Earn A Qualifying Time For Boston Marathon

qualifying time for boston marathon

qualifying time for boston marathonQualifying Time For Boston Marathon

The qualifying time for boston marathon participation is not easy.

You would think having run under 2.20 for the classic distance me mentioning that it isn’t easy would be comical, not so.

Runners at my level or above should pay more respect to runners seeking to earn a qualifying time for boston marathon entrance.

This isn’t to say that male athletes running sub 2.20 or women running under 2.40 for the distance or faster don’t have admiration or respect for the masses of full-time runners seeking to qualify for the prestigious race.

I just feel many times at my level so much focus is on setting personal bests and training to make Olympic teams that someone working to earn a qualifying standard to compete in the Boston Marathon isn’t looked as highly upon as they should be.

I see no difference in a 4 hour marathoner setting a new personal best and qualifying for the Boston Marathon then someone qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials.

They both warrant equal respect.

Full-time athletes have nothing more to concern themselves with in this sport then to train hard, get plenty of rest and go out and run fast.

Athletes who aren’t as fortunate to have the opportunity to train full-time have other time constraints and responsibilities so many times I feel someone training to earn a qualifying time for boston marathon participation is an even more impressive feat.

The Boston Marathon, similar to other major Japanese marathons such as Lake Biwa and Fukiyoka require participants to run specific times in order to enter.

If you are new to the sport of long distance running, Boston has specific times based on the athlete’s age, that you must run in order to compete.

Boston Marathon Running Standards

18-34 3hrs 05min 00sec 3hrs 35min 00sec
35-39 3hrs 10min 00sec 3hrs 40min 00sec
40-44 3hrs 15min 00sec 3hrs 45min 00sec
45-49 3hrs 25min 00sec 3hrs 55min 00sec
50-54 3hrs 30min 00sec 4hrs 00min 00sec
55-59 3hrs 40min 00sec 4hrs 10min 00sec
60-64 3hrs 55min 00sec 4hrs 25min 00sec
65-69 4hrs 10min 00sec 4hrs 40min 00sec
70-74 4hrs 25min 00sec 4hrs 55min 00sec
75-79 4hrs 40min 00sec 5hrs 10min 00sec
80 and over 4hrs 55min 00sec 5hrs 25min 00sec

These are not walk-in-the-park times that runners must achieve in order to compete.

They are demanding and take more then just running a few miles here and there during the week with little effort.

If you are like me, working a full-time job while having no other choice but to use your time management skills, these time standards for men and women between the ages of 18 to 80 require 100% dedication.

Do not be intimidated if you have not achieved your boston marathon qualifying goal just yet.

The key is to remain patient and tenacious

You have the capability and the closer you are to hitting the times the more evident this should become.

The marathon is one event where enormous amounts of time can be dropped off one’s personal best time.

I had a personal best of 2.40.02 prior to running my current best time of 2.19.35.

My coach at the time and I had a plan and we didn’t let setbacks ruin the overall objective. I had run a 1.07.06 half-marathon so even though I failed at the marathon distance I knew it was just a matter of perseverance.

We achieved the objective (sub 2.22.00).

I coach a man that dropped from 4.40 to 3.27 for the distance so who is to say you don’t have what it takes or are beyond your prime?

I have included in this post a breakdown of what you must be able to maintain throughout the 26.2 mile distance in order to obtain times close to or below these boston marathon standards.

I will share a few of my own tips that I hope will benefit you in obtaining a qualifying time for boston marathon entrance.

Help Tips For Boston

1. Athletes with specific time goals in mind must practice at speeds equal to as well as exceed the paces they want to hold in the race

There are many well-meaning runners around the world who have full potential to earn a Boston Marathon qualifying time but when they fail mental self sabotage sets in.

What needs to be done is simply a shift in how you are setting up your weekly training.

I had a recent discussion with Lisa Rainsberger over the phone. Lisa won the Boston Marathon in 1985 with a time of 2.34.04.

They didn’t have gels to ingest back then and the fancy sports drinks we cannot seem to live without in our training now were not even around in the 80’s.

The best runners in the 70’s and 80’s were ingesting water and watered-down coke during their races.

This was one of the most successful era’s of marathoning in our Nation’s history and ironically, most of the runners back then were working full-time jobs and running faster then most professional runners today.

Runners seeking to earn a boston marathon qualifying time for boston marathon entrance have to shift from quantity and start asking themselves this question.

Race Pace Training Or Junk

What percentage of my weekly training volume am I using to practice the goal pace I have in mind to qualify to earn a Boston Marathon qualifying standard”?

If the answer is 10% anaerobic and 90% easy aerobic running there lies your problem.

It isn’t a lack of ability or your past your prime. We all can still run faster late in life.

