15 Flat & Fast Boston Qualifying Marathons to Snag Your BQ

15 Flat & Fast Boston Qualifying Marathons to Snag Your BQ

For runners, the Boston Marathon is the Super Bowl of their running career.

And the first step to entering the big leagues?

Searching Boston qualifying marathons and selecting the perfect race for you!

From east coast to west coast, here are the top 15 flat & fast Boston qualifying marathons to seriously consider in your BQ journey to Boston.

First – What Are the Boston Marathon Qualifying Times?

The B.A.A. updates qualifying times from time to time, but the times for the following year can be found here.

Now onto the good stuff…finding the perfect marathon for you to BQ!

1.) Fargo Marathon – Fargo, ND

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Fargo Marathon
Image credit: mybestruns.com/FargoMarathon

Date: May 9, 2020 at 7am

Registration Cost: $100


Course Description:

“Fast, flat and friendly” is this course’s tagline, so you know it’s going to be good.

The website even states “the Fargo Marathon course has one of the higher percentages of Boston Marathon qualifying times than most marathons”. This must be why so many runners recommend this race to snag your BQ!

And best of all, the Fargo Marathon is early enough in the season (May) that you still have plenty of time to try another marathon if you don’t BQ in Fargo (which you will, I’m sure, you got this!).

2.) Houston Marathon – Houston, TX

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Houston Marathon
Image credit: Houstonchronicle.com

Date:  January 19, 2020

Registration Cost: $140

Website:  http://www.chevronhoustonmarathon.com/

Course Description:

Marathon finisher Melanie T. says:

“Wonderfully organized, fun flat course, great spectator support! Loved this race!!!”

Plus, if spectator cheering adds to your enthusiasm (and increases your speed!), check out Michelle E.’s review:

“The energy from the spectators and even the supportive police officers rooting for you the entire way! Such a WELL put together event.. I still have a runner’s high 2 days later!”

Flat, fast, and high-energy, what else can you ask for? Oh, beautiful temperatures in Texas in January? You got it!

3.)  Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Chicago Marathon
Image credit: Thechicagolifestyle.com/5-things-to-know-before-chicago-marathon/

Date: October 13, 2019

Registration Cost: $205


Race Info:

The Chicago Marathon is lottery-based.

Applications are due by end of November, so keep this marathon in mind in October/November if you want to run the following year!

Note: there may also be a limited amount of charity bibs available after the lottery is held.

Course Description:

“The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is known for its flat and fast course that starts and finishes in Grant Park and travels through one of the world’s most magnificent cities. The course has produced four world records, several national records and countless personal bests. Runners enjoy the support of 1.7 million spectators as they run through 29 neighborhoods.” -ChicagoMarathon.com

4.) Mesa-Phoenix Marathon – Mesa, AZ

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Phoenix marathon
Image credit: thephoenixmarathon.com

Date:  February 8, 2020

Website:  https://thephoenixmarathon.com/

Course Description:

26.4% of the field qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2018 with the Mesa-Phoenix Marathon!

And in 2017, it was the 2nd top Boston qualifying marathon in terms of the percentage of runners who BQ’d!

Plus, there is a net 1000 elevation LOSS. Boom, that’s what we’re talkin’ about!

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Phoenix marathon Sky

The Mesa-Phoenix marathon was started in 2016 by runners, for runners.

In addition to the incredibly fast course, the race offers a stellar finish line scene:

“One of the goals of the Sprouts Mesa-PHX Marathon is to provide its runners with the BEST FINISH EXPERIENCE EVER.”

The website explains the finish line experience in even more (exciting!) detail:

The Mesa-Phx Marathon achieves this by offering an elaborate variety of fruits, drinks (including Muscle Milk, Gatorade Endurance, and ice cold Pepsi products), quick energy snacks, breads and much more! Our recovery area also includes post race treatments compliments of Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy, state of the art massage by Massage Envy, cool towels, soak tubs, food trucks, face painting, and plenty of activities for spectators. We want all our racers to enjoy and recover, surrounded by music, energy and attention. We love and respect our runners and you will see this reflected when you are treated to the BEST FINISH EXPERIENCE EVER at The Mesa-Phx Marathon.

5.) Steamtown Marathon – Scranton, PA

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Steamtown Marathon
Image credit: steamtownmarathon.com

Date: October 13, 2019

Registration Cost: $100-$120

Website:  https://steamtownmarathon.com/

Course Description:

Registration opens Feb 1 every year and the field is capped at a meager 3,000 runners – so get on this one quickly!

