Abbott World Marathon races
From the hardest marathon to get into to the easiest course to run.
“All of these races have a notable history and undeniable energy,” says Jeff Adams, president of Marathon Tours & Travel, a company that helps arrange entry and travel for all six races. “Five hundred forty-nine people completed their Majors at London [in 2019], the same year Eliud Kipchoge set a new course record.”
But with these races becoming more popular than ever, you need to be strategic about your registration, and, in some cases, plan years in advance about how you’re going to get that coveted entry — and that’s not even getting into the whole training and marathon-running part.
If you’re thinking about checking all six marathons off your bucket list to earn that six-star medal, here’s everything you need to know to cross those finish lines.
How does a regular marathon become a World Major Marathon?
In order to become a Major, a race needs to meet a strict set of criteria to join the club. “We’re not just talking about number of aid stations, but how long the tables are, how many cups there are, and so on,” says Tim Hadzima, executive director at Abbott World Marathon Majors. “The criteria are very specific and meant to cover every aspect of the race.” That means, when you run one of these races, you can expect a very high level of organization and professionalism.
“The Abbott World Marathon Majors started as a way to bring together the most elite athletes in the world, but it was also a way for the most renowned race directors to share best practices and learn from each other,” Hadzima says.
When is each race?
Each race is generally held on the same weekend each year, with the exception of 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, races typically held in the spring (Tokyo, Boston, and London) have been pushed to the fall, creating what will be an incredible few weeks of marathon racing.
Here are the usual dates and the 2021 dates for each marathon.
- Tokyo: The first Sunday in March // October 17, 2021
- Boston: The third Monday in April // October 11, 2021
- London: The last Sunday in April // October 3, 2021
- Berlin: The last Sunday in September // September 26, 2021
- Chicago: The Sunday of Columbus Day weekend // October 10, 2021
- New York City: The first Sunday in November // November 7, 2021
How do you qualify and register for each race?
Each World Marathon Major has its own set of qualification standards, but even if you don’t meet them, you still have options to get your bib. All of the races have a random lottery, and you can run each race with a charity partner — while running with a charity is a popular option, you will likely be required to reach a fundraising minimum (specifics vary, so check out each race’s website for more). You can also run with a tour group like Marathon Tours & Travel, which guarantees entry and coordinates logistics.
Here are some important registration dates and tips for each race:
Boston: Runners have to run a Boston-qualifying time at another marathon within a specific time frame — but running a beloved BQ time doesn’t automatically qualify you for an entry. Registration opens in September, with those who qualify by 20 minutes or more getting first dibs. From there, registration rolls out to runners who qualified by ten minutes or more, then five minutes or more, until the field has been filled. In 2021, you had to be 7:47 faster than the qualifying time for your age and gender to earn a spot. If you don’t earn entry, you’ll need to go through a charity or tour group. Learn more about Boston registration with this FAQ.