Months ago, optimistic runners applied for the 2018 London or Tokyo Marathons in hopes of winning a lottery or ballot entry into one of these races. Were you one of the 386,050 runners who applied for the London Marathon back in May? Or maybe you were one of the 319,777 who applied for the Tokyo Marathon in August? And did you receive disheartening news you’d not been accepted? Magazines were mailed to U.K. residents a couple weeks ago with the words “YOU’RE IN” or “SORRY” in bold letters on the cover. Overseas runners received their “commiserations” via email with the disappointing news. Unfortunately, more runners are rejected rather than accepted. Odds are, if you’re reading this post, you were in the “SORRY” category and didn’t make the cut. Have you tried for the New York City Marathon lottery or to qualify for Boston and were met with disappointment time and time again? Take solace in knowing, you are not alone.
With a “record breaking” increase, this year’s applications for the London Marathon were 29 percent higher than the previous year. For more stats, visit the London Marathon website. While it is encouraging more and more people want to run, it can be discouraging for those who have repeatedly tried, unsuccessfully, to win a lottery/ballot entry.
On a similar note, a major shift in the time requirement to be accepted into the 2018 Boston Marathon was implemented, leaving 5,062 disappointed runners in its wake. Some 28,260 marathoners applied, using their qualifying time, but only 23,198 were permitted entry. Last year’s runners needed a cushion time of 2 minutes 8 sections to make the cut (BQ time – 2:08). This year’s required cushion became more stringent, creating a drastic increase in the required cushion time, making it even more difficult to be admitted into the world’s oldest marathon. Boston hopefuls needed to run 3 minutes 23 seconds under their required qualifying time (BQ time – 3:23). It’s no longer enough to run a BQ time. You’ll need to finish faster than your required time in order to be accepted into the race. For more details on the Boston Marathon 2018 registration, click here.
The Abbott World Marathon Majors (WMM) is a series consisting of the largest and most prestigious marathons in the world, including Boston, Berlin, Chicago, London, New York City and Tokyo, and is gaining in popularity each and every year. Abbott WMM rewards a "Six Star" Finishers medal to those who complete all six races. This medal has given great incentive to marathoners and has provided a challenge to work toward. Are you on a mission to run all six? I am and I have just one left!
If thus far you’ve not been granted entry into your desired World Marathon Major, don’t despair. Here are six things to consider doing to increase your odds for next time and things to consider doing while you wait.
Please note: I am an ambassador for the Abbott WMM; I do not have insider information. This post contains my opinions and does not reflect the views of the Abbott WMM.
Run for Charity
Since it is a great way for charitable organizations to raise money, all six World Marathon Majors have a certain number of bibs designated “charity bibs.” If you’ve tried year after year to get into the London or NYC Marathon and have been unsuccessful, consider running for charity. It’s a win-win situation. Not only are you running in the event, you’re running with and for a cause. Don’t be quick to disregard the idea of running for a charity. It’s commendable to be doing so. I, personally, ran the London Marathon for charity and loved every minute of it. My miles went toward a greater good that extended beyond myself.
If this is something to consider, visit the marathons website and see who their “charity partners” are. Here are links to each marathons charity webpage.
Tokyo Marathon Run with Heart
Berlin Marathon Germany & France: Alvarum UK: The Real Buzz group
Tour groups, or operators like Marathon Tours and Travels, have guaranteed race entries for races, such as the London Marathon, in limited supply. Tour group packages may include (check specifically with each organization): guaranteed entry into race, hotel accommodations, breakfast and some dinners, transportation from the start or finish, post-race celebrations and more. Listed below are tour operators who have bibs for the World Marathon Majors. Look at the individual marathon websites to see whom they partner with. This might not be an immediate entry into your desired race (spots might already be filled), but it might be easier to go through a tour operator than wait to be accepted via the lottery, which could take years. Certain criteria apply to obtain these entries. Be sure to check with each tour group for more information.
Here is an excerpt taken from Marathon Tours and Travels website regarding their partnership with the World Marathon Majors:
Marathon Tours and Travel works closely with the Abbott World Marathon Majors team and the individual race teams to enhance our runners (and their guests) experience while pursuing their aspirational running goals. We provide guaranteed entry to each of the races with the exception of Boston, convenient hotels and activities customized for each location. Our goal is to provide value, comraderie and a low stress trip experience for our clients.
