Mobius marathons: Need to qualify for a marathon? Run a marathon! But...
November 9, 2017 4:09 PM   Subscribe

I have set a goal of running the Chicago Marathon in 2019: motivation to get back in shape, as well as my fiftieth birthday present to myself. Every google search I do on "how to qualify for the Chicago Marathon" says "run a qualifying marathon in Xh:xm." Great! But when I look up the qualifying marathon online, it has a qualifying marathon requirement. How do I break in to Marathon World? More details inside....

I have never run a marathon. The problem seems to be the locked-up marathon game. How on earth do I start?

I ran for cardio when I was younger, but now I'm 60 pounds overweight and completely out of shape. I used to be at my perfect weight, and in great shape, and I ran all the time. I know getting into shape at 48-50 is not the same as getting into shape at 25, but I also know it can be done.

So primary question: How the hell do I qualify for a marathon if you have to run a marathon to qualify for a marathon? Tips for heavier, middle-aged women easing back into weight-lifting and cardio without paying for a fancy gym also appreciated.
posted by tzikeh to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Smaller marathons, I think.
posted by acm at 4:22 PM on November 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

Not all marathons have qualifiers, just the big ones like Chicago, New York, Boston.

I took a quick look here and found this example pretty quickly. The rules page there just says you should be able to finish in six hours or less, but no hard "You need a qualifying time from a prior race to register"

So yeah, poke around and find some smaller races to try out first.
posted by Aznable at 4:24 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I presume you are talking about the guaranteed entry time qualifiers, which is either 3:40 or 4:15, depending on whether you are a 50 year old man or woman. The qualifying time can be run at almost any marathon. I assume that the marathon you picked for your qualifying marathon also has a qualifying time, so maybe pick a different marathon?

I've run 7 different marathons (15 in total) and never had a qualifying time for any of them.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:26 PM on November 9, 2017

Chicago, like other major marathons, has both a lottery and a charity entry option in addition to qualifying times. More info here.

The phrase to google for smaller marathons that let you qualify is "fast flat Chicago qualifier" or "fast flat Boston qualifier." Runner's World says this one in upstate New York is even downhill!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:27 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Very few marathons have qualifying requirements, and those that do also generally have lotteries and charity options.

If you go the charity route, fundraising requirements can be in the thousands - but then again, people are surprisingly (to me) willing to give money to you, whatever the charity (not that they're not worthy causes), because they're impressed you're running a marathon.

Since you want to run in 2019, you might as well apply for the 2018 lottery - soon, the deadline is Nov 30. If you're picked, you should be able to defer and be guaranteed a spot in 2019. If you're not picked, you can go for the lottery again in 2019.

Running a marathon in a qualifying time is not piece of cake for most people, though it looks like Chicago is more lenient than Boston. You may well start running and take to it and fly through your first race - I hope you do! - but if your heart is set on running Chicago in 2019, don't bank on qualifying, have a backup plan.
posted by orangejenny at 5:09 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

A couple of points:

1. You do not have to qualify to run Chicago. You can enter the general lottery without ever having run at all. Meeting the qualifying times just guarantees you an entry.

2. If you want to try to qualify for Chicago, you have to run a marathon on a USTAF certified course. A search on the USTAF website for certified marathons in Illinois returns this list. Some of these might also have qualifying times, but not all will. For instance, the Prairie State marathon seems to take all comers.

3. If you just want to run a marathon in 2019, but it doesn't have to be Chicago, this race calendar might be helpful. You can search by state, date and distance (though 2019 doesn't show anything right now), and it does tend to pull some smaller or local races.

(Also orangejenny's advice to enter the 2018 lottery and defer is a really good suggestion.)

Good luck!
posted by Tentacle of Trust at 5:26 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Allow me to plug my local marathon, which is just a few hours north of Chicago, flat, and USATF certified.
posted by notjustthefish at 10:36 AM on November 10, 2017

You can get in to Chicago and New York through the lottery (that’s how I got in to Chicago). In fact, Boston is the only marathon I can think of that doesn’t have a lottery. And even Boston allows runners to enter by raising money for charity. So I’d stop worrying about qualifying and start looking into charities that have entries. Bonus - the charities frequently have groups that organize training runs and help you with fundraising ideas. Look into the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training, for example - raise $1000 for Chicago 2018 and you’re in.

(I got into Chicago several years ago through the lottery but DNF. Previously I ran three marathons, two for charity.)
posted by kat518 at 9:35 AM on November 11, 2017

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