A Marathon Challenge: How to run the Marathon World Majors - Discount Supplements

Whether you're a new runner, a hybrid runner, or a seasoned pro, you may have dreams of completing a marathon. Or, if you already have, you may aspire to complete the Abbott World Marathon Majors and achieve that coveted six-star medal.

Completing the World Majors is a bucket list achievement for many keen marathon runners, but if you're unsure what this means or how to begin this journey, we're here to help.

This guide breaks down the Abbott World Major Marathons, where and when they take place, and how YOU can bag a spot on the start line. We'll also recommend the best products to help you get through all that important marathon training and recovery. Get ready to lace up your trainers and run the world!

Marathon runners run past the camera in a blur

Table of Contents:

What are the 6 World Marathon Majors?
When are the 6 World Marathon Majors?
How to enter the World Major Marathons
Tokyo Marathon
London Marathon 
Boston Marathon
Berlin Marathon
Chicago Marathon 
New York Marathon

What are the 6 World Marathon Majors?

The 6 World Marathon Majors are Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York. 

When are the 6 World Marathon Majors? 

The marathon majors take place at different times of the year. The earliest is the Tokyo marathon in March, followed by London and Boston marathons in April, Berlin in September, Chicago in October and New York in November. 
An Aerial view of marathon runners

How to enter the World Major Marathons

Each of the World Major Marathons has a ballot entry, where participants will have an allotted time to register their interest, and a select number will be randomly picked to run the marathon. There are also 'Good For Age' places up for grabs, where participants can gain an entry place by running a specific time related to gender and age at another qualifying marathon event. 

Finally, there are Sports Tours packages, where participants can buy into a marathon, such as Sports Tours International. This is a more expensive way to enter but usually includes either your flights or your hotel as part of the package and other benefits. Choosing a sports tour is a great way for those who may struggle to run a qualifying time, or have been previously unsuccessful in obtaining a ballot entry.

Another way to enter the World Majors is to run on behalf of a charity, where your entry comes with the caveat that you have to raise a certain amount of money for your charity, or you'll be liable for the difference. 

The Boston Marathon is the only exception, as it doesn't have a ballot entry. Participants for Boston must run a 'Good For Age' time and enter on behalf of a charity or via a sports tour package to participate. 

Now we've established the major marathons and how to enter them, let's discuss each so you know exactly what to expect before you sign up.

Tokyo Marathon 

The Tokyo Marathon, in its current format, is the newest of the World Major Marathons. First held on February 18th, 2007, today it attracts around 1 million spectators and just over 35,000 runners alongside a whole host of volunteers. 

Since the 10th anniversary of the Tokyo Marathon in 2016, the official race logo was changed to match the marathon's theme. Known as 'The Day We Unite', it signifies the relationship between the runners, supportive spectators and volunteers who are the heart and soul of this special race.

An aerial shot of Tokyo

The route encompasses Tokyo's past, present and future and finishes in front of the Tokyo station area. It also has an undulating elevation profile, starting with a generous downhill section for the first 3.5 miles of the race. 

London Marathon 

The London Marathon is one of the world's most popular races. The first race was held on March 29th, 1981. Organised by the late Chris Brasher and John Disley, after running both the New York and Boston marathons, they studied the race's organisation and finances with a desire to bring a similar running festival to London.
The first event saw 7,747 runners accepted from a pool of 20,000. 6,255 finished the race, with American runner Dick Beardsley leading the charge alongside Norwegian Inge Simonsen. British woman Joyce Smith broke the British record, winning the women's race. 

In 1982, the race's second year, more than 90,000 applicants applied to run from around the world - even though the race was limited to 18,509 people - a trend that continues today.

The TCS London Marathon today sees more than 43,000 runners and elite runners toe the startline, with the elites competing for a generous amount of prize money. The race is viewed worldwide in more than 196 countries, and five million viewers in the UK watch the BBC coverage. And that's not all - runners have raised more than £1 billion for charity. 

Tower Bridge London

The London Marathon route has remained largely unchanged since its inaugural event in 1981, taking in many of London's most famous landmarks. Starting in Greenwich and finishing on The Mall, there are three separate start lines for the race, Blue, Green and Red, each taking a different route on the early part of the course to ease congestion and merging around mile three.

The Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and Canary Wharf are all sights to take in along the course, and you can expect some of the best support from spectators. The course is relatively flat, with only 122 m of elevation overall and 53.4 m max elevation, so it's great for hitting those PBs!