On average, 22-25% of finishers qualify for the Boston Marathon!

The course has a net elevation drop of 955 feet, which explains why Runner’s World named it one of the top ten marathon’s for beginners!

6.) Skagit Flats Marathon – Burlington, WA

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Skegit Flats Marathon
Image credit: galleries.matthagen.com/Sports/marathon/Skagit-2017

Date:  September 8, 2019

Registration Cost: $75-$120 (depending on when you sign up)


Course Description:

The Skagit Flats Marathon takes place on one of the last dates to get a Boston qualifying time before the Boston Marathon registration opens!

This small town marathon is touted as the flattest Boston qualifying marathon course in all of Washington state!

But get on registration fast because the field is limited to only 1000 runners.

Do you enjoy running through scenic rural farmlands? On a fast and flat course? Then this marathon is for you!

7.) Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – Indianapolis, IN

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Indianapolis Monumental Marathon
Image credit: monumentalmarathon.com/

Date: November 9, 2019

Registration Cost: $80+


Course Description:

One of the 20 largest marathons in the U.S.!

Enjoy an historical, fast and flat course with thousands of other runners to add to the excitement. Plus:

Starting and finishing at the Indiana State Capitol, the course highlights landmarks and historical neighborhoods throughout Indianapolis. Nationally recognized as flat and fast, this event has hosted Olympians, PR seeks, and thousands of Boston Marathon Qualifiers.

8.) Surf City Marathon – Huntington Beach, CA

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Surf City Marathon
Image credit: motivrunning.com/run-surf-city/

Date:  February 2, 2020

Registration Cost: $159


Course Description:

I don’t know about you, but if I’m searching for scenic Boston qualifying marathons, an ocean-side one is absolutely at the top of my list.

Enter: Surf City Marathon.

Held by the Pacific ocean in sunny California, runners start and end on the Pacific Coast Highway with views of Huntington Beach Pier, the Bolsa Chic Wetlands, and so much more, along the way!

A flat, oceanside course and free beer and entertainment at the finish…are you in yet?

9.) Napa Valley Marathon – Calistoga, CA

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Napa Valley marathon
Image credit: napavalleyregister.com

Date: March 1, 2020

Registration Cost: $145-$155 (depending on when you sign up)


Course Description:

This marathon course has a net 250 foot elevation loss, and is almost entirely straight (until the last 4 miles), making it a fast (and fun!) Boston qualifying marathon choice.

Plus, if you’re a wine fan, treat yo’self to delicious Napa Valley wine after the race or in the days following (this is my kind of “racecation”).

The website describes the course:

Following the famed Silverado Trail from Calistoga to Napa, our point to point marathon passes beautiful scenery, vineyards, and some of the most world-renowned wineries along the way.  Run, sip, and savor with us!

10.)  Baystate Marathon – Lowell, MA

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Baystate Marathon
Image credit: betcrendezvous.wordpress.com

Date: October 20, 2019

Registration Cost: $80-$120


Course Description:

A flat course, fall colors and crisp (perfect-for-running) New England weather awaits you at the Baystate Marathon in MA!

The marathon is a double loop course along the scenic Merrimack River.

Perfect for BQ-seeking runners who want a taste of fall in the Boston area.

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Baystate Marathon
Image credit: betcrendezvous.wordpress.com

11.) Marine Corps Marathon

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Marine Corps Marathon
Image credit: taps.org/articles/2017/mcm

Date: October 27, 2019

Registration Cost: $180


Race Info:

There is a Rush Registration and Lottery, which is held in March from March 20-26, 2019.

Course Description:

Nicknamed “The Marathon of the Monuments”, you’ll see why as you run through our nation’s capitol.

…with the start and finish in Arlington, VA, the Marine Corps Marathon offers an unparalleled journey through the most recognizable landmarks in our country. Begin the run situated between the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, continue through Rosslyn before journeying into the District to tour Georgetown and the National Mall

The course is well-run with plentiful entertainment throughout the course!

12.) Bayshore Marathon – Traverse City, MI

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Bayshore Marathon
Image credit: Screenshot from race video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBLusVqJGyM

Date: May 23, 2020

Registration Cost: $107+


Course Description:

Their website says it best:

The Full Marathon starts on the grounds of Northwestern Michigan College then winds through the waterfront along the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay. This out-and-back USATF certified course is flat, scenic, and fast making it a favorite for both runners attempting to qualify for Boston or finish their first marathon

You don’t have to be a midwesterner to appreciate the beauty of Michigan and this wonderfully-flat BQ’ing course!

