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How will the Hot Northeast Weather this Weekend Impact Your Marathon Times?

This Memorial Day weekend will see some very warm temperatures for marathon running.  These less than ideal temperatures will force most runners to slow their paces – especially in the Northeast.

Below we chart out how the expected race time temperatures and humidity levels will affect finish times for the Vermont City and Buffalo Marathons. The algorithms utilized are based on peer reviewed research on the affect of temperature and humidity on marathon finish times. You can find more comparisons by using the Year-By-Year Time Converter on the website.

Vermont City Marathonhot-weather-clip-art-73295
Forecast at Start: 72F with 64% Relative Humidity. Rising to low 80s during the race.

Buffalo Marathon
Forecast at Start: 70F with 80% Relative Humidity. Temperatures expected to rise into the high 70s during the race.

Adjusted Finish Time
Goal Time Vermont City Marathon Buffalo Marathon
3:00 3:08:17  3:07:39
3:30 3:40:56  3:40:06
4:00 4:14:04  4:13:00
4:30 4:47:46  4:46:25

Note: the affects on individuals may vary based on several variables such as size, gender, acclimation to running in warm weather, etc. Always use caution when running in warm weather and listen to your body to reduce heat related illnesses.

Boston Marathon Weather

We’ll update this as the weekend progresses. Last updated Monday, 4:30pm

The times for each Wave at the Halfway and Finish are based on the following finish times:

Wave 1: 3:00
Wave 2: 3:20
Wave 3: 3:50
Wave 4: 4:30

Start in Hopkinton   Temp Humidity Wind
Wave 1 (10:00am) Sunny 67F 28% 6mph from the NNE (Headwind)
Wave 2 (10:25am) Sunny 69F 26% 6mph from the NNE (Headwind)
Wave 3 (10:50am) Sunny 71F 23% 8mph from the NNE (Headwind)
Wave 4 (11:15am) Sunny 69F 25% 10mph from the NNE (Headwind)
Halfway   Temp Humidity Wind
Wave 1 (11:30am) Sunny 68F 22% 7mph from the North (Crosswind)
Wave 2 (12:05pm) Sunny 70F 22% 9mph from the North (Crosswind)
Wave 3 (12:45pm) Sunny 70F 23% 8mph from the ENE (Headwind))
Wave 4 (1:30pm) Sunny 70F 23% 5mph from the SSW (Tailwind)
Finish in Boston   Temp Humidity Wind
Wave 1 (1:00pm) Scattered Clouds 57F 42% 17mph from the ENE (Headwind)
Wave 2 (1:45pm) Mostly Cloudy 53F 55% 14mph from the East (Headwind)
Wave 3 (2:40pm) Mostly Cloudy 52F 57% 10mph from the East (Headwind))
Wave 4 (3:45pm) Scattered Clouds 52F 57% 12mph from the EnE (Headwind)

 

Boston Marathon Qualifying Options for the Postponed Freakin’ Fast Marathon

The Freakin’ Fast Marathon was postponed until October 17th due to delays in road construction along the course.  Many runners were hoping to use this fast, downhill race as a last chance to achieve Boston Marathon qualifying times before registration for Boston opens next week.  We’ve created a list of marathons tBostonMarathonMedalhat may be options for runner’s seeking BQ’s before registration opens for Boston on Monday, September 14th.

All races during the weekend of September 12-13 are prior to the start of registration for the Boston Marathon and can be used for qualifying.  The first week of registration will likely be open until Saturday, September 19th at 10:00 p.m. ET when registration for runner’s achieving qualifying times by less than five minutes closes.  Therefore, only races held on Saturday, 9/19 fall within the first registration period and races on the 20th can only be used if registration is not filled.

Below are certified marathons in the Mountain or Pacific Regions before or during the Boston Marathon initial registration period. To search all marathons in the United States and Canada use our search tools or view our Boston Marathon Qualifiers calendar and filters.

Western U.S. Boston Marathon Certified Marathons (9-12 – 9/20)

Salmon Marathon
Salmon, ID
September 12th

Big Cottonwood Marathon
Cottonwood, UT
September 12th

Bozeman Marathon
Bozeman, MT
September 13th

Skagit Flats Marathon
Burlington, WA
September 13th

Top of Utah Marathon
Logan, UT
September 19th

Rogue Run Marathon
Medford, OR
September 20th ** After the first week of registration ends

Montana Marathon
Billings, MT
September 20th ** After the first week of registration ends

Freakin' Fast Marathon Elevation Chart
Freakin’ Fast Marathon Course Elevation Chart. The course on October, 17th may be slightly different, but will still have a 4,000′ elevation drop. We will revise the chart and marathon data once the course is determined.

