The Boston Marathon is one of the most iconic marathons in the world and one that many runners set their sights on as a long-term goal.
When thinking about running this famous marathon, you may wonder what the Boston Marathon average times are, as in most cases, you do need to qualify to be able to participate.
But what’s the average Boston Marathon time overall? How does the average Boston Marathon finish time compare to other marathons?
In this article, we will discuss the average Boston Marathon times.
We will cover:
- What Is the Boston Marathon?
- What Are the Average Boston Marathon Times?
- Is the Average Boston Marathon Time Fast?
Let’s get started!
What Is the Boston Marathon?
It probably seems like a silly question to many runners, but for beginners who are unfamiliar with the race, the Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world, with 1897 being the inaugural year.
It is organized by the Boston Athletic Association, or BAA for short.
Like all marathons, the Boston Marathon is 26.2 miles long, or 42.195 kilometers.
With the exception of the 2020 Boston Marathon, which was virtual, and the 2021 Boston Marathon, which had to be moved to October because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boston Marathon is held on Patriot’s Day, which is usually the third Monday in April.As a point-to-point course, the Boston Marathon takes runners from the starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to the finish line on Boylston Street in Boston.
The Boston Marathon is one of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, along with the New York City, Chicago, Tokyo, Berlin, and London Marathons.
What Are the Average Boston Marathon Times?
The BAA does not seem to compile data on Boston Marathon finish times in their published results.
However, Marathon Guide posts basic statistics with the Boston Marathon race results for each year since the year 2000.
This data includes the total number of finishers, the number of men and women finishers, respectively, the winning times for men and women, the average finish time for the year, as well as the standard deviation.
After combing through the Boston Marathon results for each year since 2000 (omitting the year 2020 because the race was virtual), we created the table below that displays the number of finishers and the average Boston marathon finish time each year through 2022:
|Year||Number of Finishers||Average Boston Marathon Finish Time|
Crunching the numbers, the average Boston Marathon time from 2000 to 2022 is 3:52:40.
The data for the Boston Marathon average finish times by year can also be displayed in graphical form, as shown below, with an average trend line drawn in as well.
It is interesting to look at the graph and note the outliers. For example, the 2012 Boston Marathon average time was considerably slower than usual due to the unprecedented heat on race day, which slowed race times considerably.
The 2013 Boston marathon was unduly fast, with an average finish time of just 3:29:52.
As many might recall, this was the year of the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, so the race had to be aborted prematurely, and slower finishers were diverted away from the finish line.
Given this extreme scenario, if we eliminate this particular outlier from the data pool, the average Boston Marathon time drops just about one minute to 3:53:57.
Finally, if we also eliminate the slow 2012 outlier as well, the Boston Marathon average time still changes very little and lands at 3:52:44.
Is the Average Boston Marathon Time Fast?
Analyzing average Boston Marathon times is interesting because the instinct of many runners is that Boston Marathon average times are likely faster than the average marathon time for a typical marathon because runners have to qualify for the race.
That means that there’s a certain standard or level that runners have to have to even run the race, whereas most marathons are completely open to all ability levels or might have a generous cutoff time.
However, there are a couple of important caveats that actually render this a good idea in theory but not all that true in real life.
Therefore, if we take the average Boston Marathon time from 2000 to 2022 as 3:52:40, the Boston Marathon average time is about 4 minutes and 20 seconds slower than the average marathon finish time overall.
This is about 11 seconds per mile slower than the typical marathon pace.
So, why is the average Boston Marathon finish time slower than the overall average marathon finish time if runners have to qualify?
For one, the Boston Marathon course is notoriously difficult and, in fact, deceptively so.
It begins with about 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles of downhill running, which sounds extra easy in theory, but can really trash your quads for the remaining 20 miles of the race.
Runners who have not done a lot of downhill training often are faced with the brutal realization that a lot of early downhill pounding comes back to bite them in terms of their leg strength and energy in the later miles of the race.
Additionally, there are a series of hills with some significant climbs around miles 15 to 16 of the course, so overall, the Boston Marathon course is certainly not as fast and easy as a flat course like the Chicago or Berlin Marathon.
The Boston Marathon course record is 2:03:02 for men and 2:19:59 for women. These times are about 2 minutes slower for men and four minutes slower for women than the marathon world records of 2:01:09 for men and 2:15:25 for women.
Most likely, these differences are reflective of the harder course than the Berlin and London Marathons.
The second, and often overlooked factor, that affects the average Boston Marathon finish time is the fact that there are plenty of runners in the race who have not qualified but are running to represent a charity or have been invited to the race by the BAA.
These runners may run the course significantly slower than Boston Marathon qualifiers and can ultimately really bring down the average Boston Marathon time.
For example, runners who sign up with a charity and commit to fundraising might only be able to finish the race in six hours, taking on the Boston Marathon as either an opportunity to raise awareness for a cause that is near and dear to their heart or to be able to run the iconic race though they may never be close to qualifying.
The goal of these runners may be less about performance and more about soaking in the entire experience and making it to the finish line. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with these goals, and no goal is “better and “or“ less worthy“ than another, these types of slow finish times will bring down the Boston Marathon average time.
Finally, just because there are qualifying times for the Boston Marathon doesn’t mean they are super fast because they are graded based on age and sex.
Across all age groups, the average Boston Marathon qualifying time for men is 3:45 and 4:15 for women, meaning that there’s an overall average of 4:00.
|Age Group||Men’s Boston Marathon Qualifying Standard||Women’s Boston Marathon Qualifying Standard|
Therefore, the average Boston Marathon time is actually a bit faster than that.
What about you? Have you run the Boston Marathon, or interested in running it? If you are, check out our guide to the Boston Marathon for more info.