The Allure of the “BQ”. What does it REALLY mean?

It occurred to me that I use the term “BQ” pretty frequently and that a lot of people might not know exactly what that means or stands for. I’s not like you go to Runner’s School and someone teaches you this stuff. I wanted to give a thorough explanation of the term and also give you a little bit of history. I promise not to bore you, but I also have to warn you that this post contains the acronym “BQ” a whoooole lot. (don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

I don’t remember when I first learned exactly what it means to “BQ” or even what “BQ” officially stands for. (Boston Qualifier, FYI) But ever since I learned—I have wanted one of my own. The Boston Marathon is the oldest marathon in the world. Its prestige and course is legendary to runners everywhere. To say you “BQ’d” means something: you have worked your butt off to get there, and you’re FAST. Even just saying the phrase “I’m running Boston” immediately sticks out: It’s the holy grail of all marathons and elicits an immediate sense of respect among your running peers.

There are a lot of facts that both runners and non-runners, don’t know about the elusive BQ, or about marathons in general. My BIL was SHOCKED to find out that I had to PAY to run marathons, and was further appalled to find out how much it costs to run the Boston Marathon.(“You have to PAY to do it?”) He, like a lot of people, had no idea marathons have qualifying times and costs to them. To be a “Qualified Runner” for the Boston Marathon, one must run another marathon within the qualifying times according to their age and gender. If they manage to wrangle their own BQ, they are (usually) afforded registration for the Boston Marathon. These are the up to date qualifying standards for BQ’ing:

For the 2015 Boston Marathon, qualifying times must be run on or after September 14, 2013

*The acceptance of official race entrants will be based on qualifying time, with the fastest qualifiers (in relation to their age and gender) being accepted first until the race is full.
*Only a certified full marathon distance will be accepted for qualifying. Distances shorter than a full marathon will not be accepted.
*All qualifying times are subject to review and verification.
*Minimum age requirement for the Boston Marathon is 18 years of age on race day.
*All standards below are based on official submitted net time.
*The qualifying times below are based upon each athlete’s age on the date of the Boston Marathon in which they are participating.

So, if you are a 32 year old woman, you must run a different marathon in 3:35:00 minutes in order to get a BQ for yourself. If you are a 30 year old man, your time is 3:05:00. Needless to say, this places a little bit of pressure on the runner who wants their own BQ. Every single detail of every single run can quickly become an obsession.

There is also a “Rolling Registration” Process that was implemented after the 2011 Boston Marathon filled up within a mere 8 hours and 3 minutes. This year, runners who BQ’d more than 20 minutes could register on September 8th. Those who BQd by at least 10 minutes could register on Sept 10, and if there were any spots left, the rest of the qualified runners could register on September 12. It’s a lot to think about, no? Are you still with me here?

Another thing I recently discovered in my BQ journey that nobody really talks about is the cutoff time for registration, and how you can get your BQ time but still not end up qualifying for the marathon.…

Let me explain…Lets take the 32 year old woman who is trying to BQ. We’ll call her Nicole(haha). To register for the 2015 Boston Marathon as a qualified runner, Nicole must run another marathon on, or after September 14, 2013 in 3hrs35min00secs. Nicole runs the 2013 Baystate Marathon in exactly 3:35:00. She is elated! She’s heading to Boston as a BQ’d runner! Registration for the 2015 opens up on September 8, 2014. She applies for registration but doesn’t get in. Why not? Because there is also a cutoff in registration times:

Runners whose qualifying time for the 2015 Boston Marathon was at least 1:02 faster than their age and gender qualifying standard will receive notice starting today that they’re officially registered for next year’s race, which will be run on April 20.(source)

SO. Even though Nicole works really really hard: She still can’t get in due to the registration cutoff. Unfair. The cutoff happens to a lot of runners and the worst part is that the “cutoff” isn’t set in stone. This year it was 1 minute and 2 seconds, but for the 2014 marathon it was 1hr,38s.

Have I lost you??? I’m sorry. This is the point:

It can be quite hard to qualify.

It’s a lot of work.

You have to race another marathon before you can qualify for Boston.


