Marathons with the Highest Number of Boston Marathon Qualifiers

As the popularity of marathons has  increased over the years, so has the lure of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  In marathons held in the United States and Canada last year, over 57,000 runners ran under the Boston Marathon qualifying time for their age group, accounting for 10.2% of the finishers in certified marathons.

The following table lists the marathons with the most people running under Boston Marathon qualification times for their age groups in 2014.  The twelve marathons on the list account for nearly half of the qualifying times run.  In addition,  some of the largest races such as the New York City Marathon (3,641 qualifiers – 7.2%) and Marine Corps Marathon (728 qualifiers and 3.7%) may have a large number of qualifiers, but the percentage of qualifiers is well below the 10.2% average.

No surprise that the Boston Marathon leads the list with 11,046 qualifiers.  That number alone would rank as the 8th largest marathon in the U.S. and Canada in 2014.


Marathon Qualifiers BQ Percentage
Boston Marathon 11,046 34.6%
Chicago Marathon 4,039 9.9%
New York City Marathon 3,641 7.2%
Philadelphia Marathon 1,337 12.9%
California International Marathon 1,270 22.0%
Grandma’s Marathon 1,106 17.8%
Twin Cities Marathon 1,045 11.8%
St. George Marathon 975 16.8%
Ottawa Marathon 814 15.0%
Marine Corps Marathon 728 3.7%
Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 643 16.2%
Columbus Marathon 612 11.2%

Ten Options for Downhill Marathons (Part 2)

This is the second part of our look at some of the options for downhill marathons.  If you would like to see a comprehensive list of downhill races, you can filter by ‘Course Profile’ on’s Location or State search pages.

All courses on our list are certified by the USATF and can be used to qualify for the Boston and New York City Marathons.

slow-steep-hill-ahead-sign-k-0471 - adjusted2


St. George Marathon
St. George, UT
October 3, 2015

High/Low Elevation: 5,244′ / 2,685′
Net Elevation Loss from Start to Finish: 2,559′
Finishers (2014): 5,802
Percent of Finishers Achieving Boston Qualifying Times (2014): 16.8%

The St. George Marathon is the oldest of the marathons on our list.  For the last 39 years, the St. George Marathon has been a favorite destination for runners chasing fast times.  Thousands of marathoners have punched their ticket to Boston on the road down to St. George.

In addition to being the oldest on the list, St. George Marathon is also the largest with 5,802 finishers in 2014.  The demand is always high for the race, so runners need to register early.  Fortunately, a registration lottery was not needed this year, since all who applied in the short registration window were accepted.


Big Cottonwood Marathon
Cottonwood, UT
September 12, 2015

High/Low Elevation: 9,726′ / 4,441′
Net Elevation Loss from Start to Finish: 5,285′
Finishers (2014): 1,527
Percent of Finishers Achieving Boston Qualifying Times (2014): 19.4%

The Big Cottonwood Marathon, another race in the Revel series (along with Rockies and Canyon City), has the largest net drop of any of the races on our list.  It starts at the very high elevation of 9,726 feet and drops just over a vertical mile down to 4,441 feet to the finish in Cottonwood Heights.

The course starts high atop Guardsman Pass, circles briefly through Brighton before plunging down Big Cottonwood Canyon.  Once reach the mouth of the canyon, they will run a nearly five mile relatively flat to rolling out-and-back section.  After this section, the course continues downhill to the finish.


Steamtown Marathon
Scranton, PA
October 11, 2015

High/Low Elevation: 1,691′ / 760′
Net Elevation Loss from Start to Finish: 931′
Finishers (2014): 2,185
Percent of Finishers Achieving Boston Qualifying Times (2014): 19.3%

Although the race hasn’t been around as long as the St. George Marathon, the Steamtown Marathon has also been a mainstay for runners seeking a fast downhill marathon.  This year will be the 20th running of the popular Northeastern Pennsylvania race.  The course drops more than 900 feet; however, runners need to be aware of the three moderate, but challenging uphills in the last three miles of the course.

The race attracts lot of fast marathoners.  An impressive 13% of women finished the 2014 race under 3:30 and 6% of men finished under three hours.


California International Marathon
Sacramento, CA
December 6, 2015

High/Low Elevation: 359′ / 21′
Net Elevation Loss from Start to Finish: 338′
Finishers (2014): 5,804
Percent of Finishers Achieving Boston Qualifying Times (2014): 21.9%

The California International Marathon is a bit different from most of the races on the list.  First, it has a net elevation loss of only 338 feet over the 26.2 mile course, the least among those on our list.  Some of the other courses can drop this far in a single mile.  Also, the course is not completely downhill and is dotted by several sections with rolling hills – both up and down.

This year will mark the 30th edition of California International Marathon and it has been run on the same course as the inaugural marathon held in 1983.  Like the St. George Marathon, thousands of runners over the years, including 1,272 in 2014, have run Boston qualifying times on the road from Folsom to the State Capitol in Sacramento.


Rockies Marathon
Morrison, CO
July 19, 2015

High/Low Elevation: 10,472′ / 5,778′
Net Elevation Loss from Start to Finish: 4,694′
Finishers (2014): 323
Percent of Finishers Achieving Boston Qualifying Times (2014): 22.0%

Rocky Mountain high is an apt description for the Rockies Marathon.  The course starts ten miles up Squaw Pass Road at an altitude of 10,472 feet and finishes nearly 4,700 feet below at Bandimere Speedway.   In the United States, only the Pikes Peak Marathon has a higher elevation along its course.

