Answering your questions: the World Marathon Majors

How fast do you need to be to gain entry?

“Only the disciplined ones are free in life. If you aren’t disciplined, you are a slave to your moods. You are a slave to your passions. That’s a fact.

“There is a sign in one of the nicer schools in Canada. It [says] the best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. That was the best time to plant a tree. The second-best time is today. Plant the tree of self-discipline.” — Eliud Kipchoge

Hello, friends!

This past Sunday, we opened up a discussion thread to find out what’s on your mind when it comes to running, training, races and everything in between. You guys posted dozens of questions, which you can see here.

Over the next few issues, I’ll do my best to get answers for you on as many of these as I can, as I think they’re questions nearly all of us have from time to time.

The one we’re starting with today is a question from a reader named Lucy, one I’ve often wondered myself about races like the Boston and New York marathons — just how good a runner do you have to be to get in?

The Boston Marathon, you’re no doubt aware, is considered the world’s most prestigious — partly because it’s the oldest among the six officially recognized world marathon majors, and because of its strict qualifying requirements.

But while 80 percent of its 30,000 spots each year are given to runners who qualify, you can participate via the Boston Athletic Association’s charity program — raise an agreed-upon amount of money for any of the 36 charities the race recognizes and you, too, can run the legendary route from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.

You’ll find that’s the case at all of the marathon majors (see below for details) — while the majority of the spots are reserved for runners who qualify, there are usually multiple ways to participate if your sub-4-hour marathon days are behind you.

I hope all is well with each and every one of you — and hope you’re able to get some running in safely now that we’re really in the heat of the summer season. Make sure you stay hydrated out there — or run on the treadmill like I do this time of year, there’s no other way to run in Atlanta in July!

As always, keep in touch and let me know how your running is going.

Your friend,

— Terrell


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Tokyo Marathon

Tokyo, Japan | Sunday, March 1, 2020

A dazzling race along the city streets of central Tokyo, this marathon will pull double duty next year as the Olympic trials for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. It doesn’t have the strict entry requirements that some of the other marathon majors do when it comes to your best finishing time — anyone who can complete the race’s 26.2 miles in 6 hours, 40 minutes is welcome to apply for entry. That means your major barrier to getting in is the competition, as more than 330,000 people apply for one of its more than 38,000 spots every year.

Because next year is an Olympic year, the Tokyo Marathon will offer a few hundred runners from outside Japan the chance to enter the race through its “RUN as ONE” program, as long as you complete 26.2 miles on these designated courses within these times:

  • Men — under 2 hours, 45 minutes

  • Women — under 3 hours, 30 minutes


Boston Marathon

Boston, Mass. | Monday, April 20, 2020

An explosion in the number of applicants for the world’s oldest marathon has led to a tightening in qualifying times in recent years — for next year’s race, you’ll have to be five minutes faster to finish 26.2 miles for the 2020 race than you had to be for the 2019 race. (More than 7,300 people who’d qualified for last year’s race still didn’t make it in, thanks to the crush of applicants.)

Here’s the 2020 qualifying times by age group — registration opens in September:

  • 18 to 34 years old — 3 hours for men, 3:30 for women

  • 35 to 39 — 3:05 for men, 3:35 for women

  • 40 to 44 — 3:10 for men, 3:40 for women

  • 45 to 49 — 3:20 for men, 3:50 for women

  • 50 to 54 — 3:25 for men, 3:55 for women

  • 55 to 59 — 3:35 for men, 4:05 for women

  • 60 to 64 — 3:50 for men, 4:20 for women

  • 65 to 69 — 4:05 for men, 4:35 for women

  • 70 to 74 — 4:20 for men, 4:50 for women

  • 75 to 79 — 4:35 for men, 5:05 for women

  • 80 and over — 4:50 for men, 5:20 for women

For an exhaustive list of frequently asked questions about what it takes to get in, see this post from Runner’s World.


London Marathon

London, England | Sunday, April 26, 2020

While the lottery for next year’s London Marathon closed in May — more than 457,000 people applied for one of its 40,000 spots next year — only runners based in the U.K. can enter based on their qualifying time. (Runners from the U.S. can enter via a charity entry, in which you raise a certain amount of money for one of the race’s designated charities.)