I just read about masters runner Tracy Lokken who ran a 2.21.36 marathon and set a personal best at age 44.

Haile Gebressalassie is probably closer to 50 ad just recently ran a 1.00.40 half-marathon in England.

Germany’s Irena Mikitenko set a masters world-record for women placing 3rd and running a time of 2.24 at the age of 40.

It all comes down to your level of dedication and how resilient you are willing to become to get your goal.

2. Increase the speeds you conduct your long runs at

An absolute must to earn a qualifying time for boston marathon acceptance is being able to keep lactic acid levels low within your blood stream.

It isn’t the lactic acid that slows us down but a component of lactic acid, the hydrogen ion.

It when our bodies are not able to convert lactic acid back into energy when we begin to experience problems in pace sustainment.

Runners are selling themselves short by thinking they don’t have what it takes or worse yet, that their best days are behind them.

It isn’t a capability problem, it is a training mindset issue.

If you have a certain level of physiological capability to where you know you are capable of earning such an achievement as a Boston Marathon qualifying standard, then a change in training is one of the best ways to get that goal accomplished.

Running easy for 20 miles will do no more than burn fat and prepare you well to run very long, very slow.

A race at a demanding, specific pace that runners have to hold to earn a Boston Marathon qualifying standard  requires better economical running ability.

The only way to create that physiological effect is running longer at higher anaerobic intensities.

Easy running is good for recovery and maintenance, just don’t spend too much of your training week at that level.

boston marathon3. Do longer tempos and break them up if they seem too daunting at first

For example, if your goal is to run 7.00 mile pace for 26.2 miles then perhaps, doing 10 miles at 7.00 mile pace early on in your training may seem too aggressive.

A great way of gradually hardening yourself is to break these tempos into shorter segments.

Consider 2×5 miles at 7.00 mile pace, 3x3miles at 7.00 mile pace or 5x2miles at 7.00 mile pace with longer recovery jogs in the initial stages of your training block and then maintaining the paces and shortening the recoveries as your fitness grows.

You could also aim for doing the same distance, but 10 seconds faster then goal marathon race pace, with longer recoveries.

Tempo runs, also called Anerobic Threshold runs, teach your body to handle high levels of lactic acid within your blood stream.

The hardest part is teaching the body to continually maintain it’s ability to convert lactic acid to energy.

Once you get to a point where your body is able to clear lactic acid and convert it to energy faster then it is building up you know you are ready.

It is only by running at speeds that far exceed goal race pace that this physiological effect can come about.

Too much easy running without stressing your body’s anaerobic engine is not going to cut it.

Races As Stepping Stones

4. Don’t be afraid to use races as workouts, even up to the marathon distance.

Some of the best runners in the world go as far as 30 miles for long runs in preparing for their goal races.

I flew to Sacramento December 6th to compete in the California International Marathon.

I had already payed for my flight, hotel and rental car months ago and nearly didn’t go as I felt that unless I was going to aim for sub 2.18.00 I might as well just go out for a long run.

Lisa Rainsberger, someone I worked with for 3 years and my wife who’s  combined expertise and world-class knowledge was the deciding factor in me going.

Lisa advice, “Use it as a workout, go out there and try to break 2.30.00,’It is going to hurt but will give you a physiological boost leading into the Houston Marathon'”

The Houston Marathon is my goal race where I want to run under 2.18.00 for the distance. This is 5.16 per mile pace.

I knew going out and running 7.30 mile pace for 26.2 miles was not going to assist me in preparing to hold the demanding goal I have in mind.

My goal for the marathon distance is no different then someone seeking to earn a qualifying time for Boston Marathon acceptance.

Our paces may be different but someone working to earn a 3.05.00 marathon in the age 18-34 group for males or a 3.35.00 marathon for women aged 18 to 34 years and each descanting age group and time goal, is just as demanding as running 2.18.00  is for me.

Let’s take a look at my race breakdown.

Avg Pace
Summary 2:32:56.8 26.22 5:49
1 5:36.0 1.00 5:36
2 5:42.7 1.00 5:43
3 5:20.2 1.00 5:20
4 5:24.7 1.00 5:25
5 5:28.5 1.00 5:28
6 5:32.7 1.00 5:33
7 5:32.9 1.00 5:33
8 5:29.3 1.00 5:29
9 5:34.6 1.00 5:35
10 5:28.0 1.00 5:28
11 5:22.7 1.00 5:23
12 5:31.7 1.00 5:32
13 5:33.2 1.00 5:33
14 5:34.5 1.00 5:35
15 5:38.0 1.00 5:38
16 5:43.7 1.00 5:44
17 5:38.1 1.00 5:38
18 5:42.1 1.00 5:42
19 5:46.6 1.00 5:47
20 5:47.6 1.00 5:48
21 6:57.9 1.00 6:58
22 6:07.3 1.00 6:07
23 6:14.8 1.00 6:15
24 6:17.9 1.00 6:18
25 7:10.9 1.00 7:11
26 6:29.5 1.00 6:29

You can see that the overall goal here was to use this as an aggressive long run.

