Want to Run the Boston Marathon? You can still qualify for the 2018 race—but you’d better hurry.
The 122nd running of the race takes place on April 16 next year. Runners need to run a qualifying time by mid-September at the latest for a shot at toeing the start line. The demand for the approximately 30,000 spots is so high that organizers have taken to a rolling entry schedule that rewards athletes with the fastest qualifying times.
While registration information for 2018 hasn’t been officially announced, if it follows the same procedures from this year, runners who qualify by more than 20 minutes will be given the first shot at registering. Depending on the demand, though, even people who meet qualification standards could be closed out—so it pays to run as fast as you can!
Although we’re already a quarter of the year in with fewer marathons on the calendar, you can still find quite a few that offer a good shot of hitting that time. Here are 15 upcoming races where you can aim to get that BQ.
May 6, Kenosha, Wis.
Just across the border from Illinois, the Wisconsin Marathon is a short drive from both Chicago and Milwaukee. The loop course, which hugs the coast of Lake Michigan to the north and south of Kenosha, is about as flat as you can get. You’ll find entertainment along the course and, this being Wisconsin, brats and beer at the post-race party.
Flying Pig Marathon
May 6, Cincinnati, Ohio
The 19th edition of Cincinnati’s big marathon is one of the most popular races in the region, attracting nearly 40,000 runners for its weekend full of races in 2016. The course offers a scenic tour of Cincinnati, with runners also crossing the Ohio River for a short section in Kentucky. The first eight miles feature some significant climbs, but the rest of the race is a net downhill to the finish.
Photo: Michael Anderson, courtesy of Flying Pig Marathon
Pacific Northwest Marathon
May 13, Eugene, Ore.
Oregon may be known for hilly races, but this isn’t one of them. The Pacific Northwest Marathon in Eugene has a flat and fast course. In fact, the race starts at 420 feet above sea level, yet the highpoint is only 430 feet above sea level. That may be a big reason why 10 percent of its participants nab a Boston-qualifying time.
Photo: Pacific Northwest Marathon
Capital City Marathon
May 21, Olympia, Wash.
Head to Washington State’s capital for this scenic race that offers a mix of both urban running and stretches of beautiful, country roads. It’s a relatively small race, making the logistics a breeze. While it features rolling hills along the way, the support is solid throughout the race.
Photo: Courtesy of Capital City Marathon
Kaiser Permanente Colfax Marathon
May 21, Denver, Colo.
Chances are that most people—at least those who live at sea level—don’t want to travel to Denver for a Boston-qualifying race. But if you live in Colorado or other high-altitude environs, this race may be your best bet for a qualifying spot. The tour of Denver is relatively flat and features two trips through Mile High Stadium, lots of diverse neighborhoods and some spectacular Rocky Mountain views.
Photo: Courtesy of Kaiser Permanente Colfax Marathon
May 28, Buffalo, N.Y.
This is another race that has easy logistics, with the start and finish near the expo at the Buffalo Niagara Convention center and within walking distance of downtown hotels. It’s known for both excellent organization and spectator support along the course. You’ll tour downtown Buffalo, run along Lake Eerie, and spend some time in Delaware Park. The course is very flat, which is another reason why this is a popular Boston-qualifier.
Photo: Courtesy of Buffalo Marathon
Vermont City Marathon And Relay
May 28, Burlington, Vt.
The beautiful city of Burlington is home to this race over Memorial Day weekend. The race starts at Battery Park, which overlooks Lake Champlain and the Adirondack mountains, and continues along the tree-lined streets through neighborhoods around the city. The course can be hilly, but the last 4.5 miles are mostly downhill to the finish.
Photo: Courtesy of Vermont City Marathon
Synchrony Financial Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon
June 4, San Diego, Calif.
The first Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon took place in San Diego in 1998, which means this marks the 20th running of a race that changed the face of marathon running. Of course, you can expect the live entertainment along the course that has made the Rock ‘n’ Roll series so popular. Plus, there are scenic San Diego views that start in Balboa Park and finish (new for this year) in Waterfront Park. The 6:15 a.m. start time means that you’re finished before the Southern California sun raises temperatures too high.
Lake Placid Marathon
June 11, Lake Placid, N.Y.
Do you need a miracle to qualify for Boston? It may be worth a trip to Lake Placid, N.Y., site of the 1980 (and 1932) Winter Olympic Games and where the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. hockey team won the gold medal. The 13th annual marathon starts on Main Street in Lake Placid and finishes on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, where long track skater Eric Heiden won his five gold medals. The course has its share of steep climbs, but they are manageable.
Photo: Courtesy of Lake Placid Marathon
San Francisco Marathon
July 23, San Francisco, Calif.
You probably think of San Francisco as the last place you’d want to attempt to qualify for Boston. But the race doesn’t have nearly the amount of climbing that you’d expect in a city known for its cable cars. For the most part, the course sticks to the waterfront, with a scenic trip over the Golden Gate Bridge and back. You do have to deal with some additional hills as you travel trough Golden Gate Park and cross the city before finishing the loop course near the start at the Embarcadero.
Photo: Courtesy of San Francisco Marathon
Santa Rosa Marathon
Aug. 27, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Head north from San Francisco into the heart of wine country for the Santa Rosa Marathon, which starts and finishes in beautiful Julliard Park. The race offers a scenic tour of the Sonoma County countryside. After the race, you can enjoy a pancake breakfast, as well as a wine/beer garden with some of the best local offerings. Spend a few days after the race to revisit the vineyards you passed by during the run for some well-deserved wine tasting.
Photo: Courtesy of Santa Rosa Marathon
Air Force Marathon
Sept. 16, Dayton, Ohio
This event takes place primarily inside the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton usually allowing for some aircraft fly-bys that are unlike any other marathon around. The controlled environment features plenty of aid stations and volunteer support. You have to navigate a few hills along the way, but it’s primarily a flat course. Stick around after the race to tour the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
Photo: Air Force Marathon
Fox Valley Marathon
Sept. 17, St. Charles, Ill.
This scenic marathon along the Fox River in St. Charles, about an hour west of Chicago, is a small-town race with excellent organization. You’ll run primarily on the tree-lined gravel and paved paths, which means there is a lot of shade. There are some rolling hills, but it’s a relatively fast ride. Along the way you’ll enjoy the river views as well as the quaint downtowns of St. Charles and Geneva, Ill.
Photo: Courtesy of Fox City Marathon
Half Moon Bay International Marathon
Sept. 17, Half Moon Bay, Calif.
South of San Francisco, the beach town of Half Moon Bay is home to this marathon, which features a course that’s entirely along the Pacific coast. From some of the high bluffs you’ll get incredible views of the ocean and surrounding community. This is only the fifth year of the event, but it traditionally sells out. The course emphasizes the scenery over fast times—some sections are on rugged trails—but you'll be inspired to run fast.
Photo: Lars Howlett
Sept. 17, Billings, Mont.
Big Sky Country is home to this point-to-point race that features a net-downhill of more than 800 feet. The first 10 miles feature rolling hills, but the final 16 are downhill to a fast finish. The wide-open countryside makes for an incredibly scenic marathon. Plus, you’re not far from Yellowstone National Park for a post-race visit
Photo: Courtesy of Montana Marathon