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How To Choose Your Boston Marathon Qualifier

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a dream and goal for many.  There are multiple factors that play into achieving a qualifying time including training, race pacing, nutrition, mental fitness and recovery.  But one other factor that shouldn't be overlooked is the marathon course chosen for qualification.  

First, it's important to know the qualifying time you need:

3hrs 05min 00sec
3hrs 35min 00sec
3hrs 10min 00sec
3hrs 40min 00sec
3hrs 15min 00sec
3hrs 45min 00sec
3hrs 25min 00sec
3hrs 55min 00sec
3hrs 30min 00sec
4hrs 00min 00sec
3hrs 40min 00sec
4hrs 10min 00sec
3hrs 55min 00sec
4hrs 25min 00sec
4hrs 10min 00sec
4hrs 40min 00sec
4hrs 25min 00sec
4hrs 55min 00sec
4hrs 40min 00sec
5hrs 10min 00sec
80 and over
4hrs 55min 00sec
5hrs 25min 00sec

Once you know your time, here are a few things to consider when choosing where you will attempt to run that time!

1) Consider the statistics. has a wonderful resource found HERE, that looks at which races produce the most Boston Qualifying times, historically.  Their data goes back to 2003 and can give you a good idea of races that are traditionally fast with lots of runners trying to achieve the same goal.

2) Consider the terrain.

While flat courses might be the most enticing, consider choosing a course that most mimics the terrain that you train on day in and day out.  Racing well on a flat course like Columbus or Chicago requires a certain muscle group that you might not necessarily have trained if you often run in a very hilly area.  And flatlanders probably don't want to go a hilly or rolling race if they aren't prepared for the ascending and descending they will encounter.  I know I personally run fastest on rolling courses because they offer some reprieve and opportunity to use different muscle groups when compared with entirely flat courses.  Terrain specificity is the name of the game here!

3) Consider the weather.

Marathons usually fall either in the spring or the fall, avoiding the hot summer months (for good reason!).  When choosing a potential qualifying race, consider what type of conditions you run best in.  Fall races *tend* to be more predictable in offering cool, crisp weather for racing, but you may also run into a cold snap or a bit of snow in the late fall months.  If you tend to run better in the cold, the fall might be the way to go!  On the other hand, spring marathons *tend* to be a bit more unpredictable and can offer up an unseasonably hot or cool day, with or without rain!  If you prefer warmer days, a spring race might be a better bet.  Another important consideration in the weather category is when you will be doing the bulk of your training.  Fall marathons mean you will be training in the late summer, early fall months while spring marathons mean you will mostly be training through winter and early spring.  Depending on your location, training through the winter months can be tough!

4) Consider the timing.

Speaking of timing, it's important to understand how Boston Marathon qualifying occurs.  Registration opens some time in mid-September (the exact date for 2015 registration has not been released) and will sell out immediately (there are "waves" of registration as based on how far below your qualifying time you ran).  Therefore, if you plan on trying to race Boston in 2016, you will need to run a qualifying time by mid September.  A late fall marathon in 2015 is going to produce a qualifying time for 2017.

5) Consider the distance.

Nope, all qualifying races are 26.2 miles!  But, you should consider how far away from home your qualifying race will be.  A local race might be smaller, but if you can avoid travel, sleep in your own bed and eat your pre race dinner in the comfort of your own home, it might help you have the best race possible.  On the other hand, if you enjoy travel and are energized by racing in a new and exciting place, you might consider making a mini-vacation to a new locale for your qualifier!

6) Consider the size.

Larger races tend to have large crowds cheering, more support along the course, bigger expos and things like race pace groups (pace leaders that guarantee they will run X:XX time and all you need to do is follow along).  But larger races also have tougher logistics, more racers making for more crowded courses and long wait lines to the race morning bathrooms.  Consider what works best for you and if the added support is enough to overcome the possible added stress of a bigger race.

I hope this helps you consider some of the many factors that go into choosing the best possible qualifying race for you.  And hope to see you on the start (and at the finish!) line in Boston next April!

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