How to Qualify for Boston: 10 Ideal Marathons to Run

© Susan Sheldon |

© Susan Sheldon |

Highest Percentage: Last Chance BQ.2 Chicagoland Marathon

Sixty-one percent of runners in 2014 and 50% of the 2015 race qualified for Boston running the Last Chance BQ.2 Chicagoland Marathon, which follows an 8-loop course held on a paved, flat surface along the Fox Valley River.

With a bunch of other like-minded runners looking to attain the same goal on the very last weekend of qualifying, it is easy to see why this race continues to spur plenty of BQs year after year.

Most Qualifiers: Boston Marathon

It is a no-brainer that the race so many runners aim to qualify for would also have the highest number of finishers qualify. The course conditions can alter the percentage wildly from year to year, but it consistently ranks as the marathon with the highest number of qualifiers.

Best For Downhill Runners: Revel Canyon City Marathon

Downhill running is not for everyone, but for those who can handle the quad burn, the Revel Canyon City Marathon is the perfect race to qualify for Boston. Featuring a -5,073 feet of net drop, this race will let runners fly. Those who come trained and prepared will love the fast course, great weather, and huge finisher medals.

Flattest Course: Erie Marathon at Presque Isle

For runners who prefer a pancake flat course, look no further than the 2 loop Erie Marathon at Presque Isle. There is less than 250 feet of elevation change throughout the entire 26.2 miles. This smaller race has grown in popularity over the years as runners make their last effort before the qualifying period ends on a very racer-friendly course.

Best Weather: California International Marathon

Daily lows are in the upper 30’s and daily highs peak out in the 50’s in Sacramento in December. These ideal racing temperatures coupled with a point-to-point net downhill course make this one of the most popular races for qualifying for Boston.

Best For Trail Junkies: Peak to Creek Marathon

Though far from the world of technical single track, the Peak to Creek Marathon does offer a course held mostly on an unpaved road. Approximately seven total miles are on pavement with the majority at the start. The net downhill course (a net descent of 2,946 feet) and a late October date makes this race a great place to attempt a Boston qualifying time.

Best For Crowd Encouragement: New York City Marathon

It is not considered an easy course in terms of elevation change, but it certainly makes up in crowd support. For runners who like to be cheered from start to finish and are encouraged to go faster by constant noise, the New York City Marathon is the place to be. Over a million spectators line the course creating a race like no other in the world.

Best For Those Who Enjoy Space: Clarence DeMar Marathon

Less than 300 runners vie to complete the 26.2 distance. For those runners who enjoy an easy start, no jostling, and plenty of room throughout the course, consider the Clarence DeMar Marathon.

The point-to-point course is mostly downhill and features some of the most beautiful fall scenery in New England. Those chasing the Boston qualifying standard will delight in knowing nearly 1 in 5 participants meet this goal.

Best Value: Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon

With a starting entry fee of $55, this marathon definitely offers plenty of value for the money. Twenty-three percent of participants earned a BQ in 2015 and 28% in 2016. Held on a 10 foot wide asphalt bike trail, this mostly rural race is dubbed flat, fast, and picturesque.

Runners will receive the standard tech shirt and medal with their entry fee, but they will also be treated to pizza, fresh baked cookies, massages, and full access to a pool, hot tub, and showers at a nearby health club post-race.

Fan Favorite: Chicago Marathon

The Chicago Marathon consistently ranks as one of the best place to earn a Boston qualifying time. A flat course, great spectator support, and typically great weather makes this a popular race year after year. Approximately 10% of runners qualify in Chicago each year–a huge number considering how many entrants chose this race as their first marathon.

1 comment… add one
  • Tom Cronin July 27, 2016, 10:29 am

    What about listing the Yonkers Marathon as a Boston Qualifier Oct 23, 2016?

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