Maybe you’ve heard of the Big Five? The elusive, exotic and awe inspiring to see in the wild animals of Africa. Well runners have a similar set of must see’s that are hard to get in to and see on foot, the Big Six, aka the World Marathon Majors.
There are the marathon maniacs, the half marathon maniacs, the bling chasers, the 50 staters and my friend the all 50 states by 25 race seekers.
There’s even a very small group that do what’s called the World Marathon Challenge, which is a marathon on all 7 continents in 7 days…can you say, stinky, ouch and look fast before it’s gone.But what about hitting up the World Marathon Majors? Do you even know what the 6 World Major Marathons are??
For many runners, once they’ve crossed that first 26.2 finish line there’s a need for a bigger goal. And a goal that involves a lot of runcations is all the more exciting!
If that’s you, here are what many consider the 6 must run marathons because they have been dubbed the best of the best by the racing federation. They will indeed draw all the elites, huge crowds and large numbers of runners.
As a reward for that effort, you’ll get the six star medal and pride of course, buckets of pride.Source
What Are the World Marathon Majors?
The World Marathon Majors Series was founded in 2006 with a goal of promoting running by pitting the best male and female runners around the world in six of the largest most fantastic marathons.
- Elite runners earn points for winning (or placing) in each race.
- They’re required to run at least two qualifying races, but can run more if they’re super ambitious.
- They only get points from two races.
- The top six after all races, split a pot of $1 million. ($250,000, $50,000 and $25,000 per top male and female)
- There are now also age group rankings (which are available through 125 marathons) and a wheelchair division
Now, I know we aren’t out there to win, but that’s the great thing about running, you don’t have to be an elite to enjoy the same experience…in fact you just get longer to enjoy each race :).
AND BONUS points because they do actually feature the everyday runner who completes all Six in their Six Star Finishers List and with a special certificate.
What are the Marathon Majors?
Enough already, what are the must run races:
- Tokyo Marathon – February
- Boston Marathon – April
- Virgin Money London Marathon – April
- BMW Berlin Marathon – September
- Bank of America Chicago Marathon – October
- TCS New York City Marathon – November
In August 2017, there was an announcement of a new partnership which hopes to further expand the series thus adding more races, especially in Asia. But being added to this prestigious list is no small feat.
One of these races brings in not only a massive influx of tourism dollars, but requirements to truly be “enough” to make the list:
- Race must be able to provide a good payout for the elite runners to draw them to the race.
- City must be able to accommodate the large influx of people and shutting down major roads for the race. They want it to feel like a true global city.
- The US already hosts 3 of the majors, so it’s unlikely to be awarded a 4th.
- Singapore and Paris have been the first one’s discussed.
How to Run the World Marathon Majors
Elite runners need to qualify for these races and are usually then invited to race, chasing that point system. Boston will give nearly 80% of it’s slots to runners who have qualified from a previous marathon time, but the other races are open to a much larger pool.
Fast runners can submit their time from a AIMS-certified marathon in the last two years. Times are slightly different for each marathon major, but here’s a breakdown from the NYC marathon:
- 18 to 34 years old — 2:53 for men, 3:13 for women
- 35 to 39 — 2:55 for men, 3:15 for women
- 40 to 44 — 2:58 for men, 3:15 for women
- 45 to 49 — 3:05 for men, 3:38 for women
- 50 to 54 — 3:14 for men, 3:51 for women
- 55 to 59 — 3:23 for men, 4:10 for women
- 60 to 64 — 3:34 for men, 4:27 for women
- 65 to 69 — 3:45 for men, 4:50 for women
- 70 to 74 — 4:10 for men, 5:30 for women
- 75 to 79 — 4:30 for men, 6:00 for women
- 80 and over — 4:55 for men, 6:35 for women
Everyday runners like you and I get to put our fate in the hands of a lottery system for every single one of these races. Usually a month or so after the race is completed the online lottery applications will open. You’ll enter your information and agree to pay should you be selected.
A few months (sometimes many months) later an email will go out to everyone who entered and some will rejoice, while most will get the “we’re sorry you did not get in this year.” With only 40,000 slots available in most races and over 200,000 applicants the chances aren’t fabulous.
But if you apply for them all, you up the odds!
Alternatively, you can get yourself a guaranteed entry to one of these races going through a charity. In that case, you’ll likely be raising anywhere from $3500-$5000 and will then also have the support of that group, possibly traveling with them as well. It’s extra effort during training, but you get what you want and someone else benefits too!
The logistics of getting in to all the races, planing the travel and training can be a lot. Luckily, my friend The Runner Beans has done it all and written a great article on the process.
She goes in to all the details of requirements for each race and all the lottery information you’ll need! It’s going to take a little more planning than your local 5K Turkey Trot. I can’t believe I’ve only done NYC on the list and truly London is the next one I would LOVE to do…then Berlin…then…dang it a slippery slope.Need a new #running goal? Time to start planning for the must run races! #bibchat Click To Tweet
If you’ve missed out on all of the big one’s there are some other incredible Fall marathons you should consider!
Should The Marathon Majors Be a Goal For You?
Every runner has different motivations for what keeps them showing up mile after mile. But a few things to consider if you are attempting this goal:
- Due to the lottery system there’s no guarantee you’ll complete a major every year. This could be a long goal.
- Due to the varied locations, you’ll need to be ok with long travel times to some races.
- It can be an expensive endeavor between race fees, travel and well all the ongoing gear to keep training.
- It will most certainly put in a small pool of people of who have accomplished something pretty incredible.
- You’re non-running friends will be equally impressed when you finish any marathon whether it’s a major or not.
- These are all very large, very crowded courses which for some runners isn’t as enjoyable. Know that about yourself!
Who has won the marathon majors?
If you’re anything like me and find yourself glued to the TV when the NYC and Boston marathons are televised, marveling at the long smooth strides of these majestic creatures plowing through 5 minute miles, well then a few of the recent winners will likely ring a bell:
- Mary Keitany
- Edna Kiplagat
- Eliud Kipchoge — oh hi, the guy who just broke the 2 hour marathon
- Geoffrey Mutai
Why the Marathon Majors are Important?
You might look at these massive races and find out how hard it is to get in to them and of course realize you aren’t in the running for that $1 million and think, ehh who cares? At which point I would question your runner card, just kidding..mostly.
- We care because they all happen to pretty amazing races.
- We care because it’s super fun to have a big crazy goal.
- We care because runners are always chasing the next new goal, the ways to keep it fun and interesting.
- We care because we want the world to keep getting more excited about our sport.
- We care because traveling and running is like peanut butter and jelly…perfection!
Not quite up for a marathon, then checkout my MUST run half marathons across the US. The half marathon is my all time favorite distance, which is why though I’ve done 8 marathons, I’ve only knocked out one of the majors!
Do you have any kind of series race goals?
Do you love to travel for races?
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