Despite the entire race taking place over a mile above sea level (and starting two miles above sea level), 71 runners (22.0%) achieved Boston Qualifying times for their age group in 2014.

It’s All Downhill from Here: Ten Options for Downhill Marathons

Over the past few years, the running community has witnessed a significant increase in the number of downhill marathons – races with a net elevation loss over the length of the course.  Whether it is just a result of the increase in the overall number of marathons in the last decade or an increased interest in runners seeking Boston Marathon qualifying-friendly races, there are more choices than ever for this type of marathon.


We’ve compiled a list of ten of these downhill courses.  The list includes a mix of new and well-established races, large and small marathons, as well as races with gradual and significant elevation losses.  In addition to these races, a comprehensive list of downhill marathons, as well as elevation charts for each can be found at

All courses on our list are certified by the USATF and can be used to qualify for the Boston and New York City Marathons.

slow-steep-hill-ahead-sign-k-0471 - adjusted2
Canyon City Marathon

Azusa, CA
November 7, 2015

High/Low Elevation: 5,816′ / 605′
Net Elevation Loss from Start to Finish: 5,211′
Finishers (2014): 624
Percent of Finishers Achieving Boston Qualifying Times (2014): 22.4%

The first on our list is the Canyon City Marathon.  The course starts in the Crystal Lake Recreational Area in the Angeles National Forest, winds its way through the canyon and finishes at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in Azusa, east of Los Angeles.

The course boasts a dramatic drop in elevation – nearly a vertical mile from start to finish.  This elevation loss equates to an average downhill slope of 3.8% – approximately the same as the incline for Boston’s famed Heartbreak Hill.

In addition, for those not yet willing to take on the challenge of 26 downhill miles, the race has a companion half marathon starting at the marathon halfway point.


Freakin’ Fast Marathon
Boise, ID
September 5, 2015

High/Low Elevation: 6750′ / 2592′
Net Elevation Loss from Start to Finish: 4155′
Finishers (2014): 65
Percent of Finishers Achieving Boston Qualifying Times (2014): 12.3%

The Freakin’ Fast Marathon the smallest marathon on our list with 65 finishers in its first year.  Formerly known as the Bogus Marathon, it is one of the steepest downhill marathons in the United States with a net elevation drop of over 4,000 feet.

The course starts at the Bogus Basin Recreation Area and winds down the mountain to the finish in Boise, Idaho.  The race features a ten mile stretch from miles five to fifteen where the course loses 2,700 feet, an average downhill grade of 5%.  With most of the elevation loss occurring in the first twenty miles, runners will experience a relatively flat last ten kilometers.


Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon
North Bend, WA
July 26, 2015

High/Low Elevation: 2,603 ‘ / 521’
Net Elevation Loss from Start to Finish:  2,028′
Finishers: 2015 Inaugural

The Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon’s name leaves little doubt about what runners will encounter while running this course.  The race starts just south of the Snoqualmie Tunnel, a 2.3 mile railroad tunnel formerly used by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (don’t forget your headlamp).  The course follows the John Wayne Pioneer Trail and finishes on the Snoqualmie Trail in North Bend, Washington.

Lots of downhill races start at very high altitudes to achieve significant changes in elevation.   Fortunately for those runners who are negatively affected by higher altitudes, this is not the case for the Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon.  The course starts at a modest (for downhill races, at least) 2,600 feet and drops 2,000 feet to the finish.

View from inside the 2.3 mile long Snoqualmie Tunnel just past the start of the Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon.

Peak to Creek Marathon

Morganton, NC
October 24, 2015

High/Low Elevation: 3,786′ / 1104′
Net Elevation Loss from Start to Finish: 2,682′
Finishers (2014): 234
Percent of Finishers Achieving Boston Qualifying Times (2014): 26.9%

Tucked away in the Western North Carolina mountains, the Peak to Creek Marathon has earned a reputation as a fast downhill course despite having a large number of switchbacks and twenty miles of dirt and gravel road.  In addition to over a quarter of finishers running under Boston Marathon qualifying times in 2014, the median finishing time of 3:52 is more than ten minutes faster than any other race on our list.

The course loses most of its elevation in the nine mile stretch between miles six and fifteen.  The average downhill grade is nearly 5% as the course loses 2,200 feet in this section.  This leaves a mostly gentle decline for the last eleven miles.


Pocono Mountain Run for the Red Marathon
Stroudsburg, PA
May 17, 2015

High/Low Elevation: 1,837′ / 442′
Net Elevation Loss from Start to Finish: 1,395′
Finishers (2014): 624
Percent of Finishers Achieving Boston Qualifying Times (2014): 29.1%

Of the races on our list, the Pocono Mountain Run for the Red Marathon boasts the highest percentage of finishers achieving Boston Marathon Qualifying times.  Nearly one-third of finishers (29.1%) in the 2014 race finished with times under the Boston Marathon qualifying standard for their age group.  (Update: 19.1% of finishers achieved Boston qualifying times in the 2015 race despite high race day temperatures and high humidity levels.)

Like other Eastern U.S. downhill marathons, the Run for the Red start is at a modest 1,837 feet above sea level.  Runners will experience a few uphills as the course drops 1,395 feet from the start in Pocono Summit down to the finish in Stroudsburg.

Tomorrow we will feature five more downhill marathons.