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How to Run the Boston Marathon Without Qualifying

How to Run the Boston Marathon Without Qualifying

Not just anyone can run the Boston Marathon. Participants must “qualify,” meaning they must meet certain requirements to even be considered. These qualifications depend based on one’s age and gender. Yet, the organizers make certain exceptions for those who don’t meet certain standards.

Here, I’ll talk about how you can run the Boston Marathon without qualifying. It’s not easy, but there are some alternative measures to get you up and running.

Run for Charity

The Boston Marathon allows 2,500 runners to fundraise for charity. Most of the time, an organization will “sponsor” a runner by paying a certain dollar amount for each mile they run. The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) says that you must raise a minimum of $5,000 to run the race.


  • Your charity must be registered 501(c)(3). This means that the charity is registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a nonprofit organization.
  • Your charity aligns with the BAA’s mission of health and wellness.
  • Your charity benefits the local community.
  • Your charity is not political or religious-based.

If your charity meets these requirements, you must submit a Letter of Inquiry to the BAA. Here, you’ll need to provide basic information about your organization, including its tax ID number. The deadline to submit your form is September 30, 2021.

Attend the Virtual Boston Marathon

This year, the Boston Marathon is hosting a virtual race. Instead of traveling to Boston and running the qualifying race, you can sign up and complete the 26-mile race in your own community.

Right now, U.S. residents can pay $75 to receive the “Start Line Package.” This includes the race’s entry fee, your medal, and access to exclusive offers within the Athletes Village community.

There are over 70,000 virtual spots. As long as you’re over the age of 18 and pay the starting fees, you can participate in the race no matter where you are.

Join a Tour Group

People come from all over the world to watch the Boston Marathon. Many of these people are part of tour groups where, for a flat fee, they can watch from the sidelines or even join in on the fun. The BAA provides a list of some tour operators on its website.  

Time is truly of the essence if you want to join a tour group; tickets go fast, and just like the Marathon itself, there are limits to how many people can join.

Win a Spot

Many organizations offer entry slots as part of giveaways, sweepstakes, and raffles. Enable your computer’s location and see if any businesses in your area are giving away tickets. Additionally, check out #bostonmarathon on social media. Some influencers may give away tickets as part of promotional campaigns.

See if You Qualify for a Qualifier Exemption

The Boston Marathon’s organizers want to make the race accessible to those with disabilities. These individuals can qualify based on a different set of standards.

For instance, if you use a wheelchair, and you’re a man between the ages of 18 and 39, you need to have a qualifying time of two hours and 45 minutes. This is fifteen minutes less than the standard qualifying time for that gender and age division.

Ask Your Connections

Ask yourself: “Do I know anyone involved with organizing the Boston Marathon?” If so, you can ask them for more information on joining the race without qualifying. Check your social media pages and personal connections. Sometimes, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Start Training Now to Meet Qualifications Later

Think about it. With the exception of the Boston Marathon 2020, this race is typically held around the same time each year. If you didn’t qualify for this year’s race, you have 12 months to train for the next one. That’s ample time to:

  • Partner with a personal trainer
  • Identify what running technique works for you
  • Build muscle tone and lose excess weight
  • Join other similar marathons

If running the Boston Marathon is your lifelong dream, you can even run the track where the race is held. That way, when you run your qualifying race next year, you’re familiar with the grounds.

Alternatives to the Boston Marathon

While the Boston Marathon is one of America’s most publicized races, it’s not the only one. In fact, the BAA provides a list of major cities that host similar competitions, including:

  • Chicago
  • New York City
  • London
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Erie, Michigan
  • Philadelphia
  • Indianapolis

These races take place during different times of the year. They’re also the same length as the Boston Marathon, so no particular race is “easier” than another. So, if you happened to miss the Boston Marathon or can’t get past the qualifier requirements to join, consider these other races.


By running for charity, winning a spot, or joining the event virtually, you can run the Boston Marathon without qualifying. For more information about the Boston Marathon, download the BAA Racing app.