finisher jacket and why it’s such a big deal.
Have you qualified for the Boston Marathon? Any other tips to share?
What type of training plan does your body prefer? Lots of miles or a lot of emphasis on cross training?
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