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Participant Information: History of Qualifying Standards

Take a look back at the the history of Boston Marathon qualifying standards

1970 QUALIFYING TIME - 4:00

“A runner must submit the certification of either the Long Distance Running chairman of the Amateur Athletics Union of his district or his college coach that he has trained sufficiently to finish the course in less than four hours. This is not a jogging race” – 1970 race application

Rationale: The 1960s witnessed the start of this country’s first significant running boom. As a result, the Boston Marathon starting field size grew at a steady rate from 197 in 1960 to 447 in 1965, and 1,342 by 1969. At the time, B.A.A. officials thought that a field size of more than 1,000 athletes may create a congested course that could compromise the overall quality of the Boston Marathon race experience.

 

1971 QUALIFYING TIME - 3:30

“An athlete has to have run a marathon in under three hours, thirty minutes; or, in the last year to have run ten miles in 65 minutes or under; 15 miles in 1:45, or 20 miles in 2:30.” – 1971 race application

Rationale: The 1970 standards reduced the field size for that year to 1,174, but the number of entrants still exceeded the ideal field size of 1,000 runners. The qualifying time became 30 minutes faster a year later, resulting in a field size of 1,067 in 1971.

 

1972 TO 1976 QUALIFYING TIME - 3:30

“A runner must have completed any previous B.A.A. or other sanctioned marathon within 3 hours, 30 minutes, or in the past year have completed an A.A.U. sanctioned long distance race of at 20 kilometers with the following time limits: 1:25 for 20 kilometers, 1:45 for 15 miles, and 2:30 for 20 miles.” 1972 race application

Rationale: Women were allowed to officially run the Boston Marathon beginning with the 1972 race, and were held to the same qualifying standards as the men. Races shorter than the marathon distance were considered qualifying races due to the limited number of marathons at the time.

 

1977 TO 1979 QUALIFYING TIMES
MEN WOMEN (ALL DIVISIONS)
19 - 39: 3hrs 00min 3hrs 05min
40 and over: 3hrs 30min

Rationale: The running boom continued through the 1970s, and the number of women participants nearly doubled from 1976 to 1977 (78 to 141). It was at this time the B.A.A. and public safety officials from the eight cities and towns determined that the Boston Marathon race course could accommodate several thousand entrants. Controlled growth soon became the objective. For the first time, age division was taken into account for men’s entrants.

 

1980 QUALIFYING TIMES
MEN WOMEN (ALL DIVISIONS)
19 - 39: 2hrs 50min 3hrs 20min
40 and over: 3hrs 10min

Rationale: With 7,927 entrants in the 1979 race (an increase of 3,163 from 1978) the standards were tightened for all potential competitors to curb the dramatic growth that occurred during the preceding year.

 

1981 - 1983 QUALIFYING TIMES
MEN WOMEN
19 - 39: 2hrs 50min 19 - 39: 3hrs 20min
40 - 49: 3hrs 10min 40 and over: 3hrs 30min
50 - 59: 3hrs 20min
60 and over: 3hrs 30min

Rationale: An increase in the number of female competitors resulted in the creation of a women’s masters division. Between 1978 and 1980, the number of female participants doubled (227 to 456). In 1978, there were 12 female masters runners, and in 1980 there were 23. The growing number of 50+ year-old male competitors also resulted in the creation of two more age divisions in the men’s race.

 

1984 - 1986 QUALIFYING TIMES
MEN WOMEN
19 - 39: 2hrs 50min* 19 - 39: 3hrs 20min
40 - 49: 3hrs 10min 40 - 49: 3hrs 30min
50 - 59: 3hrs 20min 50 - 59: 3hrs 40min
60 and over: 3hrs 30min 60 and over: 3hrs 50min

Rationale: The early 1980s witnessed a growing number of female participants over the age of 40 years old, resulting in the creation of additional age divisions in the women’s race, beginning in 1984.

*The minimum age for entry was set at 18 years old beginning with the 1986 race. Previously, athletes had to be at least 19 years of age to compete in the Boston Marathon.

 

1987 - 1989 QUALIFYING TIMES
MEN WOMEN
18 - 39: 3hrs 00min 18 - 39: 3hrs 30min
40 - 49: 3hrs 10min 40 - 49: 3hrs 40min
50 - 59: 3hrs 20min 50 - 59: 3hrs 50min
60 and over: 3hrs 30min 60 and over: 4hrs 00min

Rationale: The sponsorship of the race by John Hancock Financial in 1986 resulted in greater volunteer support, and an increasingly sophisticated race organization. This led the B.A.A. to the conclusion that it could accommodate fields approaching 10,000 participants. Additionally, the finish line was relocated that same year to Copley Square Park, which created additional space in the finish area. The B.A.A. relaxed the qualifying times for the open races and developed age divisions for older runners who could qualify with a slower time.

