Is the Boston Marathon still on your bucket list? It’s one of the hardest races to get into, but it’s not impossible.

The 122nd running of the Boston Marathon will be held onApril 16, 2018, otherwise known as Marathon Monday or Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts. But the field has been filled since September and the runners fortunate enough to get will soon start training while everyone else will start thinking about the 2019 race. (The Boston Athletic Association will release its official 20-week training plan for the 2018 Boston Marathon on Nov. 20.)

It’s not unusual for popular races to sell out quickly, but Boston’s qualification requirement is definitely unique for such a big race. Even with the added hurdle, the rush of applicants remains, giving it special cache for marathon devotees, exactly the opposite of what the BAA intended when they instituted the requirement.

“We first instituted qualifying standards in the 1970s to reduce the interest in the race, but the move had the opposite effect,” says T.K. Skenderian, Director of Communications for the Boston Athletic Association. “We regularly receive more applications from qualified participants than we can accept.”

There’s nothing in running quite like the final few hundred yards of the homestretch on Boylston Street. Photo: Kevin Morris/

If all the excitement has given you a case of Hopkinton Fever, you’re going to need to run fast. Luckily the qualifying standards are based upon age and gender, meaning with hard work and focus, a BQ (Boston Qualifier) is possible. Entrants accepted to run in 2018 had to be had to be 3 minutes and 23 seconds under their qualifying age-group standards.

Boston caps the race at 30,000 runners. Out of 28,260 applicants, 23,198 were accepted. Yes, that means more than 5,000 qualified runners didn’t get into the race. The remaining slots go to invitational and charity runners.

The chart below shows the qualifying standards for the 2018 Boston Marathon. They will remain the same for 2019.

Age Group Men Women
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


If these times seem daunting, you can also gain entry to the Boston Marathon by running on behalf of a charity organization through the marathon’s Official Charity Program. There is a fundraising requirement, and the minimum amount varies by charity, but expect to raise in the neighborhood of $5,000-$7,500 at a minimum. The race is working with 34 charities for 2018. You can find out more on the marathon’s website and also at CharityTeams. Even with the hefty fundraising aspect, slots go fast. But, you still have a chance to get into the 2018 race.

If you want to earn a BQ for 2019, the first step is to follow a performance-oriented training plan that matches your ability. (The Boston Athletic Association will release its official 20-week training plan for the 2018 Boston Marathon on Nov. 20.) You should also consider training with a local group of runners who will both inspire you and push you to run faster. It might take more than a year (or several years) to reach the qualifying time for your gender and age group, but the excitement is real, and even if you only run Boston once, you’ll never forget the experience.

“Qualifying for the Boston Marathon remains a goal for runners everywhere and we applaud all those training to accomplish it,” Skenderian says. “To the aspiring qualifiers around the world, we’re cheering you on!”

If you’re ready to go for a BQ for 2019 or later, you might want to consider one of the following 10 races. They had the highest likelihood of qualifying for 2018 according to Marathon Guide. Always double check to make sure your chosen marathon is on the approved list and to confirm the latest qualifying standards.

Snickers Marathon

March 3, 2018
Albany, Georgia

More than 27 percent of finishers qualified for Boston in 2017 on this flat, fast course, with a figure-eight layout through the streets of downtown Albany.

Boston Marathon

April 16, 2018
Boston, Massachusetts

So this one is a bit of a trick, but if you are a charity runner in 2018, you have the chance to earn a BQ for 2019. Just over 30 percent of the field ran qualifying times this year. There may be something to the point-to-point course with a net elevation loss!

REVEL Mt. Charleston

April 28, 2018
Las Vegas, Nevada

With a net elevation loss of more than 5000 feet (!!) this fast, point-to-point course saw 40 percent of finishers running a BQ this year. The course is also beautiful, taking racers through the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest on their way from Kyle Canyon to Las Vegas.

Pocono Run for the Red Marathon

May 20, 2018
Pocono Summit, Pennsylvania

This point-to-point route from Pocono Summit to Stroudsburg does have some climbing (821 feet) but lots of descending (2225 feet) with a track finish. In 2017 more than 33 percent of finishers earned a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon.

Mountains 2 Beach Marathon

May 27, 2018
Ojai, California

You literally run from the mountains of Ojai to Ventura Beach, with a beachfront finish near the historic Pier, while enjoying an elevation loss of 700 feet. 32 percent of finishers earned a BQ in 2017.

Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

June 2018 (race date will be announced in December)
North Bend, Washington

If the 2,000 feet of vertical drop on this route that goes from east of Snoqualmie Pass to outside of North Bend isn’t enough to make your stride a little faster, perhaps running through a dark, 2.4-mile long tunnel is! Almost 40 percent of finishers qualified for Boston this year.

Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon

September 8, 2018
Geneva, Illinois

More than half of all finishers qualified for the Boston Marathon at the race this year due to the flat course, which usually has near ideal racing conditions with cool temperatures and low wind. It’s set on an eight-loop course for easy spectating.

Erie Marathon at Presque Isle

September 9, 2018 (tentative date)
Erie, Pennsylvania

This two-loop, flat course takes place at Presque Isle State Park, with plenty of shade, aid stations each mile and everyone cheering you on for a BQ, which more than 40 percent of finishers earned in 2017.

Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon

September 9, 2018
Allentown, Pennsylvania

You may feel like you’re flying on this slightly downhill, point-to-point course that loses 240 feet in elevation from beginning to end. Not only did more than 33 percent of finishers earn their right to apply to the Boston Marathon, they got an eyeful of historical architecture, like a covered bridge, canal locks, and even a few miles in a National Heritage corridor.

Tunnel Light Marathon

September 2018 (race date will be announced in December)
North Bend, Washington

If you like the mostly downhill course of the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon, you’ll love this one…. because it’s run on the same route! You may want to reconsider wearing racing flats though as this is a gravel course, but one were roughly 35 percent of finishers qualified for the 2018 Boston Marathon this year.