Top Boston Qualifying Races
Looking to qualify for the iconic Boston Marathon? Try your luck at one of these fast races, where thousands of runners each year earn their sought-after Boston qualifying performance.
California International Marathon
Descending almost 400 feet from start to finish, the California International Marathon churns out hundreds of Boston qualifying performances each year. “If you play it smart, it’s definitely a negative split course,” says Mary Coordt, head coach of the Sacramento Running Association. “You just can’t get too greedy at the start.”
New York City Marathon
The course isn’t particularly flat, but the New York City Marathon is one of the biggest marathons in the world, drawing thousands of spectators to line the streets of the city to push you to a Boston qualifying performance.
Marine Corps Marathon
Arlington, Va./Washington D.C.
With just a few rollers over the first few miles, the Marine Corps Marathon course is a smooth sail through many of Washington D.C.’s landmarks, such as the Jefferson Memorial and Georgetown University.
Starting at an elevation of 600 feet above sea level and ending at 601 feet, the Chicago Marathon course is nearly pancake flat, shaken only by a few freeway overpasses. The lakefront course through the windy-city has produced more than 3,773 Boston-qualifying runners in the last three years. “A lot of runners come to Chicago to qualify because of the fast, flat course and because it’s a quality run race year after year,” says Megan Sullivan, training program manager of the Chicago Area Runners Association. “The spectators are unreal and there are typically more than one million of them lining the course. The atmosphere definitely gives runners that extra push they need.”
A top contender for churning out the most Boston qualifiers year after year, the Philadelphia Marathon boasts a flat, picturesque course lined with thousands of spectators and mild weather.
One of the few remaining non-profit, club-supported races, the Baystate Marathon had 25 percent of last year’s participants qualify for Boston. Never taking on more than 30 feet of elevation at a time, the course is nearly a straight out and back along the Merrimak River.
Twin Cities Marathon
St. Paul, Minn.
Winding around four lakes and across both sides of the Mississippi River, The Twin Cities Marathon is a flat and fast course for the first 20 miles—just make sure to pace yourself for the 100 foot climb between miles 21 and 23.
St. George Marathon
St. George, Utah
Year after year the St. George Marathon yields hundreds of Boston qualifying performances because of the city’s mild weather and downhill course. Beginning at 5,240 feet above sea level and ending at 2,680 feet, the course is a shoe-in for seasoned downhill runners.