Whoa! You have to be a super fast runner to qualify for the Boston Marathon now

Sarah Lorge Butler
·3-min read
Photo credit: Maddie Meyer - Getty Images
Photo credit: Maddie Meyer - Getty Images
  • The cutoff time for the 2021 Boston Marathon is 7:47.

  • The field will consist of 20,000 runners, due to COVID-19 precautions.

  • The 2021 race will take place on October 11. The qualifying period for the 2022 Boston Marathon runs from September 1, 2019, until a to-be-announced date this fall.

The COVID-19 pandemic has done nothing to diminish the allure of the Boston Marathon. If anything, the absence of the race the last two Aprils has made marathoners more eager than ever to gain a spot on the starting line of the race in October.

Organizers from the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) announced today that in order to earn a bib for the 2021 Boston Marathon, the 125th running, you had to be 7:47 faster than the qualifying time for your age and gender.

That’s the biggest cutoff in the race’s history. And 9,215 runners applied but were shut out.

Why? Numerous factors conspired against runners who have bettered their qualifying standard, but by only a relatively narrow margin.

First, the field size was reduced from 30,000 entrants to 20,000 to conform with COVID-19 safety standards. Of those 20,000, it was thought that roughly 16,000 bibs were reserved for qualifiers, and 4,000 were designated for those running for charities and other invitational entries. Today’s announcement from the BAA said that only 14,609 runners got in with a qualifying time.

No entrants to the 2020 race were allowed to defer until 2021, so everyone who wanted to run this year had to re-enter. In addition, the qualifying period for this year’s race spans years—it was open from September 15, 2018 until registration closed on April 23.

Boston hasn’t been held in person since 2019. The 2020 race was postponed from April until September, and then became virtual only. The 2021 race has been postponed from April until October 11.

Hopeful qualifiers might have a better chance of getting into the 2022 Boston, which will likely return to its Patriots’ Day date, April 18, 2022, and might have a field size closer to 30,000. The qualifying window runs from September 1, 2019, until the end of the to-be-announced registration period in the fall.

In 2020, before the race became virtual only, the cutoff time was 1:39 under the qualifying standards.

The change to a fall date and smaller field size are not the only concessions the race is making to the pandemic. The start will be rolling, with runners given appointment times, instead of going off in waves. Entrants will be charged an additional $25 fee to support efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Participants will have the opportunity to buy registration insurance. There will be no athletes’ village at the start in Hopkinton.

One thing that will remain the same? Des Linden, the 2018 champion, will be at the starting line of the elite race.

Boston Marathon Qualifying Standards

Photo credit: Brian Cariaga
Photo credit: Brian Cariaga

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