Once you get older you get more time to qualify (finally, a good reason to get older?? Sorry, no, that also doesn’t excite me)

Sometimes I feel like I’m doing a lot of math in my head.

I know what you are thinking right now…..

SO why seek a BQ? Why not just run any other of the hundreds of marathons in the world?


It’s freaking Boston .

Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I have run 8 Boston marathons, 7 of those consecutively. For the past seven years I have been a part of The Children’s Hospital Boston marathon team.. ( this is quite the story and I plan to do A few posts on this very soon).

You also know that I’ve come quite A long way in my training from when I started I’m not an elite runner, but I like to act like one. I eat, sleep, dream of my own BQ. The Boston Marathon took hold of my heart a long time ago, when I was only 14 or 15 years old, and it has never let me go. I have always wanted to be one of those qualified runners who stands strong and knows that they belong there at that starting line because I worked my little behind off to get a spot. I started out as a slow runner, but here I am, 12 years after running my first marathon, and I still haven’t gotten to the point I want to be at.

I have refused to give up because I’m not a quitter. I have the heart of a lion and it will be a childhood dream come true if when (!) I BQ. This Sunday, I’m setting out to blaze my path to Boston. With a little luck, all of your amazing well wishes, and some cool temps—I hope to see my dream finally come true: the elusive, exclusive, magical BQ. 💛💙💛💙💛💙




33 thoughts on “The Allure of the “BQ”. What does it REALLY mean?

  1. Dang that is a lot of Boston medals! This is a very informative post those who don’t know much about what it means to BQ. I had to laugh when you said your BIL was surprised you had to PAY to run marathons. People have said that to me too! I’m thinking…those streets don’t get shut down themselves, buddy! Keep plugging away at that BQ. I have run Boston twice and had to work very hard for it both times- that’s what makes it super special to me. If it was just something I could roll out of bed and qualify for (like some runners!) I don’t think it would mean as much.

  2. Your dedication to reach your goal is so inspiring and it is amazing to see you work so hard. I have no doubts that you will achieve it, and you have really earned that BQ!
    I would love absolutely LOVE to BQ some day, but I know it is very far off from me. I need you to train me for it!

  3. Dang I didn’t realize the whole registration part was so complicated. I knew there was staggered registration, but it sounds like there’s so much more.

    HAVE A GREAT RACE this weekend! I would tell you good luck, but you don’t need it, just trust your training and go for the gold! 🙂

  4. You’ve done the work Nicole now just remember to run YOUR race and trust the process!!! Your going to do amazing!!! You are already a winner for taking on this amazing goal! YOU’VE GOT THIS!!! 🙂

  5. REMEMBER you need a 335 to qualify and not a 3:18. Don’t be too tough on yourself. I’m sending you good BQ vibes! I will be in Baystate ready for marathon number 3 in a week!! It will not be a BQ for me (3:10 for me) GO GET EM!

  6. With the way your training has been going, I’m sure you’ll get in WAY ahead of 3:35. It’s kind of surprising to me, with how good you are, that this will be your first time qualifying. That’s why I like reading your blog, it gives me hope that with enough hard work I could hit 3:35 in a couple years too, even though right now it sounds like utter insanity to me.

    GOOD LUCK this weekend! I know you’ll do great. Look forward to hearing all about it!

  7. I can totally see the appeal of the BQ. For so long it was something I didn’t think was within my reach. I still don’t know if I will be able to get there, but lately it has seemed like something I could accomplish- maybe not this year but within the next couple of years. I think its scary to train for a 3:35 to qualify because of that silly cutoff! Or if you still run really well but run like a 3:35:05 or something. Based on your training I have absolutely no doubts that you will qualify AND get to run in 2016!

  8. Great informative post! I had no idea there was so much involved! Nicole I am rooting for you and praying for a strong finish! Trust your badass training and it’s in the bag 😉

  9. Boston really still is the golden standard and the BQ gives a quantifiable measuring stick to hold ourselves to. While I would love the opportunity to run Boston, I really do want the BQ–saying that you accomplished that is really something special.
    Now, for Sunday, just run YOUR race, no one elses, and you will be great!

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