What are the 7 major marathons in the world? Everything to know about the long-distance running event held across different cities on the globe

2023 Boston Marathon
Six marathons qualify as Major marathons along with the World Championships Marathon.

More than 800 marathons are held every year with seven major marathons playing a fundamental role in deciding the point-based system.

The seven major marathons include the Tokyo Marathon, Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon, and the World Championships.

On competing in six major marathons, and leaving the World Championships, the athlete is presented with a Six Star finisher certificate and a Six Star finisher medal.

Kenyan long-distance runner Eluid Kipchoge (12), and Mary Keitany (7) hold the record for the most number of victories in the men's and women's category, respectively.

Let's take a look at the seven major marathons.


Tokyo Marathon: First of the seven Major Marathons held every year

Eliud Kipchoge of Team Kenya celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men's Marathon in Japan.
Eliud Kipchoge of Team Kenya celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men's Marathon in Japan.

The Tokyo Marathon is the first marathon of the calendar year, held on the first Sunday of March. The first Tokyo Marathon was held in 2007 and achieved its status as the Major Marathon in 2012.

The latest edition of the Tokyo Marathon was held on March 3, 2024. Benson Kipruto holds the course record in the men's category with an impressive time of 2:02.16, which he recorded in the most recent edition. The women's course record of 2:15.55 is held by Sutume Asefa Kebede.


Boston Marathon: Oldest Major Marathon of the World

The Boston Marathon is the oldest Major Marathon in the world with the first edition being held in 1897, drawing inspiration from the Olympic Games of 1896 in Athens.

The Boston Marathon is held on the third Monday of March, aligning with Patriot's Day in the USA. Geoffrey Mutai holds the men's course record with a spectacular time of 2:03.02, set in 2011, and the women's course record of 2:19.59 - set by Buzunesh Deba in 2014.


London Marathon: Fastest Course in the Major Marathon

Initiated by the 1956 Melbourne Olympic's 3000m steeplechase event's gold medalist, Chris Brasher, the London Marathon held its first edition in 1981. The men's event in the first edition of the Marathon witnessed a tie between USA’s Dick Beardsley and Norway’s Inge Simonsen, clocking 2:11.48.

The men's and women's course records are held by Kelvin Kiptum (2023) and Paula Redcliffe (2003), registering 2:01.25 and 2:15.25.


New York City Marathon: Biggest Marathon in the World

The New York City Marathon is the biggest in the world with the first edition in 1970 only featuring 127 athletes. The course offers a few special features having the athletes cross five bridges.

Four women's world records have been broken on the course, three of which were set by Grete Waitz. The course records are as follows:

Men: Tamirat Tola - 2:04:58 (2023)

Women: Margaret Okayo - 2:22:31 (2023)


Chicago Marathon: World Record Course

The course of the Chicago Marathon begins and ends at Grant Park. The athletes pass by three globally renowned stadiums, including the Wrigley Field, the United Centre, and Guaranteed Rate Field.

Kelvin Kiptum shattered the world record on the course in 2023, registering 2:00:35.

Course record:

Men: Kelvin Kiptum - 2:00:35 (2023) - WR

Women: Siffan Hassan - 2:13:44 (2023)


Berlin Marathon

It was introduced by baker Horst Milde, Jutta Von Hasse, and Gunter Hallas in 1974. Usually held on the last weekend of September, the marathon features around 40,000 athletes.

The course witnessed Tigist Assefa setting a new world record in the women's marathon category after recording an impressive time of 2:11:53 in 2023.

Course record:

Men: Eliud Kipchoge - 2:01.09 (2022)

Women: Tigist Assefa - 2:11:53 (2023) - WR


World Championships Marathon

The first edition of the marathon at the World Championships was held in 1983. The event starts and ends in the stadium. Unlike other Major Marathons, the event features a limited number of athletes, ranging from sixty to eighty runners per race.

The men's and women's course record is held by Abel Kirui (2:06.54) and Paula Radcliffe (2:20:57), set in 2009 and 2005, respectively.

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