 

1990 - 2002 QUALIFYING TIMES
MEN WOMEN
18 - 34: 3hrs 10min 18 - 34: 3hrs 40min
35 - 39: 3hrs 15min 35 - 39: 3hrs 45min
40 - 44: 3hrs 20min 40 - 44: 3hrs 50min
45 - 49: 3hrs 25min 45 - 49: 3hrs 55min
50 - 54: 3hrs 30min 50 - 54: 4hrs 00min
55 - 59: 3hrs 35min 55 - 59: 4hrs 05min
60 - 64: 3hrs 40min 60 - 64: 4hrs 10min
65 - 69: 3hrs 45min 65 - 69: 4hrs 15min
70 and over: 3hrs 50min 70 and over: 4hrs 20min

Rationale: “The decision to adjust the standards was made after careful review of recent marathon performances in all age categories, and in response to discussions with many athletes who have competed at the marathon distance. The new standards represent more equitable requirements for all athletes. The new qualifying scheme has been refined to better accommodate the differences which naturally occur with the various age groups. First-class course security, unparalleled community and volunteer support, and state-of-the-art finish line systems enable us to allow many more athletes the opportunity to compete at Boston.” – Guy Morse, Race Director

 

2003 - 2012 QUALIFYING TIMES
MEN WOMEN
18 - 34: 3hrs 10min 18 - 34: 3hrs 40min
35 - 39: 3hrs 15min 35 - 39: 3hrs 45min
40 - 44: 3hrs 20min 40 - 44: 3hrs 50min
45 - 49: 3hrs 30min 45 - 49: 4hrs 00min
50 - 54: 3hrs 35min 50 - 54: 4hrs 05min
55 - 59: 3hrs 45min 55 - 59: 4hrs 15min
60 - 64: 4hrs 00min 60 - 64: 4hrs 30min
65 - 69: 4hrs 15min 65 - 69: 4hrs 45min
70 - 74: 4hrs 30min 70 - 74: 5hrs 00min
75 - 79: 4hrs 45min 75 - 79: 5hrs 15min
80 and over: 5hrs 00min 80 and over: 5hrs 30min

Rationale: The new qualifying times for runners 45-years and older reflected the B.A.A.’s ability and desire to accommodate more participants. For the 2003 race, the field size limit was set at 20,000 participants, an increase of 5,000 from the 2002 Boston Marathon. The adjustment in the qualifying times followed a review and analysis of performances across the sport. In addition, three new age groups were created.

 

2012 – NEW REGISTRATION PROCESS

In 2012, a “rolling admission” registration process began, allowing the fastest qualifiers to register first. On the first day of registration, those who were eligible for entry by having met the qualifying standards for their age and gender group by 20 minutes or more were able to enter. On the third day, registration opened for those who met their qualifying standards by 10 minutes or more. On the fifth day, registration opened for those who met their qualifying standards by five minutes or more. Having not met the field size limit, registration opened to all qualifiers at the beginning of Week Two, and those who had met the qualifying standards by any amount of time were able to apply for entry.

“As the number of qualified runners has increased, combined with greater demand to run the Boston Marathon, our new registration process enables those who qualify by the greatest amount of time to have the longest period to enter.” - Tom Grilk, B.A.A. Chief Operating Officer.

This was the first year since qualifying standards were introduced that qualified entrants were not accepted. 3,228 applicants were unable to be accepted due to the large number of eligible qualifiers who submitted an application for entry combined with field size limitations.

 

2013 TO PRESENT QUALIFYING TIMES
MEN WOMEN
18 - 34: 3hrs 05min 18 - 34: 3hrs 35min
35 - 39: 3hrs 10min 35 - 39: 3hrs 40min
40 - 44: 3hrs 15min 40 - 44: 3hrs 45min
45 - 49: 3hrs 25min 45 - 49: 3hrs 55min
50 - 54: 3hrs 30min 50 - 54: 4hrs 00min
55 - 59: 3hrs 40min 55 - 59: 4hrs 10min
60 - 64: 3hrs 55min 60 - 64: 4hrs 25min
65 - 69: 4hrs 10min 65 - 69: 4hrs 40min
70 - 74: 4hrs 25min 70 - 74: 4hrs 55min
75 - 79: 4hrs 40min 75 - 79: 5hrs 10min
80 and over: 4hrs 55min 80 and over: 5hrs 25min

Rationale: In February of 2011, the B.A.A. announced that the qualifying standards for the 2013 Boston Marathon would increase by 5 minutes for each age division. Additionally, to recognize and to encourage longtime Boston Marathon entrants, the B.A.A. began to allow those who have met the qualifying times and who have finished the last ten consecutive Boston Marathons to enter during an early registration period. Before this, the last time Boston Marathon qualifying times were made more stringent was for the 1980 Boston Marathon.

 

2012, AND 2014 - 2016 NON-ACCEPTED QUALIFIERS

Similar to 2012, registrations since the  2014 Boston Marathons have seen qualified applicants turned away due to the increased interest in participation, while managing field size limits. Due to the large number of eligible qualified runners in recent years, there have been applicants who were not accepted into the Boston Marathon. Below are field sizes, and the corresponding amount of qualifiers who were turned away:

YEAR FIELD SIZE LIMIT AMOUNT OF QUALIFIERS NOT ACCEPTED
2012 27,000 3,228
2014 36,000 2,976
2015 30,000 1,947
2016 30,000 4,562
2017 30,000 2,957

B.A.A. Moment

History of Qualifying Standards

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