In 2015 with 1 marathon under my belt and struggling with an injury, I decided I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I needed to take my 1st marathon time of 5:04 down to around 3:35. Would that be possible? Am I crazy? Can an average runner Boston qualify?
Can an Average Runner Boston Qualify?
Can someone with no apparent, explicit natural talent, no super-speedy 8 minute mile averages, who picked up running in adulthood, train and qualify out-right for such a prestigious event?
And a prestigious event, it is.
The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon. The exclusive race is qualification-based with a field size of 30K.
To apply for the Boston Marathon, you must complete a certified marathon within the time listed for your age/gender group in the year before your application. Running within the time standard only gives you the ability to apply. When applications exceed spots available (every year, recently), those fastest in their age/gender groups will be accepted. Last year 4,500 people were denied despite making the cut-off time.
What’s so special about Boston Qualifying (BQ)?
It actually seems like a pretty arbitrary goal, right? Yes, it’s historic and exclusive, but its time cut-offs aren’t a determination of good runners vs bad runners. It doesn’t definitively measure your drive, passion, or speed-potential. It’s just cut-off times (that occasionally change) for one specific race.
Boston qualifying presents a unique and recognizable challenge. It is something people can measure themselves against, even if there is little reason to it. While personal records can always be challenged, BQ can be an end-point, if you choose.
Other advanced marathon challenges exist, but this one is far less travel-dependent than say The 50 States Marathon Club, the Abbot World Majors (completing the Boston, NY, London, Chicago, Berlin, and Tokyo marathons in one year), or World Marathon Challenge (7 marathons, 7 continents, 7 days… what?!). These are real things, people! Ultra-marathons (any distance greater than a marathon) are also popular, with many being trail runs. But, my arbitrary goal is BQ.
Stretching for that Big & Scary Goal
While I often make a stretch goal for a race, just in case the weather is beautiful, the course easy, and my running light… I don’t often make goals that I could just downright fail. But I need to do that. If I’m always making goals and achieving them, am I really asking myself to stretch far enough?
This goal is big and scary, and possibly not possible.
I don’t think it’s coincidence that I decided on this goal while injured and failing to train for a marathon. Up to that point, I had been rushing my training and my races. It was make or break, and I was often injured as a result. This goal was a paradigm shift, moving me from the pain of the current moment to seeing a lifetime of running. Missing a marathon was no longer the end of the world, but just another step and learning-moment to that Big & Scary Goal.
I have since run my 2nd marathon, clocking in at my goal 4:30. I am training for a 4:15 marathon now. Race prediction calculators show I should be running a 4:00, but there is no rush to this 10 year plan. I may try for that in the spring before starting strength and hill training. I will look for harder, hillier courses and possibly half marathons, before returning to flat, full courses ready to shave minute after minute to qualify.
Can an Average Runner Boston Qualify?
I don’t know.
What do I know? I do know that it is good for me to stretch myself. And I am thankful for the paradigm shift that such a Big & Scary Goal has brought to my running life.
- Boston Marathon website & qualifying information
- 10 Things You Should Know Before Your First Marathon
- 5 Stages of Injury Grief
- My first marathon
- My second marathon
Firstly, congrats on running 2 marathons! Amazing achievement in itself! I have only done a few half’s and am at that stage of contemplating whether it’s too big a jump (double!) to get to the marathon distance. They look like serious qualifying times but I agree with you, it’s great to have a goal and something to strive for! Good luck!
Thank you! The marathon distance is a unique experience. It changed my running life, and I’m hooked.
Before I ran the full, I always wondered why there wasn’t a 3/4ths marathon, haha! But those last 6 miles are where you EXPERIENCE the marathon.
Thanks for your comment. Good to hear from another long distance runner, and I’m enjoying your blog!
That picture of you made me smile! I’m looking forward to watching you progress over the next 10 years! 🙂
If you make it to Boston, I’ll buy a plane ticket and come watch you race!
Thanks! The sun was making me squint, so I thought I’d make the best of it.
And oh my goodness! Yes, please!
Another great post. What made you decide to make it a 10 year plan? I think it is totally possible. What I love is you are willing to risk the “impossible” to see what is possible with training and dedication. I’m cheering for you!
Thank you, Dana. The Boston Marathon goal came out of a derailed marathon training season. During the idea stage, I lengthened the plan longer and longer until I could focus on the journey rather than the destination. There is plenty of time to experiment, to be injured, to fail, and to keep trying.
I needed to thank you for this very good read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it. I have you book marked to look at new stuff you postÖ