Boston Marathon 

The world's oldest annual marathon, the Boston Marathon, has been run every year since 1897. After taking inspiration from their experience at the 1896 Olympic Games, the Boston Athletic Association founded their own marathon just one year later.

A helicopter flies over Boston, Massachusetts

Although there have been changes to the start and finish lines, the Boston course has largely remained the same over the last century. What also makes Boston so unique is that runners must qualify for it by running another marathon and meeting time standards relating to their gender and age (unless they run in a charity or sports tour place). These times are as follows:

18-34 3 hrs 00 min 00 sec 3 hrs 30 min 00 sec 3 hrs 30 min 00 sec
35-39 3 hrs 05 min 00 sec 3 hrs 35 min 00 sec 3 hrs 35 min 00 sec
40-44 3 hrs 10 min 00 sec 3 hrs 40 min 00 sec 3 hrs 40 min 00 sec
45-49 3 hrs 20 min 00 sec 3 hrs 50 min 00 sec 3 hrs 50 min 00 sec
50-54 3 hrs 25 min 00 sec 3 hrs 55 min 00 sec 3 hrs 55 min 00 sec
55-59 3 hrs 35 min 00 sec 4 hrs 05 min 00 sec 4 hrs 05 min 00 sec
60-64 3 hrs 50 min 00 sec 4 hrs 20 min 00 sec 4 hrs 20 min 00 sec
65-69 4 hrs 05 min 00 sec 4 hrs 35 min 00 sec 4 hrs 35 min 00 sec
70-74 4 hrs 20 min 00 sec 4 hrs 50 min 00 sec 4 hrs 50 min 00 sec
75-79 4 hrs 35 min 00 sec 5 hrs 05 min 00 sec 5 hrs 05 min 00 sec
80 and over 4 hrs 50 min 00 sec 5 hrs 20 min 00 sec 5 hrs 20 min 00 sec

Although these qualifying times exist, if an age category is oversubscribed, the organisers may accept faster times first, but these provide a guide. 

Taking place annually on Patriot's Day, the race is point to point, starting in Hopkinton, passing through Ashland, Framingham, Natick and Wellesley and entering Newton, where runners climb the famous Heartbreak Hill (between miles 20 and 21). Once at the top, runners can see downtown Boston for the first time, with just over four miles to go. The course finishes on Boylston Street. 

One of the tougher major courses, the Boston Marathon, is undulating. However, it does have a predominantly downhill profile; just be mindful not to go off too fast during those opening downhill miles, as they may come back to haunt you later.

Berlin Marathon

The Berlin Marathon is a prestigious race steeped in history. First organised by SC Charlottenburg, one of Germany's most prestigious running and athletics clubs, the inaugural event took place in 1974. In 1981, it moved from the Grunewald (a big forest in Germany) to the West Berlin city centre and quickly became known as Germany's best marathon.

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the marathon began its new era. Three days before reunification, the course ran through the Brandenburg Gate and both sides of Berlin - cementing a new route for the famous race. 

Then, in 2001, Naoko Takahashi became the first woman to break the 2:20 barrier in Berlin before the route was changed again in 2003. Paul Tergat was first to cross the new finish line, running a 2:04:55 and a new world record.

Eluid Kipchoge set an astonishing world record in 2022 of 2:01:09 - a phenomenal time for the men's marathon and one yet to be broken. Tigist Assefa of Ethiopia smashed the women's world record in 2023 when she ran an astounding 2:11:53, granting her a second consecutive Berlin title. 

The Berlin Marathon has the flattest elevation profile of all of the World's Major Marathons, with a gain of 73 m and a loss of 79 m, so it's the perfect course if you're looking for that all-important Boston qualifier. You'll pass some of the most scenic places in Berlin, including the Reichstag, the Berliner Dom and Brandenburg, before passing through the historic Brandenburg Gate to the finish line. 

Chicago Marathon 

An aerial view of Chicago
The Chicago Marathon was founded in 1976 by a small group of running enthusiasts eager to bring a marathon to Chicago. On September 25th, 1977, their dream was realised when 4,200 runners participated in the first Chicago Marathon.

Since then, Chicago welcomes around 45,000 finishers and 1.7 million spectators to the city every year for the marathon. Running through 29 neighbourhoods, including Little Italy, Pilsen and Chinatown, it’s a great way to explore the beautiful city of Chicago. 

Flat and fast - the looped course ends in historic Grant Park, and its logistics allow spectators to see their runners at multiple locations throughout the race. The fast nature of the course sees the world’s fastest runners turn out to try and break world records on the course. Famously, it was the course where Paula Radcliffe gained her 2:17:18 world record in 2002, which Brigid Kosgei took in 2019 for running 2:14:04. 

