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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.

Alternative Races for Runners Not Able to Finish Illinois Marathon

Weather has caused the cancellation of yet another marathon.  This time the Illinois Marathon was forced to shut down three hours and fifteen minutes after the start of the marathon due to severe lightning.  Runners were stopped and buses were sent to pick up runners still on the course.

Photographer: Heather Coit A Champaign police officer breaks the news to marathoner, Tara Worsham, of Decatur, that the course is closed because of incoming storms, during Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon near John Street and Crescent Drive in Champaign on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

Upcoming Marathons Close to Champaign, IL

Here is a list of some marathons relatively close to Champaign with registration still open for those unable to finish are:

Chicagoland Marathon – 5/17 (133 miles from Champaign)
Sunburst Marathon – 6/6 (151 miles)
Rockford Marathon -5/31 (155 miles)
Wisconsin Marathon – 5/2 (172 miles)
Kalamazoo Marathon – 5/3 (207 miles)
Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon – 5/3 (211 miles)


As per our policy, any runners who purchased a Pace Band from us and were unable to finish their marathon, receive a free Pace Band for their next race.

The Wineglass Marathon: Winner of the 2015 Marathon March Madness

After three weeks of head-to-head match ups and over 100,000 votes cast, the Wineglass Marathon emerged as the champion of the 2015 Marathon March Madness Tournament.

The Wineglass Marathon survived a last day push by the Grandma’s Marathon to win with 34% of the Final Four voting.

The results of the voting for the Final Four are below.

Final Four

Wineglass Marathon (34%)
Grandma’s Marathon (28%)
Big Sur International Marathon (21%)
Boston Marathon (17%)

Thanks to everyone who voted during the tournament.

Marathon March Madness: Final Four is Set

The Final Four is set for the Marathon March Madness Tournament with the Boston Marathon , Wineglass Marathon, Big Sur International Marathon , and Grandma’s Marathon vying for the 2015 Marathon March Madness Tournament crown.

Vote Here!

The voting for the Final Four starts today and will conclude at 11:59pm Eastern on Friday.

Elite Eight Wrap-up

In a huge upset in the East Region, the Wineglass Marathon defeated the number one seed, New York City Marathon 70%-30%.

The Boston Marathon continued its dominance of the South Region by handily defeating the San Francisco Marathon 72%-28%.

In the Midwest Region, Grandma’s Marathon, fresh off a close match up with fellow Minnesota marathon Twin Cities, defeated the Chicago Marathon.

The West Region saw the Big Sur International Marathon winning in a close match up over the Eugene Marathon.

Elite Eight Results

Wineglass Marathon (70%)
New York City Marathon (30%)

Boston Marathon (72%)
San Francisco Marathon (28%)

Grandma’s Marathon (64%)
Chicago Marathon (36%)

Big Sur International Marathon (53%)
Eugene Marathon (47%)

Cowtown Marathon Alternatives

Mother Nature has struck again.  Last week the Central Park and Hyannis Marathons were cancelled due to the weather or course conditions.  Today Cowtown Marathon officials announced that the Cowtown Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, March 1st, was going to be cancelled due to the course conditions.

We all know the months of preparation and planning that goes into a single 26.2 mile race.  Fortunately, there are lots of other options out there to put that hard earned fitness to the test.

Below are some races in the next few weeks that are relatively close to Ft. Worth.  You can also use our Search By Location tool or Calendar to find other alternative races.

All races below are certified courses and registration is still open.

Site Update Continues & A Look Toward March

Thank you for your patience as the site is upgraded to be more mobile and tablet friendly.  The update is about 75% complete with most of the primary pages having been converted.

Also, as we move closer to Spring, March appears to be an even bigger month for marathon participation than last year.  Currently, there are 73 marathons scheduled with five inaugural marathons on the calendar.

If you are looking for something new, the inaugural additions are:

Montgomery Marathon, Montgomery, AL (3/14)
Newport News One City Marathon, Newport News, VA (3/15)
Savin Rocks Marathon, West Haven, CT (3/21)
Emerald Isle Marathon, Emerald Isle, NC (3/28)
Running the Shoals Marathon, Muscle Shoals, AL (3/28)

Fastest Marathons in 2014

Below is our annual list of the fastest marathons in the United States and Canada for 2014.  Seven of the races also appeared on last year’s list along with three newcomers. New marathons to the list include two races in the Revel series – Canyon City Marathon and Big Cottonwood Marathon – in addition to the Tunnel Lite Marathon.

What makes a marathon fast or slow?  We’ve developed an algorithm (Personal Record Score) to measure the relative speed of a marathon course based on several factors based on peer reviewed research as well as our own analysis of hundreds of marathon courses. You can read more about how the algorithm is derived here.

Find out more about each marathon by clicking on the race link.

Race Personal Record Score Boston Qualifiers
Median Finish Time
Canyon City Marathon
Azusa, CA
110.80 22.4% 4:10:27
Peak to Creek Marathon*
Morganton, NC
106.04 26.9% 3:51:55
Leavenworth Marathon*
Leavenworth, WA
102.80 14.4% 4:18:38
Tunnel Lite Marathon
North Bend, WA
102.53 26.8% 3:59:10
Pocono Mountain Run for the Red Marathon*
Stroudsburg, PA
102.43 29.1% 3:53:35
St. George Marathon*
St. George, UT
101.81 16.8% 4:12:53
Winthrop Marathon*
Winthrop, WA
101.57 12.1% 4:30:25
Steamtown Marathon*
Scranton, PA
101.22 19.3% 4:02:16
Big Cottonwood Marathon
Cottonwood, UT
100.83 19.4% 4:08:55
Tucson Marathon*
Tucson, AZ
100.73 14.8% 4:16:50

* Included in Fastest Marathons in 2013