Boston by The Numbers
The Boston Marathon bucks a trend of slower overall finishing times, but not without controversy
Boston Marathon runners should be proud of themselves as they have collectively improved their performances, where everywhere else performances have declined. This has resulted in organizers increasing all age-group qualification standards starting in 2020. Bravo, everyone! The historic B.A.A. Boston Marathon, the longest-running marathon in the world (1897), has been a bucket list race for age-group runners for decades because unlike almost every other marathon, no matter one’s age, runners must qualify well in advance to earn the opportunity to run it. For the 2019 Boston Marathon, the organizers on average approved those who have run at least fourminutes and 52 seconds faster than their respective qualifying standard, which totaled 23,074 entrants. 5,026 runners qualified by a whopping 20-minutes better than their age-group standard. With the B.A.A. aiming for a field of 30,000, 80 per cent or more have run the qualifying time, while charity runners and elite athletes comprise the remaining race participants.
For the 2020 edition, the qualification times will move to five-minutes faster in all age-group categories. Although there is much buzz about the more difficult standards, it is really just eight seconds faster for the slowest of those accepted in 2019 (4:52).
The current standards have been in place from 2012 to 2018. From 1970 to 2011, the qualification standards were as they will be starting in 2020.
As Boston Marathon runners have gotten faster over the years, the organizers are simply keeping up with the trend of better performances across the board despite the fact that the average North American finish time (all ages and both genders factored) has increased from 4:15:00 to 4:40:00 over the past two decades — that’s a big slowdown!
Perhaps more marathons should add qualifying standards as an incentive for better results.
“Although there is much buzz about the more difficult standards, it is really just eight seconds faster for the slowest of those accepted in 2019.”