Running the 6 World Marathon Majors

Running the 6 World Marathon Majors

Running the 6 World Marathon Majors

Written By: SportsShoes

More than 800 marathons are organised every year, but only six have the title of World Marathon Major. Keep reading to find out more about them and how you can run them all.

What are the 6 World Marathon Majors?

If there is a group of races that are the object of desire of runners from all over the world, it is the 6 'top' marathons that stand out above the rest: Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathon; they are the so-called 'World Marathon Majors'. Whether you are planning to run any or even complete the 6 most famous marathons, we will show you some useful information about each of them.

1. Tokyo Marathon

Taking place on the first Sunday in March, the Tokyo Marathon is the first major of the calendar year. It was first run in 2007 so is the youngest of the World Marathon Majors, achieving its status in 2012.

Tokyo Marathon

Image credits: Tokyo Marathon

Some more facts about this marathon:

  • 38,000 number of runners in 2023 
  • It is the result of the merging of 2 marathons held in the city since 1981: the Tokyo International Marathon in odd-numbered years and the New York Friendship International Marathon in even-numbered years.
  • You must be at least 19 years old to participate, as opposed to the 18 years that is usually required to register for most races.

Official website:

2. Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon is  the oldest annual marathon in the world, it was first run in 1897. Traditionally takes place on the third Monday in April - on Patriots’ Day in the USA. It took its inspiration from the marathon race at the Olympic Games Athens 1896.

Some more facts about the marathon:

  • 30,000 was the number of runners in 2022
  • In 1967 it became the first marathon in which a woman participated and finished (Katherine Switzer). Eventually, women were officially allowed to participate in 1972.
  • The times obtained in this marathon are not considered official (and therefore the world records that could be beaten would not be considered valid) as the course is not approved by the IAAF.

Official website:

3. London Marathon

The race is usually held in April, its founder was Chris Brasher, a former Olympic track and field champion and famous athlete, who was inspired by the New York Marathon. The first London Marathon was run in 1981, SportsShoes has covered this event over the past years so if you are interested in knowing how other runners have prepared for it, Q&A of past participants and more, head over to our Hub to find out more.

Some more facts about this marathon:

  • 40,000 runners participate in 2022
  • The chances of getting a race bib for non-UK residents are very slim.
  • The London Marathon is the world's largest annual fundraising event.

Official website:

4. Berlin Marathon

The Berlin Marathon has one of the fastest courses in the world, which makes it one of the most favourable to achieving world records. Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge won his fifth Berlin Marathon, with a time of 2 hours 02 minutes 42 seconds, which, however, does not allow him to improve his world record set last year on the streets of the German capital. Meanwhile, Ethiopia's Tigst Assefa smashed the women's world marathon record with a time of 2 hours 11 minutes 53 seconds. The previous record of over two minutes belongs to Kenya's Brigid Kosgei. It is held on the last weekend in September.


Berlin Marathon

Image credits: Berlin Marathon

Some more facts about this marathon:

  • 40,000 runners participate in 2022
  • The Berlin Marathon has been held since 1974
  • On September 30, 1990, three days before reunification, the course led through Brandenburg Gate and both parts of Berlin. 

Official website:

5. Chicago Marathon

It always takes place on the Sunday before the second Monday in October. The Chicago race has produced some of the fastest times seen in history, including Brigid Kosgei’s world record of 2:14:04 set in 2019.

Chicago marathon

Image credits: Chicago Marathon

Some more facts about this marathon:

  • 40,000 runners participate in 2022
  • The 2017 edition of the Chicago Marathon was the 40th in terms of its "modern" version as we know it today, as it is stated that it was officially born in 1977
  • It has  an estimated 1.7 million on-course spectators 

Official website:

6. New York City Marathon

It is usually held in early November, the New York Marathon is the biggest marathon in the world in terms of participants, with around 50,000 runners last year, it is the only marathon to have surpassed this number of finishers.

Some more facts about this marathon:

  • 47,000 runners participate in 2022
  • The initial route of the New York City Marathon was modified to run through the 5 "boroughs" of the city: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island.
  • Since its creation in 1970, there has only been one year in which it could not be held: 2012, due to Hurricane Sandy.

Official website:

How many people have done all 6 marathon majors?

While the vast majority of runners would love to take part in any of these races, a select group have competed in all six of the major ones. Doing so puts them in an exclusive club and earns them a Six Star Medal. The Six Star Medal was introduced by the Abbott World Marathon Majors in 2016 to honour the runners who complete all six Major marathons.

After the 2023 Tokyo Marathon, there have been more than 11,000 runners to have completed this challenge, with 96 of them navigating the Six Star journey more than once.

At SportsShoes, we have chatted with one of these runners, Haroon Mota. Read how he completed the 6 World Majors and find out how you can complete this challenge yourself.

6 Starts Medal

Image credits: Haroon Mota

How do you qualify for the 6 marathons majors?

To qualify for the Marathon Majors, runners must complete all six marathons within a certain period of time. It is common for these races to be completed within six years. However, the exact requirements may vary depending on the organisation sponsoring the event or the country where the race is held.

In addition, runners must meet the qualifying times set for each marathon. These times may vary depending on the age and gender of the runner, as well as other factors such as altitude and weather conditions at the time of the race. For example, in the Boston Marathon, the qualifying times for men and women vary according to their age.

Each of the Marathon Majors’ official websites will provide you with detailed information about the qualification requirements. In addition, you can also check out runner forums and runner blogs for personal perspectives and advice from other athletes who have participated in these marathons.

Will there be a 7th Major Marathon?

If 6 are the Majors, is there any room to expand to more events around the world to become the 7th? The answer is still to be confirmed but The Sydney Marathon is a candidate race for the Abbott World Marathon Majors - the first marathon in Oceania to be nominated.

Sidney Marathon

Image credits: Unsplash

Over the next 3 years, the Sydney Marathon will be required to meet strict criteria to achieve ‘Majors’ status by 2025. If successful, Sydney Marathon will join an esteemed group of races, Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, TCS London Marathon, BMW-Berlin Marathon, Bank of America Chicago Marathon and TCS New York City Marathon.

In addition to the Sydney Marathon, South Africa's  Sanlam Cape Town Marathon and China’s Chengdu Marathon are currently part of the AbbottWMM candidate process although only three candidate spots are available.

Time will tell if one more marathon is added to the Majors list while thousands of runners are on their way to marathon running’s greatest prize: the Six Star Medal, are you up for the challenge?

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