BRC Blog: Running the Abbott World Marathon Majors

24. April 2018 Blog 2
BRC Blog: Running the Abbott World Marathon Majors

In case you missed it, last week Desi Linden became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years, and in fact American ladies took an unprecedented 7 of the top 10 spots. On the men’s side Yuki Kawauchi became the first Japanese to break the tape in 31 years. If those stories didn’t inspire, look to the other 25,744 finishers who battled the cold, wind, and rain from Hopkinton to Boylston Street in one the toughest conditions ever.

This week in London they saw record-high temps of 75F as “the greatest marathoner of the modern era” Eliud Kipchoge won for the third time and Mo Farah set a new British record. Kipchoge also ran a 2:00:25 marathon distance as part of the Nike Breaking2 last May.

If you fancy the hype and crowds of big city marathons, and you’re interested in running with the best in the world, look no further than the Abbott World Marathon Majors. The WMM is a championship-style competition for marathoners comprised of six annual races in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City, in addition to some others such as the World Championships Marathon and Olympic Games Marathon. Let’s focus on the concept of trying to conquer the big six, which would yield a coveted special medal and your name as a Six Star Finisher on the Everyday Champions page of the WMM website.

So how do you do it? Getting entry into the six is tough enough, never mind the actual running part. Below is basic outline of each race and the standard options for how to get in, then we’ll compare the difficulty of their qualification requirements. Some of this info is based on 2018 race stats.

Toyko Marathon
  • When: Sunday March 3, 2019 (charged to March for 2019 on)
  • Entry Fee: 12,800 Yen ($113)
  • Field Size: 35,500
  • Spectators: 1.6M
  • Registration Period:August 1-31, 2018
  • Qualifier Entries: Yes – Extremely difficult (capped at 300 spots)
  • Lottery Entries: Yes (300,000+ applicants)
  • Charity Entries: Yes
  • Travel Group Entries: Yes
BAA Boston Marathon
  • When:Monday April 15, 2019, Patriots’ Day
  • Entry Fee: $185 (for qualified runners)
  • Field Size: 30,000
  • Spectators: 500K
  • Registration Period: Around September 10-19, 2018
  • Qualifier Entries: Yes – Difficult*
  • Lottery Entries: No
  • Charity Entries: Yes
  • Travel Group Entries: No*Note that obtaining a bib # actually required a Boston Qualifying time MINUS 3 min 23 sec for 2018, minus 2:09 for 2017, and minus 2:28 for 2016. So hitting a BQ doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get to run the race.
Virgin Money London Marathon
  • When:Sunday April 21, 2019
  • Entry Fee: 80 Pounds ($112)
  • Field Size: 40,000
  • Spectators: 750K
  • Registration Period: April 30-May 4, 2018
  • Qualifier Entries: Yes, but only for UK Residents (capped at 6,000 spots) – More Difficult
  • Lottery Entries: Yes (386,000+ applicants)
  • Charity Entries: Yes
  • Travel Group Entries: Yes
BMW Berlin Marathon
  • When:Sunday September 16, 2018 and September 15, 2019
  • Entry Fee: 108 Euros ($132)
  • Field Size: 41,000
  • Spectators: 1M
  • Registration Period: Around October 18-November 8, 2018
  • Qualifier Entries: Yes – Extremely Difficult
  • Lottery Entries: Yes (Unknown # of applicants)
  • Charity Entries: Yes
  • Travel Group Entries: Yes
Bank of America Chicago Marathon
  • When: Sunday October 7, 2018 and October 6, 2019
  • Entry Fee: $195
  • Field Size: 45,000
  • Spectators: 1.7M
  • Registration Period:  Around October 24-November 30, 2018
  • Qualifier Entries: Yes – Difficult (changed format for 2018 on)
  • Lottery Entries: Yes (50,000+ applicants)
  • Charity Entries: Yes
  • Travel Group Entries: Yes
TCS New York City Marathon
  • When:Sunday November 4, 2018 and November 3, 2019
  • Entry Fee: $295
  • Field Size: 55,000
  • Spectators: 1M
  • Registration Period: Was January 15-February 15, 2018
  • Qualifier Entries: Yes – More Difficult
  • Lottery Entries: Yes (80,000+ applicants)
  • Charity Entries: Yes
  • Travel Group Entries: Yes

In all cases the least expensive and best guarantee of entry is by qualifying, but those standards are tough to say the least, and in some cases only truly semi-elite runners can hit those numbers. Which are the easiest, and which are the toughest? In addition to the general qualification difficulty, each race uses a different formula and gradient for their gender and age curve. Relative to the other majors, Chicago is usually easiest to qualify for, London gets easier as you age, and Tokyo gets harder. And now for some stats and charts…

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2 thoughts on “BRC Blog: Running the Abbott World Marathon Majors”

  • 1
    sixty on April 24, 2018 Reply

    Awesome post Pete, I appreciate your time in putting this together!

  • 2
    Pete Guza SP37 on November 1, 2018 Reply

    Stats update on 11/1/18: About 50,000 people will run the New York City Marathon this Sunday, but most of those spots are earned through charity fundraising or running other races to qualify. Only 15,500 spots in the race are designated for general entry, and roughly 105,000 people applied for the lottery this year. Likewise, the 2019 Tokyo Marathon, to be held in March, received more than 330,000 general entry applicants for its 27,370 available spots. The London marathon, held next April, received a record 414,000 applications for 40,000 slots, according to Ryan Goad, a spokesman for the event.


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