New York City Marathon

The largest marathon in the world, the TCS New York City Marathon was the brainchild of the New York Road Runners and is held annually on the first Sunday in November. Over one million spectators line the city streets on marathon day, with thousands of volunteers supporting the runners.

New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge and the One World Trade Centre
The inaugural marathon was run in 1970 when just 127 runners and 55 finishers ran four laps of Central Park. Since then, 1.2 million people have finished the race, which expanded to all five New York boroughs in 1976. Today's race sees over 52,000 runners toe the start line from countries worldwide. 

The route is a perfect one if you want to take in all of the sights and sounds of New York. Starting on Staten Island beside the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the route runs through Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx before finishing in Manhattan. 

During the course, you cross five bridges, inevitably bringing some inclines and hills at some inopportune moments. Where this course is difficult, it makes up for it in support; New York is a perfect marathon if you want to see the city and the sights and absorb the culture!

How do I achieve the Abbott World Major Marathon’s six star-medal?


The elusive six-star medal is the end goal for every World Major Marathon runner. If you've started your World Major Marathons journey, or if you're thinking about starting, you can ensure you're on track to achieving your six-star medal by following these simple steps:
  • Register your details with the Abbott World Marathon Majors Runner Portal. Once you've set up your account, you should be able to see any results from marathons you've already run or claim results from previous marathons that aren't showing.
  • The portal holds results from all World Major Marathons after 2006 and Tokyo from 2013. However, you can still submit some paperwork to claim your times if yours predate this.
  • Anyone who runs and appears in the results of any World Marathon Major qualifies for a six-star medal; there is no qualifying time that needs to be met or time limit to complete all six and claim your medal.
  • After your sixth and final race, you'll be eligible to claim your medal (you can usually do this on the day you cross the finish line). Abbott usually has a stand where you can find more information about the six-star journey at each World Major Marathon Expo.  

How to fuel for a marathon 

A marathon is an endurance event which requires specific training to help you safely prepare for that goal (or help you to run a specific pace to achieve that elusive Boston qualifying time). 

Man takes a gel whilst looking over the cliffs
Many marathon training plans are available online, and once you've chosen the one that's right for you, the next thing you should consider is your fuelling. 

Fuelling is particularly important for distance running, as most runners need to add 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates each hour running for more than 75 minutes. However, it's important to get this much-needed fuel into your body before hitting the 75-minute marker, as by this point, you'll have already used up your energy stores and may find it hard to increase your energy levels.

Eating a good breakfast or a light snack an hour or so before you run should keep you fuelled for the first hour, but by including nutrition on your run, you'll be topping up those all-important glycogen stores and preventing yourself from hitting the wall.
Here's what we'd recommend for fuelling your next long run:

1. High5 Energy Gels 
High5 Energy Gels are the perfect addition to your long run. Available in both caffeinated and caffeine-free options, each gel contains 23 g of carbohydrates, ideal for keeping your energy levels from crashing mid-run. Choose classic gels or aqua options with added water for easy consumption. 

2. Supplement Needs Electrolyte+ 180g
Hydration is key throughout every marathon block in helping you stay consistent while preventing mental and physical fatigue. Supplements Needs Electrolyte+ helps you to rehydrate post-run, and stay hydrated throughout the day. Containing 510g of Potassium, 140 g of Sodium and 500 mg of Magnesium Taurate, it'll help you replenish your salts and stay focused throughout your workout.

3. The Health Project Ultimate Whey Protein 2kg
Protein post-workout is the key to great recovery. Taking on the right amount at the right time gives your body the essentials to speed up muscle repair and prevent fatigue. While it's not always easy to grab protein in that essential post-workout window, a protein shake can be all you need. The Health Project's Whey Protein provides 21g of protein per scoop, ideal for mixing up into a post-workout shake, ready to consume straight after your long run. Your body will be thankful for it when you're lacing up for your next workout. 

Follow your World Major Marathon dreams at Discount Supplements  

Have we piqued your interest in taking part in the six-star journey? If so, you'll need the perfect fuel to get you through those all-important marathon training blocks, and we've got everything you need to do so at Discount Supplements.

With energy gels, electrolytes, protein and creatine from some of the leading brands in fitness, such as High5, Efectiv Nutrition and The Health Project, you'll find everything you need to compete like a marathon champion! Or, for even more marathon-boosting products, why not browse our complete Sports Performance collection? 

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