I Analyzed the Training of 52 Boston Marathon Runners

Boston Marathon Training

I firmly believe no one thing makes you a fast runner. But sadly, social media and the traditional running media want to make you think that there is a single piece of training that you are missing. Articles that just want your click, to sell ads, like:

  • The Optimal Prerun Warmup Sequence
  • 6 Keys to Sticking With Difficult Runs
  • 5 Tempo Runs That Build Both Speed and Stamina
  • Is My Low Resting Heart Rate Too Low?

Don’t get me wrong, working on your warmup and doing tempo runs are important to become a faster runner and being able to qualify for Boston, but these articles make you believe they work that magic.

And one of these miracle things is weekly mileage and slow running.

“Just run slower and increase your weekly mileage. You will get faster, miraculously. There’s even a research paper that confirms it” – Random Runner

Weekly Mileage is Just Part of the Big Picture

With this in mind, I asked 52 runners that qualified for Boston and are running the race in a few weeks; what’s the average weekly mileage and target time.

Unsurprisingly, you can’t find a simple answer. Some runners run less than 40 miles per week and can run a marathon in under 3 hours. And there are runners logging more than 60 miles a week, finishing in around 4 hours.

The only common denominator I could find is that all runners logging more than 70 miles per week have a target of under 3 hours.

I’ll leave this graph below, and you can make your conclusions.

Boston Marathon Training

What Are They Doing Similarly?

Seeing these results made me wonder how these “low-mileage” runners can run fast enough to qualify for Boston.

I found three things that almost all of them did:

  • They do a lot of cross-training. Maybe they run only 4 days a week and have “low mileage” but stay active throughout the week. Cycling and Crossfit being the favorite sports.
  • Quality speed sessions. Every runner talked about having tempo runs or track workouts at least once a week. A lot of them, two times a week.
  • They’ve been running for a long time. Running endurance takes time. You need to be almost superhuman to go from couch potato to a BQ time in a matter of months.

What Can You Learn From This?

First, don’t believe everything you read online. Whatever you read is usually a part of something bigger. Even this article should be taken with a grain of salt. Don’t go and start running way more or less than you are doing right now.

Second. There is no one way to skin a pig. You can become faster and qualify for Boston following various training methods. Just be consistent with one thing, and don’t fall for the quick fixes you will see online.

Finally, if you want to qualify to run the Boston marathon, you can do it. No matter where you are on your running journey, there is a path that works on your strengths that can get you there.

Diego Alcubierre, a passionate runner and coach, started his journey at 26 with a 10k time of 1:06:23 and has since slashed 30 minutes off his personal record. With five running and coaching certifications, Diego is committed to sharing his expertise and proven strategies to help runners of all levels enhance their performance, stay motivated, and enjoy the journey of running. At Bannister, he simplifies complex training concepts, empowering you to achieve your running goals.