The silver lining is that with the Freakin’ Fast marathon pushed back a month, the temperatures are likely to be cooler which may lead to faster times on this fast course.


2016 Boston Marathon Registration Dates & Guidelines 

  • On Monday, September 14 at 10:00 a.m. ET, eligible runners who have met the qualifying standard for their age and gender by 20 minutes or more may register.
  • On Wednesday, September 16 at 10:00 a.m. ET, if space remains, registration will open for those who have met their qualifying standard by 10 minutes or more.
  • If space remains, registration will open on Friday, September 18 at 10:00 a.m. ET for those who have met their qualifying standard by five minutes or more.
  • Registration will close on Saturday, September 19 at 10:00 p.m. ET.
  • If space remains after the first week of registration (Monday, September 14 through Saturday, September 19), then registration will re-open for all qualifiers from Monday, September 21 at 10:00 a.m. ET through Wednesday, September 23 at 5:00 p.m. ET.

Marathon Pacing Strategies

On race day, running the correct pace during a marathon is the single most important factor in achieving your goal time.  Surprisingly, many marathoners line up at the start on race day without a solid race pace plan or fail to stick to their plan. The difference between hitting your goal or hitting the wall is often very small.  Why put in months of dedicated training only to waste it by not planning your marathon pacing strategy.

Developing a good marathon pacing strategy is often difficult for both new and experienced marathoners.  In this article, we’ll discuss marathon pacing strategies advocated by experts as well as provide solutions for you to stay on pace on race day.


Start Strategy

Many runners ruin their chances to achieve their goal time in the first few miles of the race. It’s very easy to let the excitement of the race dictate your pace. You’re rested, your legs feel fresh, and race pace at this point seems veRunning in the early-morning sunshinery easy.  However, you need to resist the urge to go out too fast. It may seem that other runners are flying by you. Don’t chase them. If you stick to your pacing plan, you’ll end up passing many of them later in the race as they struggle towards the finish in the last few miles.

One of the keys to hitting your goal time is managing your energy expenditure.  Going out faster than goal pace in the first few miles will burn carbohydrates at a faster rate – carbohydrates that will be needed more the last few miles of the race.  You will want to go out at your goal marathon pace or slightly slower in order to conserve carbohydrate utilization.  

If your first couple of miles are slower than planned due to the mass starts at large races, don’t attempt to make up this lost time in the first few miles.  Rather, spread out the time over the entire length of the course.  If you find yourself 30 seconds behind pace after the first mile, you can make up the time by running only about one second per mile faster than the rest of the race.  This is a much better strategy than running 10-15 seconds per mile faster for the next two to three miles to make up the time.

 

Pacing Strategies

Most running experts and coaches advocate an even or close to even pacing strategy.  Keith and Kevin Hanson, founders of the elite Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project and co-authors of Hansons Marathon Method, recommend running the second half slightly faster than the first half.  They assert that going out slow will almost never be detrimental to maintaining your goal pace in the latter miles of the marathon, but going too fast the first half likely will.  In addition, Timothy Noakes (Lore of Running) and Matt Fitzgerald (The Runner’s Edge) also recommend a slightly negative split.  Fitzgerald suggests running the first half 2 to 4 seconds per mile slower than than the second.  That would equate to someone of a goal of four hours to run the first half thirty seconds to a minute faster than the last thirteen miles.


Elite Athlete Marathon Pacing

The recommendation of running a close to even pace is also supported by the pacing strategies of elite marathoners. Each time the men’s World Record in the marathon has been broken in recent years (as well as with the current women’s record), the runner ran relatively even first and second half splits.

Athlete 1st Half 2nd Half + / – seconds
Dennis Kimetto (2014) 1:01:45 1:01:12 – 33
Wilson Kipsang (2013) 1:01:32 1:01:51 +18
Patrick Makau (2011) 1:01:44 1:01:54 +10
Haile Gebrselassie (2008) 1:02:05 1:01:54 -11
Haile Gebrselassie (2007) 1:02:29 1:02:17 -12
Paula Radcliffe (2003) 1:08:02 1:07:23 -39

Comparison of first and second half marathon splits of recent men’s and women’s marathon world records.


Positive Split Strategy

Pete Pfitzinger, two-time Olympic Marathoner and author of the popular book, Advanced Marathoning, advocates a slight positive split strategy.  He states that in order to run even splits (assuming a completely flat course) you would need to “increase your oxygen consumption and lactate level as your fatigue level increases” during the second half of the marathon.  In other words, your effort level will need to increase in order to maintain the same pace throughout the marathon.  