Tokyo Marathon: Sports Tours International
Race the same weekend
If you didn’t get into the race you wanted, to keep your mind focused on the positive rather than the negative, why not run another race that same weekend? If you have friends who run as well, and are active on social media, chances are they’ll be posting about the event they got into but you didn’t. So rather than be discouraged, plan to run a race that same day or weekend so it gives you something to look forward to. Last year, rather than running the Chicago Marathon, I was in Scranton, Pennsylvania, running the Steamtown Marathon which was the same day.
Here are examples of other 2018 races held on the same day (or weekend) as a World Marathon Major event:
- Tokyo Marathon: February 25th 2018
- Boston Marathon: Monday, April 16th 2018 (Saturday or Sunday races)
- London Marathon: April 22, 2018
- Berlin Marathon: September 16th 2018
Fox Valley Marathon (IL, USA). Navy Half Marathon (DC, USA), English Half Marathon (Cheshire, UK), Copenhagen Half Marathon (Denmark), Air Force Marathon (OH, USA), Beat the Blerch Marathon (Seattle, USA)
- Chicago Marathon: October 7, 2018 (races subject to date changes)
Steamtown Marathon (PA, USA), Empire State Marathon (NY, USA), Twin Cities Marathon (MN, USA), Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon (CA, USA), Portland Marathon (OR, USA), Newport Marathon (RI, USA), St. George Marathon (Utah, USA)
- New York City Marathon: November 4, 2018 (unofficial)
Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (subject to change) (IN, USA), French Riviera Marathon (France), Old Mutual Soweto Marathon (S. Africa), Rursee Marathon (Germany), Maratona Do Porto (Portugal), Terschelling Marathon (Netherlands), Rock n Roll Savannah Marathon (GA, USA), Bass Pro Shops Conversational Marathon (MO, USA), Gettysburg Battlefield Marathon (PA, USA), Fort Myers Marathon (FL, USA)
Cheer or Volunteer
As a runner, you know firsthand what it’s like to receive energetic and heartfelt support from spectators along the course. You have to admit, we couldn’t do it without the love and support from the volunteers and the crowds. That’s what makes these races so great. Knowing what it takes to run a marathon makes you an even better race spectator. Why not consider setting up a cheer zone at the marathon you’ve wanted to run, but haven’t, to support your friends and other runners? Yes, I know it’s not as exciting or rewarding as running the race yourself, nor will you get a finishers medal, but it will give you the opportunity to be a part of someone else’s journey and sometimes that’s worth far more.
I went to Boston to cheer for many of my friends who ran it a couple years ago. I hadn’t qualified at the time, but I had set my sights on running it someday. Along with my sister, we set up a small cheer section, Camp Candyland, at mile 14. We had balloons and candy for runners. Far sweeter than any candy, I got a kiss on the cheek from Dean Karnazes as a thank you for cheering everyone on and he took the candy! It was exciting and awe-inspiring to see all the runners. It gave me the extra motivation I needed to keep training hard and a year later, I qualified for the Boston Marathon.
Whether you live near a city where a World Marathon Major is held or not, consider volunteering at one, or go and cheer for the runners. Grabs some friends. Make it a road trip. Be a part of the excitement! (Pics below of friends & myself cheering at the Boston & Marine Corps Marathons)
Run alternative races
There’s nothing like the real thing, we all know that, but if luck hasn’t been on your side in getting into the marathon of your choice, why not try an alternate race in the same town or country? Here are some suggestions to consider (various distances) if you’re craving a taste of the Majors.
The Kyoto Marathon. Yes, this race isn't exactly in Tokyo, but Kyoto is equally as charming and will give you an excellent feel for what racing in Japan is like. Fly into Tokyo, tour the city, run on your own (perhaps portions of the Tokyo Marathon course) and then take a bullet train to Kyoto and race there!
The following are 3 large city marathons in Japan. They are not located near Tokyo, but if you’re looking to race in Japan, these are the popular ones (they are actually listed in the top 15 largest marathons in the world!):
Yokohama Marathon. Osaka Marathon. Naha Marathon.
Another one to consider:
Nagoya Women's Marathon, in Nagoya, Japan. Finishers receive a special gift from Tiffany & Co.! It holds a IAAF gold label road race status. It is held in early March every year.
