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How to get into the major marathons

if the Boston and London Marathons have inspired you to run a world major, here are some guidelines on how to get in

2013 Berlin Marathon

If viewing the recent scenes of exhausted but euphoric marathoners pounding down Boston’s fabled Boylston Street or past Buckingham Palace makes you want to run a major world marathon in 2019, we’ve compiled some info to help you start planning. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as simply deciding to go and run an international marathon. With tens of thousands of entries annually, each race has different rules around how to enter. Here’s a rundown of our favourites.

NOTE: All information is subject to change.

Boston Marathon

Website: www.baa.org

When is the next race? April 15, 2019. The Boston Marathon is run every year on the third Monday in April (Patriots Day in the U.S.). 

When does registration open? Sometime in September 2018.


How much does it cost? International entrants pay US$250. 

How to enter: As most people know, you have to qualify for Boston (known in running lingo as B.Q.) before even applying to enter, by first running a recognized marathon within a set time according to one’s age, during the qualifying period. “Age” refers to your age on (Boston) race day. 

Qualifying for Boston has become ever more challenging in recent years as demand for entries has increased. And since 2010, meeting the qualifying time for your age category has not been enough to guarantee entry. Currently, priority is given to entrants with the fastest times, over and above the stated qualifying times; in 2018, qualifiers in all age categories had to exceed the stated qualifying times by at least three minutes and 23 seconds for guaranteed entry, but the exact amount by which you must exceed your qualifying time is not known until applications are processed. So to be on the safe side, it’s best to train with the goal of exceeding your qualifying time by at least five minutes.

Two other possible ways to get into Boston: sign up with a charity, but be aware that charity runners must raise at least US $5,000. Consult the B.A.A.’s list of charities here. Tour groups also have a limited number of entries, but these spots usually sell out very quickly. 

Here is the current list of qualifying times for Boston:

18-34 3hrs 05min 00sec 3hrs 35min 00sec
35-39 3hrs 10min 00sec 3hrs 40min 00sec
40-44 3hrs 15min 00sec 3hrs 45min 00sec
45-49 3hrs 25min 00sec 3hrs 55min 00sec
50-54 3hrs 30min 00sec 4hrs 00min 00sec
55-59 3hrs 40min 00sec 4hrs 10min 00sec
60-64 3hrs 55min 00sec 4hrs 25min 00sec
65-69 4hrs 10min 00sec 4hrs 40min 00sec
70-74 4hrs 25min 00sec 4hrs 55min 00sec
75-79 4hrs 40min 00sec 5hrs 10min 00sec
80 and over 4hrs 55min 00sec 5hrs 25min 00sec

London Marathon

Website: https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/ 

When is the next race? Not yet announced, but probably either April 21 or April 28, 2019

When does registration open? April 30, 2018, and closes at 5:00 p.m. on May 4 

How much does it cost? International entrants pay £80 (about CDN $143.00).

How to enter: Entry is by a public ballot system (i.e. lottery), and your chances of getting in are about 10 per cent. Successful entrants are announced in October. Gaining admission into London can be challenging for Canadians, since the “good for age” method of qualifying (similar to Boston’s, though the times are faster) is not available to international entrants. Your best bet for getting into London would be by signing up with either a charity partner or a travel company (or, to increase your chances, both). For context, Marathon Tours & Travel’s 2018 three-night package (which included race entry, hotel, transfers and meals but not airfare or gratuities) was US $1373 per person. 

Berlin Marathon


When is the next race? September 16, 2018. The 2019 race is September 29, 2019.

When is registration open? Registration by most methods is closed for 2018, but international travel operator entries may still be available. Registration for 2019 will open in fall 2018.

How much does it cost? €108 (approximately CDN $170); fees for international registrants not available.

How to enter: Registration is by lottery. Successful entrants may be announced as early as April 2019. 

Click here for a list of Canadian tour operators for guaranteed entry into the 2018 marathon.

Berlin Marathon

New York Marathon

Website: https://www.tcsnycmarathon.org/

When is the next race? November 4, 2018

When does registration open? Registration for 2018 is officially closed, but guaranteed entry is still possible by signing up with a charity (entrants must fundraise US $2620). Registration for 2019 will likely opens in mid-January.

How much does it cost? US $358.00 for non US-residents.

How to enter: Entry into New York is by lottery, with preference given to American residents. Charity and international travel company entries are also available; there are four Canadian travel companies listed on the marathon site. It’s also possible to qualify with a recognized marathon or half-marathon time (with preference given to NYRR races). Here’s the list of qualifying times. Note: Age refers to your age on race day. 

Men’s Standards:

Age Marathon Half-marathon
18-34 2:53:00 1:21:00
35-39 2:55:00 1:23:00
40-44 2:58:00 1:25:00
45-49 3:05:00 1:28:00
50-54 3:14:00 1:32:00
55-59 3:23:00 1:36:00
60-64 3:34:00 1:41:00
65-69 3:45:00 1:46:00
70-74 4:10:00 1:57:00
75-79 4:30:00 2:07:00
80+ 4:55:00 2:15:00

 Women’s Standards:

Age Marathon Half-marathon
18-34 3:13:00 1:32:00
35-39 3:15:00 1:34:00
40-44 3:26:00 1:37:00
45-49 3:38:00 1:42:00
50-54 3:51:00 1:49:00
55-59 4:10:00 1:54:00
60-64 4:27:00 2:02:00
65-69 4:50:00 2:12:00
70-74 5:30:00 2:27:00
75-79 6:00:00 2:40:00
80+ 6:35:00 2:50:00

NYC Marathon start

Chicago marathon

Website: https://www.chicagomarathon.com/

When is the next race? October 7, 2018. The 2019 race is October 13, 2019.

When does registration open? Registration for 2018 is closed. Click here for a list of charities or tour companies that may still have spots available. Registration for 2019 opens in October 2018.

How much does it cost? US $220 for international entrants. 

How to enter: Registration is by lottery, or, as of 2017, Chicago now offers qualifying times for guaranteed entry, and they are less stringent than Boston’s. Here are the qualifying times:

Age Group Men’s Women’s
16-29 3:10 3:40
30-39 3:15 3:45
40-49 3:25 3:55
50-59 3:40 4:15
60-69 4:00 4:55
70-79 4:30 5:45
80+ 5:10 6:30

Note: For lottery-based marathons (all except Boston), watch online for competitions for guaranteed race entries by sponsors, bloggers, magazines and tour companies. 

If all of this seems overwhelming, consider a lower-tier marathon in a city like Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Seoul, or Tokyo, where you will still get the international experience but entry rules may be less restrictive.