Rather than run even splits, Pfitzinger recommends running the first half of the race between 2 to 3 percent faster than the second half in order to account for the natural slowing. He maintains that if you were able to negative split the marathon (run the second half faster than the first), you likely ran slower than your optimal pace during the first half of the race and could have finished in a faster time.


Pacing Marathons with Hills

Although each time the men’s world record in the marathon has been broken in recent years the runner has run relatively even splits, each oPacing Strategies for Marathons with Hilsf these record races have been run at the Berlin Marathon, a very flat course (elevation chart).  In addition, Paula Radcliffe’s record was also run on a flat course at the London Marathon.  Even pac
ing on flat courses like
Berlin and London results in a relatively even rate of energy expenditure throughout most of the race.  However, even pacing is a less effective pacing strategy on courses where maintaining an even pace requires changes in your rate of energy expenditure.

Hills, of course, are the primary reason for these changes in energy expenditure.  When you’re running uphill you have to expend more energy to hold the same pace you were holding on flat terrain.  And when you’re running downhill you can go faster while expending less energy than you would on flat terrain.  Therefore, the pacing strategy for the hilly San Francisco Marathon would be markedly different than the strategy for the flat Chicago Marathon.

During the marathon you should try to keep your energy expenditure relatively even to minimize carbohydrate depletion.  Therefore, you need to slow down when running uphill and speed up when running downhill. The best way to achieve an even energy expenditure is to develop a race pace plan that is based on the uphill and downhills of the specific course.

Fortunately, we’ve done this for you with our Marathon Pace Bands. We’ve analyzed the course terrain for over 400 marathon and half marathons (more are added daily) and creaMarathon Pace Bandted pacing strategies based on each specific course.  The algorithm used to develop the race-specific paces are derived from peer reviewed research, advice from running experts, and analysis of the actual race
paces from runners who have successfully met their time goals.  In addition to the course-specific pacing strategies, you can modify the start and pacing strategies or create your own paces.  

As four-time Boston and New York City Marathon winner aptly stated, “the marathon can humble you.”  However, by developing a solid race pacing strategy, you will have a better chance at achieving your goal and humbling the marathon.

The Hardest Marathons in the United States

Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon
The challenging Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon in Roanoke, Virginia is one of the most difficult marathon courses in the United States

For most marathoners the quest is to set Personal Records (PRs) or qualify for the Boston Marathon. Often these journeys include finding the fastest marathon courses with the most favorable running weather.  For some runners, however, the goal is to challenge themselves on the most difficult marathon courses. These runners seek out the hardest courses in terms of elevation change, warm, humid weather, or run at a consistently high altitude.

We’ve listed the four most challenging marathons in the United States and Canada based on the race’s Personal Record (PR) Score*, elevation change, median finish times, and the lowest percentage of finishers running Boston Marathon qualifying times.

All races on the list are certified by The USATF and are Boston Marathon qualifiers.

Race Personal Record Score Percentage of Boston Marathon qualifiers Median Finish Times High/Low Elevation Difference
Black Mountain Marathon 90.85 0% 5:40:08 (2015) 2,879’
Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon 92.61 1.7% 5:11:45 (2015) 1,230’
Red Rock Canyon Marathon 90.81 3.9% 4:37:28 (2015) 1,107’
Kauai Marathon 89.12 3.1% 5:02:37 (2015) 803’

* PR Score utilizes the course profile, elevation, and typical race day weather to create a score that can be compared to other marathons to determine at which race you could expect to run faster. The higher the score, the faster the race.  Read more on our FAQ page.

Marathons Made for BQ Hopefuls

The past decade has seen significant growth in the number of people running marathons as well as the number of marathons held each year. Each of the of the 50 most populous cities in the United States hosts at least one marathon each year with several of these cities holding multiple marathons.  If you look at our marathon calendar , there will be more than 700 marathons held this year in the United States and Canada with an estimated 600,000 finishers.

As more people run marathons, the allure of the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon, has also increased. First held in 1897, Boston is the goal for thouBostonMarathonMedalsands of runners each year attempting to achieve the elusive BQ (Boston Qualifying time).  Last year more than 57,000 marathon finishers (10.2% of all finishers) ran under the Boston Qualifying standards for their age group in certified marathons.

Race organizers have taken notice of runner’s obsessions with chasing BQ’s and created races specifically to attract Boston-seeking runners.  We have listed five of these races developed with this segment of runners in mind.