Here are a few large races in the United Kingdom to consider:
Great Manchester Run: An annual run through Greater Manchester. There is a 10k and half marathon option. The 10k race is the largest of its type in Europe. Race takes place in May.
Great North Run: The Great North Run is the largest half marathon in the world, taking place annually in North East England each September. Participants run between Newcastle upon Tyne and South Shields.
The Big Half: Around 20,000 people combined will participate in events that include the Big Half and the Little Half.
The Big Half: a half marathon starting at Tower Bridge and finishing in Greenwich, passing through the boroughs of Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Greenwich.
The Little Half: a relay and other events over different distances of The Big Half course for participants of all ages and abilities.
The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) hosts the BAA Half Marathon in October. The start and finish are at Franklin Park. A section of the course does go through Brookline which is near the finish of the Boston Marathon. If you want a taste of what racing in Boston is like, check out the B.A.A. Half Marathon. There is also the BAA 5k or BAA 10k (held at different times during the year) if you wish to add a unicorn medal to your collection.
Baystate Marathon: Not a B.A.A. event, but one that is known to be one of the flattest and fastest marathon courses in the northeastern USA. This course is good to run a BQ time. They also offer a half marathon option. The race runs along the Merrimack River and crosses different bridges spanning this river.
The Berlin Half Marathon is organized by S.C.C. events, which also organizes the Berlin Marathon. The Berlin Half Marathon is held in April. The course takes runners past similar landmarks (see below) as the Berlin Marathon. Consider running this event as an alternative!
Another large marathon in Germany to consider is the Haspa Marathon Hamburg. “Be one of more than 25,000 athletes. The HASPA MARATHON HAMBURG is Germany's biggest spring marathon and since 1986 the first one to paint the blue line on the roads.”
Consider the Marine Corps Marathon if you can’t run the Chicago or NYC Marathon. This is the 12th largest marathon in the world. This marathon usually takes place a few weeks after the Chicago Marathon. The crowd support here is amazing and the course is relatively flat. It was my first marathon and I highly recommend it. It is not a World Marathon Major, but offers all the same perks as a large U.S. city marathon does.
There is also the Chicago Half Marathon if you wish to race in the Windy City.
New York City Marathon
The NYRR has races all year long, including the NYRR Five-Borough Series. Consider signing up for a NYRR event for a taste of what its like to run in the Big Apple. Some of their events include: The Staten Island Half, New Balance Bronx 10 mile, NYRR Queens 10k, Airbnb Brooklyn Half, United Airlines NYC Half, and Fred Lebow Manhattan Half. Check out the NYRR calendar of events here.
Check out the 9+1 program the NYRR offers. By following certain criteria, runners can guarantee entry into the NYC Marathon. Find out more details here.
Create your own list
The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons but by number of finishers, they aren’t the only large city marathons in the world. Here’s a list of the largest marathons in the world. Why not make your own list? A dream marathon bucket list, so to speak. This will give you another goal to work on while you wait. Compile a list of 3-5 marathons anywhere in the world you’d like to run, research how to make that possible and make plans on how to work toward your goal. By doing this, you’ll travel and see the world, running in some pretty amazing marathons. Okay, so maybe you won’t get the Six Star Finishers medal, but you’ll still get a medal from each race and see parts of the world you wouldn’t have otherwise. Not a sermon, just a thought.
Other challenges to consider:
The World Marathon Challenge -- Run seven marathons in sever days on seven continents.
The “50 States Marathon Club” – Run a marathon (or half) in every state.
Or what about running the top 10 largest marathons in the USA or in Europe?
If you’re on a quest to finish all six World Marathon Majors or even just one of them, I wish you the best of luck with your journey. I know there is no easy way around the ballot or lottery process. For some it might take 10 years of failed attempts but keep trying. If you have a time frame to complete your goal and haven’t been able to, either via the lottery or ballot, possibly consider a tour operator or charity bib. Those might be your best option of getting in when you’re calendar permits. If you’ve tried multiple times to qualify for Boston or other WMM, read my post “10 Things I Did to Qualify for the Boston Marathon”. If you want more information on how you can run each specific World Marathon Major, see my post “How To Get Into an Abbott World Marathon Major”. For the 2018 race dates and sign up periods, click here.
Follow my journey to finish all six World Marathon Majors on social media or subscribe to my blog. I have just one left before receiving my Six Star Finishers Medal!