Want to earn a coveted BQ time? Train your butt off and run like a fiend at one of these races. Registration for the 2017 Boston Marathon is expected to open in early to mid-September, and it’s likely that runners will need to be at least 2 minutes under the qualifying time for their age group to be guaranteed a spot.
Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon
Feb. 28, New Orleans
This fast and mostly flat tree-lined course starts downtown, passes through the French Quarter and cruises home to a grand finish near the botanical gardens in New Orleans City Park. Perks include live music, a special marathon finisher’s jacket and a massive post-race party that continues on Bourbon Street.
Glass City Marathon
April 24, Toledo, Ohio
This race has gained a reputation as a great, fast race thanks to its smooth roads and very little elevation change. It starts at the University of Toledo then winds through outlying neighborhoods and the Ottawa Hills. It has one of the highest percentages of Boston qualifiers among springtime races, with more than 16 percent of the field qualifying every year.
May 1, Eugene, Ore.
Run 26.2 miles through Steve Prefontaine’s old stomping grounds and finish on the historic track at legendary Hayward Field. The only mild hills on the course are located at mile 4 and mile 8—it’s otherwise mostly flat. In the past two years, 20 percent of the entire field has reached BQ times.
May 15, Sugarloaf, Maine
Now in its 34th year, this point-to-point race is one of the fastest in the U.S. Over the past several years, about 25 percent of the field has run BQ times. After a flat initial 5 miles, runners encounter rolling terrain through mile 10, then run gradually downhill (with a loss of 980 feet) over the final 16 miles.
Pocono Mountain Run for the Red Marathon
May 15, Stroudsburg, Pa.
This net-downhill course, with a dramatic drop from 1,883 feet at the start to 443 feet at the finish, produced the fourth highest percentage of Boston qualifiers last year (28.7 percent of the field). After 6 rolling miles at the start, the course has a consistent downhill profile from mile 6 to mile 20 and continues its gradual descent over the final 6 miles.
June 4, Newport, Ore.
This small race on the Oregon coast typically sees about 20 percent of its runners earn BQ times. Runners rave about this marathon’s course, which includes a section along the Pacific Ocean in the first few miles followed by a serene out-and-back section along Yaquina Bay for the final 22 miles.
Santa Rosa Marathon
Aug. 28, Santa Rosa, Calif.
This smallish race has a 6 a.m. start and a mostly rural, single-loop course (much of which is on paved bike paths next to a creek) that winds through vineyards before finishing back in town. Annually, it has one of the highest percentages of Boston qualifiers, ranging from 21 to 31 percent in recent years.
Last Chance BQ Chicagoland Marathon
Sept. 10, Batavia, Ill.
Now in its fourth year, this small race was specifically created to be held on the final weekend before the registration opening for the Boston Marathon. It has a flat, criterium-style loop course that follows the Fox River (eight times around a 3.21-mile loop) with many shaded sections adjacent to parks. Last year, almost 61 percent of the 300 runners in the field earned qualifying times.
Erie Marathon at Presque Isle
Sept. 11, Erie, Pa.
This 43-year-old race has always been known for its fast, flat two-loop course. In recent years—since the Boston Marathon moved up its registration dates—it’s gained attention as a last-chance Boston qualifier. Last year, 77 of the 950 runners broke 3:10, and 33 percent earned BQ times.
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