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.

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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.


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