Chasing the Unicorn Marathon
Washington Crossing, PA
August 16, 2015

As the name implies, this race is aimed at runners pursuing the iconic symbol of the Boston Athletic Association, the organization behind the Boston Marathon.  The very flat, double out-and-bChasingtheUnicornLogoack marathon is scheduled for August 16th, approximately one month before the opening of registration for the 2016 Boston Marathon.  Last year 22% of the 211 finishers ran under Boston Marathon qualifying standards for their age groups.*


Last Chance BQ2 Marathon (Chicagoland)

Geneva, IL
September 12, 2015

Last Chance for BQ2 Marathon (Grand Rapids)
Grand Rapids, MI
September 12, 2015

Organized by the same group that hosts the Fox Valley Marathon, the twoLastChanceBQ2MarathonChicagoland Last Chance BQ2 Marathons truly offer runners a last chance to qualify for Boston.  Both races, one held in Geneva, IL and the other in Grand Rapids, MI, are scheduled for September 12th – two days before the Boston Marathon registration starts.

Both races boast a high percentage of Boston Marathon qualifiers.  Last year over 60% of runners ran BQs at the Chicagoland edition and 57% qualified at the Grand Rapids race.  The marathons had the highest two BQ percentages of all marathons held in the U.S. and Canada in 2014.

The Chicagoland course is eight repetitions of a flat 3+ mile loop while thLastChanceBQ2MarathonGrandRapidse Grand Rapids course is six loops of a 4.1 mile route (plus start/finish, and first loop spurs).  The spectator-friendly courses also features two aid stations per loop with an Elite Water Bottle table where runners can stock their own fluids just like elites at major road races.


Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon
Charlottesville, VA
September 12, 2015

The Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon is a very small race with a limit of 30 runners Rivanna Greenbelt Marathonand was created to help runners achieve Boston Marathon qualifying times.  The race is purposely scheduled on September 12th, just before Boston registration opens. Like the other races on the list, the marathon consists of several repeats of a short route.  The very flat course is six repetitions of a four mile out-and-back route (plus a shortened seventh out-and-back).


Last Chance for Boston Marathon
Dublin, OH
February 2016

Held at the end of February, the Last Chance for BostoLast Chance for Boston Marathonn Marathon was first run in 2002.  At that time, runners were still able to register for Boston as late as the end of February. No longer a ‘last chance’ race, the race still maintains a high percentage of runners qualifying on the one mile loop course.  In 2014, 20% of finishers qualified and 30% booked their ticket to Boston the previous year.


* BQ percentages are based on the runner’s age at the time of the race.  Actual percentages may be be higher due to some runners moving into new age groups prior to the Boston Marathon.

Best Boston Marathon Qualifiers

In a previous article we detailed marathons in the United States and Canada with the most runners finishing under the Boston Marathon qualifying standard for their age group.  Predictably, the three largest marathons (New York City, Chicago, and Boston) topped this list in 2014, priBostonMarathonMedalmarily on the sheer number of runners competing in the races.  However, when you compare the New York City and Chicago Marathons to the more than 500 certified Boston qualifying races, the percentage of finishers qualifying in those two races is quite average.  New York City, for example, had 7.2% of the 50,564 finishers qualify and Chicago had 9.9% of runners qualify. Both of these percentages are less than the average of 10.2% of qualifiers among all runners who completed certified marathons in 2014.

The following table lists the marathons with the highest percentage of Boston Marathon qualifying runners.  The list only includes marathons with at least 100 finishers achieving BQs.  Therefore, a few smaller races with a high percentage of qualifiers did not make the list such as the Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon in Grand Rapids, MI (56.7%), LOCO Marathon (40.9%), and Two Rivers Marathon (36.0%).

A calendar of the marathons where runners can qualify for the Boston Marathon, as well as the percentage of qualifiers in these races can be found at FindMyMarathon.com.

Marathon Percentage of Boston Qualifiers Number of Qualifiers
Last Chance BQ Marathon (Geneva, IL) 62.5% 115
Boston Marathon 34.6% 11,046
Erie Marathon at Presque Isle 33.0% 316
Pocono Mountain Run for the Red Marathon 29.1% 182
Sugarloaf Marathon 26.2% 132
Baystate Marathon 25.2% 385
Mountains 2 Beach Marathon 24.6% 399
Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope 23.6% 211
Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon 23.2% 208
Canyon City Marathon 22.4% 140
Via Marathon 22.2% 236
California International Marathon 22.0% 1,270

 

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 FindMyMarathon.com’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 FindMyMarathon.com.

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.

800px-Tunnel_inside
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.