You have to work to gradually build your body’s ability to hold faster paces for very long periods of time to get to a point where race pace no longer looks impossible, but attainable.

The more you practice at, near and even below goal pace the better equipped you are going to be in making a Boston Marathon qualifier a reality in your athletic life.

There are so many runners around the world who are training to achieve this prestigious goal. I want to see you be the next.

Based on Lisa’s recommendation to break 2.30.00 for this 26.2 mile long run in preparation for the Houston Marathon I would have to hit 5.43 per mile pace for the run.

I was somewhat fast early, but I felt very much in control through 20 miles.

It is very difficult to train for the last 10K of a marathon and a big reason for me slowing down was not ingesting enough calories in the race and perhaps some mental lapses in the latter stages of the race.

I didn’t take a gel until mile 23 and had this been an all-out assault I would have never made it based on my calorie consumption and a couple emergencies in the race.

I had to jump in a porta john just pass mile 20 and then got sick at mile 25 having to stop a few times to vomit and as you can see from the mile splits it did cost me some time.

I met Lisa’s goal of a 2.29.59 marathon long run, if I am not counting the two stops.

Stop and review how you have been conducting your training in the past.

Let’s say these were your splits and it was not in a competition setting, but it is just you on a paved road clipping off mile after mile.

If your goal was to break 2.18.00 or hold 5.16 pace for the marathon distance, which run would you think would bring you closer to your goal?

A 22 miler at 7.30 pace or a 26 miler at 5.49 pace?

It doesn’t matter what the time goal you have in mind.

Runners seeking to earn a qualifying time for boston marathon need to spend a segment of their weekly training at speeds that far exceed goal marathon race pace, runs above race pace and very easy recovery runs to rebuild the breakdown of the body.

It is a cumulation of various levels of training intensities that brings about the gold medal effort.

It isn’t just about race pace efforts and doing repeat miles on the track that are 10-20 seconds per mile faster then you want to hold per mile in the marathon distance.

It is all the other little sections of weekly training that will make the difference.

Your 24 Hour Day

boston time qualifyingWhat are you doing the other hours of your 24 hour day? How much rest are you taking? Are you eating enough? etc.

Are you taking your nutrition seriously?

I did 4 days of very easy running after this long run.

My paces ranged from 6.45 to 8.00 mile pace on my easy recovery days after the marathon so you always want to be aware of how your body is reacting to the stress you are placing on it and allowing proper recovery in between the hard efforts.

Some days you aren’t going to have it.

If you feel like total ass one day then back off, drop the workout if you have to cause your body will never lie to you.

Is the sport mental?


A big factor of athletic success comes down to how mentally hardened you have become through training and your nutrition.

If you are a half mile into a planned 10-mile tempo run and you are having a hard time running at the same paces you usually could hold for the marathon distance then it is time to back off and recover.

Drop the run and rest.

Attack tomorrow, end of story.

In conclusion, don’t over think the process.

Allow yourself to get into your rhythm and you will.

There are many ebs and flows in training and every day is not going to be an effortless performance.

Your mental state is vital and part of that comes down to letting go of a bad workout or race.

Take easy days, easy and construct your weekly training in such a way that you have a healthy balance of fast and slow running to get the most bang for your buck.

Your qualifying time for Boston Marathon acceptance depends on it.

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6 thoughts on “Earn A Qualifying Time For Boston Marathon

  1. Thanks for the great information! I will be attempting to qualify for Boston in Houston next month and have run my long runs at a pace closer to race pace than the suggested 1 minute slower and it has worked out great! I also use races as catered training runs and to simulate the actual race experience (dodging people, water stops, etc). I think your graphic for BQ times is an old one though….my qualifying time is a little lower.

  2. thanks april, glad it was helpful.I hope you get your qualifier at Houston. I will be racing in Houston as well trying to get the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials standard. I have updated the BQ times and saw that they didn’t reflect the current standards so appreciate that. Keep up the great work April.

  3. Great article very informative, I recently qualified for Boston in Sept./13 at Toronto with a time 3:09:29. I’m new to running as I just started in March/13. I love it and will continue to train hard. Will definitely use your info. Can’t wait till Boston2015 here’s hoping to getting in.

  4. Thanks Ben and huge congrats to you for hitting 3.09.29 and even more impressive the fact that JUST started running..awesome effort brother.

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