Can you run in the Boston marathon if you don’t qualify? I know I won’t have a qualifying time but would like to run [it].
That’s a good question Kristin. This comes up from time-to-time, so I’ll address the official answer as best as I know it.
The Boston Marathon is fairly unique in that entry is in fact limited to runners who have met a qualifying time to participate. Because the race is unique in this manner — at least in the United States — the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) rigorously enforces the practice of setting and checking Boston Qualifying times. In fact, the BAA has set up a pretty extensive system to certify races as “Boston Qualifiers” and then to verify times submitted by registrants.
The BAA says on its web-site:
To qualify for the 113th Boston Marathon, athletes must meet the designated time standard which corresponds to their age group. Qualifying times must have been run on or after September 29, 2007 at a certified marathon. Seeding is based on qualifying times, which are subject to review and verification.
But in addition to the qualification method, there are two other ways to gain entry into the race. The first is to be an invited elite athlete. Obviously, in order to fall into the category, you’d have far exceeded the qualification times, but I list it here for completeness.
The other method is to run with a supported charity. Sanctioned charities get a limited number of slots (15 according to the BAA web-site) and you must both raise money AND be able to complete the marathon in under six hours. The list of charities is too extensive to list here, but you can view the list by clicking here to go to the BAA web-site. Note that the number of participants in these programs is very limited and the program is already closed for the 2009 race. Applications will open for the 2010 race in June of 2009.
Anecdotally, I have also heard that sponsoring companies may also receive a limited number of registrations into the race, but I have not verified this with anyone at the race.
Those are the official ways that I know of to get into the race. If there are local Boston runners out there that know of other ways, please feel free to comment on this page.
So keep on working on that qualifying time and just remember that the qualifying times get slower as you get older. As one person once said to me: “I’ll be able to qualify when I’m 70!”
Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Managing Editor, Running Advice and News