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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

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’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.

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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.


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)