Predicting the 2018 Boston Marathon Qualifying Cutoff


In 2011 the Boston Athletic Association announced that the field would be limited for the 2012 Boston Marathon and that there would be a new rolling registration process based on time under BQ time. The new process meant that not all qualifiers who applied for entry would be accepted into the race.

That year the cutoff time turned out to be 1:14 and more than 3,000 applicants who had run under their qualifying time were denied entry. Ever since marathoners have been unsure of the exact time needed to guarantee entry into the Boston Marathon. Based on data from previous years, we’re going to predict what this year’s cutoff will be.

Year Cutoff Time # Qualifiers not Accepted
2018     ?               ?
2017 2:09          2,957
2016 2:28          4,562
2015 1:02          1,947
2014 1:38          2,976
2013 0:00                 –
2012 1:14          3,228

We’ve analyzed data from past years to determine any type of trends to better predict the cutoff time for the 2018 Boston Marathon. It’s a difficult task with only six years of data, changing field size limits and number of accepted runners, and external factors such the extremely hot 2012 Boston Marathon (which only had just over 2,300 BQs), the cancellation of the 2012 New York City Marathon, and the increased interest in running Boston after the 2013 bombings.

The primary data used for our models were:

  • Qualifiers from U.S.  and Canadian marathons – the majority of Boston entrants are from these two countries.
  • Since the Boston Marathon produces by far the most qualifying times, the number of qualifiers for each year was also factored in.
  • Number of applicants and the number denied entry each year of the current registration process.
  • Data was weighted toward the 2015-2017 qualifying periods since the field size limits were the same and there would likely be a more recent predictive trend.
Qualifying Year Cutoff Time Total # of Qualifying Times (approx.) Qualifiers at Boston (approx.)
2018 ? 51,000 8,000
2017 2:09 54,000 9,000
2016 2:28 59,000 12,750
2015 1:02 58,000 11,000

Based on this information and various models built from the data, our best prediction is that the cutoff time for the 2018 Boston Marathon will be 1:50.  Again, it is very difficult to predict based on the limited data and several unknown factors, but all indications are that it will be less than last year’s cutoff.

Interestingly, there was one simple data point that stood out. There was a very similar ratio between the number of applicants and the number of qualifying times for U.S./Canada marathons for Boston 2017 and 2016.  If this demand ratio is the same for 2018, the number of applicants should be reduced and would result in only about 1,100-1,800 qualifiers denied entry (depending on the number of entries accepted by the B.A.A.)*  This would likely drop the cutoff time significantly to around 1:00-1:10.

Good luck to everyone who may be on the bubble and we hope 100% of applicants are accepted this year.


*In 2017 the B.A.A accepted 23,214 qualified entries, 24,032 in 2016, and 23,546 in 2015.