How to Race the Six World Marathon Majors
Updated: Jan 6
There are so many amazing races and racing series throughout the world. One of my favorite running series is the Abbott World Marathon Majors. This series includes the six most renowned marathons in the world: Boston, New York, Chicago, Berlin, London and Tokyo. Crossing the finish line of all six of them earns you the title of Six Star Finisher. Worldwide, over 1.2 million people completed a marathon in 2018, but, through November’s NYC marathon the total number of Six Star Finishers since its inception is less than 6,700. I was fortunate to become a Six Star Finisher in 2018.
One of the reasons there are so few Six Star Finishers is that gaining entry into the six Abbott World Marathon Major races is extremely difficult. However, while difficult, it is not impossible.
One of the simplest ways to get into these races is to run the specified qualifying time needed for entry. Each race does this slightly differently, and some don’t guarantee a number even with a qualifying time. The details are below:
Boston Marathon: Qualification has become more and more difficult. Unfortunately, due to the high demand for entries and the limited number of bib numbers available, even running a qualifying time does not guarantee entry. You can see current qualifying times here: Boston Marathon Qualifying Times.
NYC Marathon: Qualification is just as difficult as Boston. You can see current qualifying times here: NYC Marathon Qualifying Times.
Chicago Marathon: If you meet the marathon qualifying standards you can guarantee your spot in Chicago Marathon as a time qualifier: Chicago Marathon Qualifying Times.
London Marathon: There are 6000 entries split evenly between men and women. If you meet the marathon qualifying standards it is NOT guaranteed. More information can be found here: London Marathon Good For Age Entry.
Berlin Marathon: Qualification – There are 6000 entries split evenly between men and women. If you meet the marathon qualifying standards it is NOT guaranteed
Tokyo Marathon: If you meet the marathon qualifying standards you can guarantee your spot in Tokyo Marathon as a time qualifier. Tokyo Run As One Qualification.
International Tour Packages
If you reside outside the country of the marathon, you can purchase a marathon tour package through a tour operator in the country of your residence. The tour operators generally receive more requests than they have entries for, and each company handles the process differently. Some will offer entries on a first come-first serve basis; some will do a lottery and others use a merit system and reward entries to their loyal customers first. Be sure to use the official websites to avoid scams.
Boston Marathon: Boston Marathon International Tour Operators
NYC Marathon: NYC Marathon Tour Operators
Chicago Marathon: Chicago Marathon International Tour Operators
London Marathon: London Marathon International Tour Operators
Berlin Marathon: Berlin Marathon International Tour Operators
Tokyo Marathon: Tokyo Marathon International Tour Operators
Charity partners are a great way to enter a race while raising money for local charities. The charities have raised hundreds of millions of dollars and this is a great way to gain entry and race these iconic races while giving back.
Boston Marathon: With the Boston Marathon’s increase in popularity over the last 10 years the minimum fundraising has gone up substantially with an absolute fundraising minimum of $7500 with many going for above $10,000. With over 40 Charites, finding one that resonates with you should not be difficult. More about the Boston Marathon Charity Program.
NYC Marathon: The current lowest advertised commitment amount is $2620. However, commitimg to raise that amount does not guarantee acceptance, as you could be outbid by another applicant. More about the NYC Marathon Charity Partners.
Chicago Marathon: The current lowest advertised charity is a very reasonable $1600. More about the Chicago Marathon Charity Program.
London Marathon: Similar to Boston, the current lowest advertised charity commitment is listed at $7500. These charity entries have typically gone to UK residents but runners from around the world have also been successful. More about the London Charity Entry.
Berlin Marathon: The current lowest advertised charity commitment for Berlin is listed at $1100. More about the Berlin Marathon Charity Partners.
Tokyo Marathon: There are three tiers of charity partners that include Non-Crowdfunding, Crowdfunding and Active charities: Tokyo Charity Options.
Many of the major marathons have a drawing, which can be an economical way to get a number if chosen, but statistically it’s getting harder and harder. The details of each drawing are below:
Boston Marathon: N/A
NYC Marathon: The application period for the 2020 TCS New York City Marathon is January 30 through February 13, 2020, with a drawing to follow on February 26, 2020. Check back at the NYRR website.
Chicago Marathon: There is a non-guaranteed entry drawing which has great odds even if you do not have a qualifying time. Details on the drawing process can be found here: Chicago Marathon Drawing
London Marathon: With over 450,000 Ballot entries for less than 17,000 spots, the London Marathon lottery is difficult, but worth a try. London Marathon Lottery
Berlin Marathon: Berlin Marathon Lottery
Tokyo Marathon: Similar to London this lottery is very difficult. There are over 300,000 Ballot entries for 27,000 entries. There are multiple drawings including Premium Member, Tokyo Resident, and General Entry. Tokyo Marathon Lottery
Invitational / Promotional Entries
Boston Marathon: There are many sources of these entries. Some sources are sponsors (John Hancock, NBC-Universal, Sam Adams), the towns and cities along the course, the Massachusetts National Guard, and the Massachusetts State Police. This may be true for other WMM and worth exploring if you live in the surrounding communities.
NYC Marathon - Guaranteed Entry: If you live in the New York City area, you can take part in the 9+1 system. By participating in a series of nine New York Road Runner races, plus volunteering at one other race in a given year, you can receive a NYC Marathon bib. There are also a limited number of virtual 13.1 entries. More information on these programs can be found here: NYRR Earn Guaranteed Entry.
London Marathon: myNB Rewards enables you to use your New Balance Rewards points to gain entry.
ABBOTT World Marathon Majors Championship. The first Championships will be held within the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon. The Championship is by invitation only.
Good luck if you choose to become a Six Star Finisher! Feel free to reach out if you have questions.