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World Marathon Majors

Meet the Runner Who Qualified for the 2021 Boston Marathon By Just One Second

CJ Young secured his spot on the exclusive 125th Boston Marathon starting line with a time of 2:52:12, just barely scraping under the new, tightened cut-off mark.

As you may well know by now, the qualification standards for runners to snag a spot for the 2021 Boston Marathon is jarringly tight this year. More challenging, in fact, than it’s been for over 30 years with a cutoff time set at 7 minutes and 47 seconds faster than the qualifying times for their age section and gender. A record 9,215 runners who qualified were turned away.

So, you can imagine the exhilaration CJ Young, a runner living in Washington D.C., felt when he found out yesterday that he had qualified for the 125 Boston Marathon by one second. 

His golden ticket mark of 2:52:12 was obtained at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. “It was a magic day for a lot of runners with great conditions,” says Young of that fateful race. 

The 2021 Boston Marathon, which has been moved from its traditional third Monday of April date due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is scheduled to take place on Monday, October 11, 2021. The 7:47 cut off mark, the biggest in the race’s history, is on top of the new qualifying standards for the 2020 marathon, which lowered the marks by 5 minutes for every age group. The large cut off also stems from the reduced field size of 20,000 participants to meet COVID-19 safety guidelines. Just 14,609 runners scored a bib for the race this year based on qualifying time. (The qualifying period for the 2021 Boston Marathon was open from September 15, 2018 to April 23, 2021.) 

Man with white Nike hat, faded red Nike tank top and 2019 Boston Marathon bib on running down road in a race.
Young last raced Boston in 2019 finishing with an official time of 2:59:53. Photo: courtesy of CJ Young via MarathonFoto

Young, who works for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, raced Boston once before in 2019 where his official finishing time was 2:59:53. In his second time lining up for the historic marathon, he’s aiming to crack under 2:50. He had hoped to do it in the 2020 Boston — made virtual due to COVID-19 — and is eager for another opportunity despite some relatable pre-race nerves. 

“I’m very excited to be part of what’s going to be an incredibly special and historic race,” says Young. “Although now I’m worried that just narrowly qualifying is going to make my anxiety about having to use a restroom during a race much worse.”