What Percent of Annual Marathon Finishers Actually Race in the Boston Marathon?

What Percent of Annual Marathon Finishers Actually Race in the Boston Marathon?
By Raymond Britt for Competitor Magazine

Go ahead, admit it.

If you've trained hard enough and finished running a 26.2 mile marathon, chances are very likely you've wondered about the Boston Marathon: could I ever run fast enough to qualify to enter?

(runners must meet or beat certain qualifying times to register for the opportunity to apply for entry)

My first marathon was almost my last. I finished in a very painful 4 hours and 41 minutes. All I knew about Boston was that I'd have to run 90 minutes faster to qualify. Which would be, of course, impossible.

But the next marathon I ran was quite a bit better, an hour faster. Still too far from considering myself Boston material, but close enough that if I could cut about a minute and 20 seconds per mile, I could qualify.

Impossible? Maybe, if I wanted an excuse not to go for it. But, possible? I thought seriously about it, anticipating the extreme dedication to improvement that would be required.

Decision: go for it. Result: ran a qualifying time, beat it by less than a minute. Was it worth it? When I stood at the start line in Hopkinton the following April, the answer was exceedingly clear: absolutely.

The Big Picture to the Nitty Gritty

For the last two decades since I unleashed my ambition to run Boston, I have analyzed dozens of marathons and millions of marathon results in an attempt to crack the code on what it takes to get to Boston.

Much of the analysis is on my site at www.RaceBoston.Com. And there's a great deal of useful information in Running USA's Annual Marathon Report 2014, and other details are fleshed out by the Boston Athletic Association www.baa.org.

We've drawn on all that information to look at the big picture of marathon running, from top to Boston, focusing on What Percent of Annual Marathon Finishers Actually Race in the Boston Marathon?:

And Here's the Big Picture:
  • How many Annual Marathon Finishers? About 550,000
  • How Many Annual Marathons? 1050
  • What Percent run Boston Qualifying Times? 12%
  • How Many Annual Boston Qualifiers? Around 65,000
  • Impact of International qualifiers and/or those who run more than one marathon? Our basic analysis suggests the two cancel each other out -- 5% of Boston Runners are International, while we assume that the average runner runs less than 1.05 marathons per year.
  • How many run Boston Qualifying Times But Choose Not to Register for Boston? nearly 35,000
Mix of 30,000 Boston 2015 Entrants
  • How many ultimately register for Boston Entry? 30,000: just under 24,000 qualifiers, the rest are charity and other entries

How strong is the field? 

Strong enough that you're going to have to plan to beat the required qualifying time by at least a minute or two for 2016. 
  • How many of those ran 20, 10, or 5 minutes faster than the qualifying time requirement?
  • How Many Runners Who Register to Enter Boston are Rejected because of Capacity Limits? 1.979, or the equivalent of 6% of the qualified for the field of 24,000


End of it all, What percent of Annual Marathon Finishers Gain Qualified Entry to the Boston Marathon? 4.3%. Not Bad. Not Impossible. Not if you dedicate yourself to the goal. If you want it, it's worth it.