13.) Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon – Salt Lake City, UT

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon
Image credit: runrevel.com

Date: September 14, 2019

Registration Cost: $99.96-129.95 (depending on when you sign up)


Course Description:

“Flat & beautiful” Is one description on the website, but it’s actually even better than flat – it’s downhill. The whole way.

Like, a net drop of over 5,000 feet kind of downhill.

So if you train your body to handle a downhill marathon, and want to BQ, this all-downhill course is absolutely perfect for you!

From the website (a pretty awesome description):

This incredibly fast and remarkably beautiful road race takes runners from the forests and canyons of the Wasatch Mountains to the foothills of Salt Lake City, Utah. Featuring a speedy downhill slope and spectacular scenery, this race will be sure to help you set your PR and finally hit that Boston Qualifying time

Bonus info: The average temperature in Salt Lake City this day is 66 (with cooler temps in the morning). Excellent running weather!

14.) Mohawk Hudson River Marathon – Schenectady/Albany, NY

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Mohawk Hudson River Marathon
Image credit: worldsmarathons.com

Date: October 13, 2019

Registration Cost: $95


Course Description:

Like many other Boston qualifying marathons on this list, the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon boosts of a flat & fast, BQ-making course:

Your PR awaits. Think fast. Think flat…There’s no better place to test your mental and physical strength than on our course, described in Runner’s World Magazine as “simple, understated and stunning”, an event with “all the amenities of a major marathon with none of the hassles.” See for yourself.

Plus, fall in New York in October means you’ll get leaf-peeping views while running the course!

15.) Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon –  Fort Lauderdale, FL

Boston Qualifying Marathons -Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon
Image credit: events.time.ly/e8bozff/4047400

Date: January 26, 2020

Registration Cost: $125


Course Description:

Want to run an insanely beautiful marathon while going for your BQ? Pick this one.

“With ocean breezes, palm trees and one of the most famous roads in America, this 26.2-mile course is one of the fastest and scenic in the state.”

“Loaded with unobstructed ocean view”

“The fast, flat course is ideal for anyone looking to PR”

Run along the ocean the entire route? I’m in!

And if you live where it’s cold in the winter, this marathon is the PERFECT winter escape to tack on a vacation after you BQ 🙂

Selecting the Right Boston Qualifying Marathon for You

Boston Qualifying Marathons - Boston Marathon Finish line
Image credit: hercampus.com

Ok, you have 15 solid marathon choices, what’s next?

Next, you need to make some decisions.

1.) What Year Do You Want to Run the Boston Marathon?

You usually have until mid-September to achieve your BQ time, in order to run the following year (which is 7 months after this deadline).

So many factors can affect your decision on timing – health, family, current fitness level, etc.

But in order to train properly, you must first select the year you’re aiming to qualify for.

2.) What Time of Year do You Want to Run Your BQ Marathon?

There are pros and cons to BQ’ing early in the season vs. later in the season.

Early-Season BQ: You leave yourself plenty of time to try again if you miss the qualifying time on the first try. However, if you get the BQ early (yay!), then you have to keep your body in training-ready shape for longer.

Late-Season BQ: You don’t leave any (or much) opportunity to qualify in another race if you miss the qualifying in the original race. Qualifying times are due by September 15 (give or take depending on the year) so keep that in mind). On the plus side? It’s easier to maintain your fitness for just a few months until training starts.

3.) When Will You Start Training?

The months leading up to Boston qualifying marathons are filled with miles, food, and sleep.

Many marathoners describe training as a second job.

You need at least 12-16 weeks to train for a marathon, but possibly more depending on your current fitness level.

Timing is everything – give yourself ample time to train properly and you’ll enjoy the process so much more (and avoid injuries in the process).

Additionally, consider your life schedule.

If you’re a teacher who has the summer off, perhaps training during summer break works better than in the spring when school is in session.

Either way, a prepared runner is a happy runner!

Good luck, you can do it! A shiny BQ is waiting for you!

Next Up: 15 Marathon Tips You NEED to Know

15 First Marathon Tips for Marathon Domination (good even if you’re not a beginner!)

Pin This List for Later!

Ready to BQ? Snag your qualifying time with these fast & flat Boston qualifying marathons from across the U.S.

BQ with one of these fast & flat Boston qualifying marathons across the U.S. Picked by runners, for runners.

15 U.S. Boston qualifying marathons to get you a qualifying time with ease. Fast, flat courses to help you achieve the time you need to run the Boston Marathon!

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