For runners in the U.K. who wish to qualify, you’ll need to finish in:

  • 18 to 39 years old — 3 hours for men, 3:45 for women

  • 40 to 44 — 3:05 for men, 3:50 for women

  • 45 to 49 — 3:10 for men, 3:53 for women

  • 50 to 54 — 3:15 for men, 4:00 for women

  • 55 to 59 — 3:20 for men, 4:05 for women

  • 60 to 64 — 3:45 for men, 4:30 for women

  • 65 to 69 — 4:00 for men, 5:00 for women

  • 70 to 74 — 5:00 for men, 6:00 for women

  • 75 to 79 — 5:15 for men, 6:20 for women

  • 80 and over — 5:30 for men, 6:40 for women


Berlin Marathon

Berlin, Germany | Sunday, September 29, 2019

While the lottery for race entries in this year’s Berlin Marathon is now closed — it opens in mid-October each year — you can still gain entry into the race via one of the race’s charity partners or through a travel tour operator. See the official race website for more on how to get in one of those ways.

For runners who wish to qualify for the race, here’s the qualifying time you’d need for each age group this year (of course, these are subject in change each year):

  • 18 to 44 years old — 2:45 for men, 3:00 for women

  • 45 to 59 — 2:55 for men, 3:20 for women

  • 60 and over — 3:25 for men, 4:10 for women


Chicago Marathon

Chicago, Ill. | Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019

The window to apply for a guaranteed entry into this year’s Chicago Marathon has already come and gone — it takes place in November each year, so this year’s spots were filled in November 2018. You can still get into this year’s race via an international tour group entry or a charity entry; for these, you’ll need to raise at least $1,250 for one of the marathon’s approved charities to get into the race.

This year’s qualifying times for the marathon:

  • 16 to 29 years old — 3:05 for men, 3:35 for women

  • 30 to 39 — 3:10 for men, 3:40 for women

  • 40 to 49 — 3:20 for men, 3:50 for women

  • 50 to 59 — 3:35 for men, 4:20 for women

  • 60 to 69 — 4:00 for men, 5:00 for women

  • 70 to 79 — 4:30 for men, 5:55 for women

  • 80 and over — 5:25 for men, 6:10 for women

Through what it calls its American Development Program, the Chicago Marathon will also accept your best half marathon time for its qualifying requirements — for men, you’ll need to be able to finish your half in 1 hour, 11 minutes or less. For women, that number is 1 hour, 21 minutes or less. (You’ll have to have run these times in the past two years; times recorded before Jan. 1, 2017, won’t be considered.)


New York City Marathon

New York, N.Y. | Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019

The drawing for the 50,000 spots in this year’s TCS New York City Marathon has already taken place, but for next year’s race know that there are two ways to get in. You can enter the drawing for runners without a qualifying time (this year’s took place in February), or qualify based on these times for each age group:

  • 18 to 34 years old — 2:53 for men, 3:13 for women

  • 35 to 39 — 2:55 for men, 3:15 for women

  • 40 to 44 — 2:58 for men, 3:15 for women

  • 45 to 49 — 3:05 for men, 3:38 for women

  • 50 to 54 — 3:14 for men, 3:51 for women

  • 55 to 59 — 3:23 for men, 4:10 for women

  • 60 to 64 — 3:34 for men, 4:27 for women

  • 65 to 69 — 3:45 for men, 4:50 for women

  • 70 to 74 — 4:10 for men, 5:30 for women

  • 75 to 79 — 4:30 for men, 6:00 for women

  • 80 and over — 4:55 for men, 6:35 for women

The New York Road Runners, the running club that organizes the race, also allows runners to use their best half marathon finish as a qualifying time for the race. The times by which you’ll need to finish 13.1 miles for this year’s race are:

  • 18 to 34 years old — 1:21 for men, 1:32 for women

  • 35 to 39 — 1:23 for men, 1:34 for women

  • 40 to 44 — 1:25 for men, 1:37 for women

  • 45 to 49 — 1:28 for men, 1:42 for women

  • 50 to 54 — 1:32 for men, 1:49 for women

  • 55 to 59 — 1:36 for men, 1:54 for women

  • 60 to 64 — 1:41 for men, 2:02 for women

  • 65 to 69 — 1:46 for men, 2:12 for women

  • 70 to 74 — 1:57 for men, 2:27 for women

  • 75 to 79 — 2:07 for men, 2:40 for women

  • 80 and over — 2:15 for men, 2:50 for women


A song to run to today

Thunderstruck” from the album The Razor’s Edge by AC/DC.

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