All you need to know about the World’s Marathon Majors



worldmarathonsHave you set your sights on doing a marathon this year, or looking to add a few ‘majors’ to your resume?  Here is some info for you on the ‘greats’, how to enter, and why you should add them to your bucket list.


When? Patriots Day, the 3rd Monday of April

Claim to Fame: Oldest marathon in the world, and the most prestigious as almost everyone needs to quality to enter.

Number of participants: 35,000 approx

How to apply: The most difficult marathon to get into – generally, you need to qualify in your age group just to enter, and even then you usually need to be a couple of minutes under that time to be accepted.

Why should you put this on your bucket list? Spectators come out in their thousands to watch the Boston marathon, and are passionate about cheering on runners.  It’s impossible to describe how it feels to run through the ‘Wall of Screams’ outside Wellesley College!

New York:

When? First Sunday in November

Claim to Fame: Largest marathon in the world and the most expensive to enter!

Number of participants: 50,000+

How to apply: Generally, it’s a lottery system, although there are some places for qualifying times. Tourist packages also exist.

Why you should apply? The New York City Marathon is a fantastic opportunity to run through all five boroughs of New York City.


When? Usually mid to end of April

Claim to Fame: largest fundraising event in the world, raising millions for charity

Number of participants: 50,000

How to apply: This marathon is extremely popular and notably difficult to get into. Many race places are given to charities, so running for your favourite cause is an option.  Otherwise, just keep applying for the lottery and one day you’ll get in.

Why you should apply?  London is a 26-mile street party!  You likely won’t get a PB there, but you’ll never have this much fun again running a marathon!  You’ll be striding out with Santas, Supermen, Men in Mankinis, people knitting, solving Rubik’s cubes etc. There are around 70 pubs along the course, in case you get thirsty!


When? Beginning of October

Claim to Fame: One of the oldest marathons (1905) and one of the few never to have excluded women. Chicago has a very high percentage of race finishers.

Number of participants: over 40,000

How to apply: Recently switched over to a lottery system. Tourist packages are also available.

Why you should apply?  Chicago is a flat course, so if you’re looking for a PB in a great city, cheered on by enthusiastic supports, this one is for you!


When?  Mid September

Claim to Fame: The most marathon world records for men and women have been set at the Berlin marathon, which is known for its flat course, even surface, cheering spectators, and frequently mild autumn temperatures.

Number of participants: 45,000 approx

How to apply: Recently switched to a lottery system.  Tourist packages are likely available.

Why you should apply? The marathon starts and finishes near the iconic Brandenburg Gate. Before 1990, the marathon was limited to West Berlin only. However, in 1990, after the collapse of the iconic Berlin Wall, athletes were able to run through the Brandenburg Gate and the unified city saw its first race running through both halves.


When?  February

Claim to Fame: Newest addition to the family of ‘Majors’

How to apply: Generally by lottery – it’s quite tricky to get into this one, as there are over 300,000 entries.

Number of runners: 36,000 approx

Why you should apply: Running a marathon in Tokyo sounds so exotic! Great opportunity to visit this fascinating country.


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