Each year, thousands of runners aspire to toe the line at the Boston Marathon. But in order to do so they need to run a qualifying race at a USATF-sanctioned marathon in the 12 months preceding Boston registration in September.
Many runners know, though, that it takes a lot more than slipping in under their qualifying time to lace up for this race. Boston registration is rolling, with the fastest runners allowed to sign up first. In 2019, runners had to be 1 minute and 39 seconds faster than their qualifying standards in order to secure a number—even after the BAA lowered the qualifying standards by 5 minutes for every age group. This jumped to 7 minutes and 47 seconds faster than standards for the 2021 race—the biggest cutoff in the race’s history, which shut out 9,215 runners. This is the reason why selecting a Boston qualifying marathon is critical, as every minute counts—and you want the fastest time you can get.
Runner’s World picked these 10 races as tried-and-true Boston qualifying marathons to help you get into that coveted 26.2. These races offer a mix of locations and at various sizes, they have no history of course errors (which means Boston wouldn’t recognize times run there as qualifiers), and the weather is generally conducive to fast times. Many also offer precise pacing, knowing that runners looking for BQs seek them out.