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List of Marathons

Marathons can be qualifying races or non-qualifying races.

A marathon is a 26-mile-long race. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
A marathon is a 26-mile-long race.

List of Marathons

So many marathons are held in the United States that a short list of marathons can't accurately assess them all. A marathon is a foot race of 26 miles and 385 yards. Among the first Olympic sports, marathons have a length that was set as standard in 1921 by the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

As of 2009, more than 500 marathons take place annually across the world, in addition to the Olympic marathons. MarathonGuide.com publishes a list of popular marathons and lists the dates on which they will be held.

In the United States, runners can participate in two types of marathons: qualifying or non-qualifying. A qualifying marathon is one that requires all non-professional runners to have achieved a minimum benchmark in a previously approved marathon. Marathons that require runners to complete the course in a set time are also considered qualifying races.

Qualifying Races

Very large marathons, such as the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon, are qualifying races. The oldest marathon in the United States, the Boston Marathon requires a qualifying time that differs for each sex and age group. According to the Boston Athletic Association's website, in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, a 42-year-old woman must have run a prior marathon at or below the 3-hour and 50-minute mark. The Boston Marathon is also the largest marathon requiring a qualifying time from another marathon.

The ING New York City Marathon draws nearly 105,000 applicants hoping to compete for more than $600,000 in prize money and cross the finish line in Central Park. The New York City Marathon holds a lottery to determine which runners will compete in the race. This means that some applicants will not be given the opportunity to run in the marathon even though they qualify. However, runners who have completed a certain number of marathons can automatically enter and do not have to participate in the lottery.

Other qualifying marathons include:

  • The Dallas White Rock Marathon limits the number of participants to 17,000 and will not formerly record any times over the 5-hour mark. In this marathon, participants run around White Rock Lake. The course is mainly flat but runners do have to deal with a few rolling hills.
  • The California International Marathon is only open to participants who have completed the 26.2-mile distance in a time under 6 hours in a prior marathon.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon only accepts 45,000 participants and keeps the track open only for 6 hours and 30 minutes. This marathon attracts runners from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.
  • The Rock 'n Roll Marathon in San Diego, Calif., does not require any formal qualifications but is limited to those who can complete the course in less than 7 hours. Winners of each age group receive commemorative rock 'n roll gold records.
  • The Royal Crown Victorian Marathon in British Columbia also adheres to a 7-hour time limit. The number of participants in this marathon is capped at 4,000.
  • In 2009, the St. George Marathon in St. George, Utah, capped participation at 7,200 runners and requires each runner to finish the course in under 6 hours. Runner's World rated the St. George Marathon as one of four Marathons to Build a Vacation Around.
  • The Chevron Houston Marathon in Houston, Texas, also has a 6-hour time limit.


Non-Qualifying Races

Many runners begin marathon running by competing in non-qualifying marathons. Once they gain some experience and improve their finishing time, they may begin entering qualifying races. The atmosphere at non-qualifying races is much less competitive. Many runners enjoy non-qualifying races for this reason.

The following are popular non-qualifying races:

  • The Baystate Marathon in Lowell, Mass., does not set qualifications in order to register, and everyone who finishes receives a medal. The number of runners is capped at 2,500.
  • Runner's World says the Richmond Marathon in Richmond, Va., is America's friendliest marathon. This marathon starts and finishes in Richmond, and participants run through quaint neighborhoods.
  • The Nationwide Better Health Columbus Marathon in Columbus, Ohio, gives awards to the top-three runners in each age group. About 15 percent of runners in this marathon in 2007 qualified for the Boston Marathon.
  • The Northeastern Pennsylvania Annual Steamtown Marathon (which is a partially downhill race), in Scranton, Pa., is ranked by Runner's World as one of the fastest official Boston Marathon qualifiers. The race includes 2.2 miles of beautiful river trails.
  • The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in Oklahoma City, Okla., is a race held in honor of those killed in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. Lining the course are 168 banners, one for each victim.
  • The Grand Rapids Marathon in Grand Rapids, Mich., is a big race with a small-town feel. The race continues to grow at a rate of about 20 percent a year.
  • Once called the Earth Day Marathon, the RXR Long Island Marathon is now in its 37th year.
  • Participants in the Sarasota Marathon run through beautiful neighborhoods in Sarasota, Fla. The marathon route is open for 6.5 hours; those needing longer to finish are encouraged to register for one of the shorter races.

The most important part of running any marathon is the training required. Each marathon website -- in addition to requirements and information on the individual race -- gives information that can be valuable to marathon runners such as training tips, nutrition information and cardiovascular assistance. Many marathons on a list of marathons also offer a half-marathon, which is half the distance of the full marathon. Half-marathons have different requirements and time limits.

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