How Difficult Is It To Qualify For The Boston Marathon?

We've spent the better part of this week focusing on elites, but now we turn back to the heart of the Boston Marathon: the qualifiers.

If you're even an occasional runner, you've probably heard the questions: "Have you ever run Boston?" "Is it hard to qualify for Boston?" "What's the easiest age to qualify?" Well, we've gone through race data from dozens of marathons over the last fifty years, and an interesting pattern emerges.

Below are the qualifying times for men by age group, and our analysis of each group's difficulty level.


Age Group 18 to 21: Qualifying Time of 3:05 (7:04/mile pace). No college kid should be able to wake up in time to run a marathon. Difficulty Level: DIFFICULT

22 to 34: 3:05 (7:04/mile). You're in the prime of your life. You have nothing but time and money. You get to run ten minutes slower than a 12-year old boy. Honestly, if you can't hold a steady jog for a few hours in your mid-20s and early 30s, it's probably time to shut down your running career right now. Difficulty Level: EASY


35 to 39: 3:10 (7:15/mile). Just a few years ago, the qualifying time for this AG was 3:15, which we scored as Very, Very Easy. Now it's just: Difficulty Level: VERY EASY

40 to 44: 3:15 (7:27/mile). I mean, at this point, we should just get rid of the qualifying standard. The on-line registration should just say "Are you 40 to 44? If you answered yes, please click here to download your race bib". Difficulty Level: EXTREMELY EASY

45 to 49: 3:25 (7:49/mile). You thought it was easy the last few years? Well, here's an extra ten minutes! God forbid there's any corporate executive who can't change his Out of Office Auto-Reply to tell the world he's running the Boston Marathon. Difficulty Level: UNSPEAKABLY EASY

50 to 54: 3:30 (8:01/mile). At age 50, you are considered a Grand Master. This is because at over 8:00 per mile, you look like the Grand Master of a parade, moving at near-walking pace while everyone stares at you and your funny clothes. Difficulty Level: IS WALKING DIFFICULT?

55 to 59: 3:40 (8:24/mile). If I was aged 55 to 59, I would never run Boston for fear that someone assumed I ran almost 8:30 per mile pace. Difficulty Level: I MEAN, COME ON

60 to 64: 3:55 (8:58/mile). The only thing worse than turning 60 is qualifying for Boston while you're being passed by moms pushing baby strollers. Difficulty Level: REMEMBER TO CONSUME ONE BUTTERSCOTCH EVERY FIVE MILES

65 to 69: 4:10 (9:33/mile). This one is actually tough to do, because I'm pretty sure they close down marathons after four hours. Difficulty Level: IMPOSSIBLE

70 to 74: 4:25 (10:07/mile). Why are you still running. Difficulty Level: WHY ARE YOU STILL RUNNING

75 to 79: 4:40 (10:41/mile). Why are you still alive. Difficulty Level: WHY ARE YOU STILL ALIVE

80 and older: 4:55 (11:16/mile). OK, what's more impressive: a 45-year old man running eight-minute miles, or an 80-year old man who can stay vertical for five hours? Are we really keeping some 80 year old guys out of the marathon? Difficulty Level: GOOD FOR YOU, OLD DUDE

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