Qualifying for Boston in 2021 Will Be Harder than Ever

Boston Marathon Data Analysis, Part 3

Registration for the 2020 Boston Marathon has closed and there is a brand new set of data ready for analysis. If you are one of the runners who was accepted, congratulations! Qualifying for Boston is not easy, and as we will see shortly, it shows no signs of getting easier.

Cutoff Times:

2014: You needed to beat your qualifying time by 1 minute, 38 seconds
2,976 people turned away

2020: More Participants, but a Smaller Percentage of Qualifiers

Surprisingly, the total number of runners in 2020 will increase from 30,000 to 31,500 runners. Before you get your hopes up, those slots will be reserved for special invitation for charity participants. While the Boston Marathon website still advertises that 80% of the runners actually qualify for the race, the additional 1,500 charity runners decreases the percentage to 77.3% for qualifying athletes by my math.

What Finishing Time Should You Aim for in 2021?

The qualifying times for 2021 haven’t been announced yet, but I don’t expect them to make another adjustment. If standards remain the same, I would recommend aiming to beat your qualifying time by 3 minutes, preferably 4. Even that is cutting it really close.

Are Humans Getting Faster?

It is tempting to think that the ever-increasing difficulty in getting accepted to Boston is a sign that average runners are getting faster. With Eliud Kipchoge running the first sub-two hour marathon this month shortly followed by Brigid Kosgei setting the female marathon record, nobody would blame you for thinking humans are improving. Unfortunately, I that doesn’t seem to be the case. Here’s what the data shows…

Author of User Zero: Inside the Tool that is Reshaping Dystopia

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