Everything You Need to Know About the 2020 Boston Marathon

Running the Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is one of the most popular marathons in the world and for most runners an absolute dream race to participate one day. Getting into the Boston Marathon is hard. The window for qualifying and registering at the third-largest marathon is the U.S. has already closed, but that shouldn’t stop you from preparing for the next one! If you need any information on the race itself, this is the guide to turn to.

Update: The Boston Marathon 2020 is canceled. Organizers realized that because of the social distancing requirements a race with more than 30.000 participants is not possible this fall. Now the Boston Marathon will be a virtual race.

First, a little background on the history of the Boston Marathon itself.

  • The race started because John Graham, the first U.S. Olympic manager, was inspired by what he witnessed at the Olympic games in 1896. A year later he formed the Boston Marathon (then only 24.5 miles long).
  • Bostonians hold the race on Patriot’s Day every year to commemorate the start of the Revolutionary War.
  • The first-ever winner was John J. McDermott, who ran the 24.5 miles (the old distance) in 2:55:10.

Obviously, a lot has changed since then, though. And with the many moving parts of a modern marathon-the registration, Boston Marathon qualifying times, marathon training, location, lodging, fees, prizes, competition- there’s a lot to consider before running the Boston Marathon. That’s where this guide comes in. Read along for everything you need to know about the Boston Marathon.

When is the 2020 Boston Marathon?

An easy way to remember the start date of every Boston Marathon for the foreseeable future is that it falls on the third Monday of April (Patriot’s Day) every year. For the 2020 race, it will be on September 14.** Update: The Boston Marathon is canceled for 2020.

There’s also a countdown timer on the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) homepage if you want an exact time (down to the second!). OK, so you know the date of the race now. What about the start time of your particular wave? And if you’re an elite runner, know that you’ll typically be the first to run the race. Last year the starting times for the marathon were as follows:

Women’s Push Rim Wheelchair: 9:04 a.m.
Handcycles and Duos: 9:25 a.m.
Elite Women: 9:32 a.m.
Elite Men: 10 a.m.
Wave One: 10:02 a.m.
Wave Two: 10:25 a.m.
Wave Three: 10:50 a.m.
Wave Four: 11:15 a.m.
Men’s Push Rim Wheelchair: 9:02 a.m.

So, depending on your wave, be sure to know your exact time!

Can anyone run in the Boston Marathon? Qualifying Times for The Boston Marathon

Even though the window to qualify for the Boston Marathon has closed, you can still get a jump start on what to expect next year. So in case you’re wondering if anyone can run in the Boston Marathon, here’s what to expect:

The B.A.A. recently shaved off 5:00 minutes of the qualifying times due to the sheer number of applicants for the race itself. This means that males (aged 18-34) had to finish a marathon under 3:00:00, and women (18-34) were required 3:30:00 or less.

According to the qualifying times page on their website, there were 27,288 total applicants for the 2020 Boston Marathon. About 3,100 of those applicants didn’t qualify because of space limitations in the race itself.

So, if you’re wanting to qualify based on time, you can run a marathon between now and before registration closes out in September 2020.

Boston Marathon Registration Through Lottery, Charity?

There is no lottery (ballot entry) for the Boston Marathon. Because of the number of applicants and time qualifiers, there is no additional space. Not all of those who qualify for the Boston Marathon gets in and the B.A.A. has to leave room for those who are running for charity.

This means that if you don’t qualify based on time (or are not confident that you will), you can always try through a charity. If you are a part of the Official Charity Program, the B.A.A. will waive your qualifying time requirement. Often you will receive an invitation from the organization itself with the option to run for the many (there’s a ton) great charities on the bill.

If you do participate in a sponsored charity, they require you to raise at the minimum $5,000 for your charity of choice. This ensures that a lot of money is being raised. In 2018, they raised a whopping $36.6 million for charity!

Can You Defer the Boston Marathon Entry?

Because of the high volume of applicants and because most qualify based on officially recognized marathon times (3-3 ½ hours or less) the B.A.A. does not offer deferrals. So you better be ready on Boston Marathon day.

Additional information on deferrals, registering, qualifying, and everything in between can be found on the B.A.A. FAQ page.
“Bandit Runners” AKA Running the Course Without a Number The B.A.A. strongly discourages you from running the marathon without a bib, as some are apt to do.

The most important reason for this discouragement is that the hydration and gel stations are stocked with a specific number of people in mind. Overloading the course as a “bandit” can put other people at risk.

“Banditing” the marathon used to be much more popular. Early on, it actually drew a lot of respect from many people. But it was banned in 2014, and the Boston Athletic Association still frowns upon it.

How much does it cost to enter the Boston Marathon?

Runners from the United States will need to pay $180, while international runners will need to pay $240 to register for the Boston Marathon. That said, it’s a pretty normal fee for a major international marathon. Friends of mine who ran it told me that the Boston Marathon fee is worth every penny.

Boston Marathon Course Details

Overall, the marathon starts on the main street of Hopkinton and ends in Copley Square next to the Boston Public Library. There are multiple fluid stations that are set up along the course and several energy gel stations during the marathon.

When talking about the difficulty of the course itself, there is a notorious section of the race at mile 20 called “Heartbreak Hill”. But according to many racers, “Cemetery Mile”, or the downhill portion of “Heartbreak Hill” is even more difficult because the decline really taxes the quadriceps.

For an in-depth look at the course itself, be sure to check out my course strategy on the marathon. And for the official course map of the Boston Marathon, check out the B.A.A. website, it’s a great resource to use!

Spectating the Boston Marathon and Tracking the Runners

Maybe you want to spectate the race itself and plan to beat the crowd to get a good spot. There are so many great locations along the marathon route that you can observe from. And be sure to cheer loud to help energize the runners.
If you have loved ones running the race, or just have a favorite runner you would like to see cross the finish line, you generally need to know where they are on the course. Fortunately, there are many apps for tracking runners.

For text alerts: you can visit the B.A.A. website and sign up for AT&T Athlete Alerts. They will alert you when a particular athlete has crossed markers from the 10k point to the finish line.

For website updates: all you need to do is find the bib number of the athlete you are tracking and then type it in here.
2019 Boston Marathon Results

For the champions of the marathon, you can see the leaderboard at the B.A.A. website. For the men’s open division, Lawrence Cherono won with a time of 2:07:57. And for the women’s, Worknesh Degefa finished first with a time of 2:23:31!

All of those results are really impressive. But speaking of impressive numbers, how do you think you will finish this year? Next year? If you’re wanting some tips on how to run your best marathon yet, be sure to check out all of my racing resources.

Who knows, you might just be atop the 2020 Boston Marathon results leaderboard!
Have Fun at the Race!