Thursday, 13 December 2012

My Major headache

One of my wildly overambitious running goals recently became even more ambitious.

Like many runners, I identified that I would love to complete all five of the World Marathon Majors, a group of five international races which form a two-year rolling competition: London, New York, Chicago, Boston and Berlin. For elite athletes, there is a huge prize pot for those who score highest across the races during the two years; this in addition to the prizes awarded at each individual race. For the rest of us, the Majors represent the biggest, the best, the most prestigious marathons in the world and just completing them would be a fantastic accomplishment. 132 of the world’s greatest miles on just five (admittedly non-consecutive) days.

But yet another layer of difficulty has just been added to the challenge by the introduction of a sixth Major: Tokyo. We’re up to 158.2 miles in six days. The accomplishment of running six marathons is one thing, but getting to the start line of these races is the real headache. The original five majors are fiendishly difficult and/or frighteningly expensive to get into as a non-elite runner, and Tokyo will be no exception. Let’s investigate…

London – Access is relatively easy if you’re prepared and able to raise the minimum £1,600 typically asked for a charity place, but for those of us less confident in achieving such figures, the prospects are fairly bleak. The ballot for general entry takes over 100,000 applications every year, for an undisclosed number of places which must be well below 10,000. I have been rejected four times, and my place in the 2013 race was guaranteed only by a well-placed phone call. More info to follow…

New York City – Again, those with the dollars can get in with relative ease. Companies like Sports Tours International and 2:06 Events usually offer packages for the weekend – indeed as a non-US runner this is pretty much the only means of getting a place. You can search for yourself, but I think you’ll struggle to find a package that will leave you much change from £1,200. The race entry component of that fee is around £300.

Chicago – general entry, but a lightning-fast sellout.

Boston – runners require an age-related qualifying time from a previous marathon, which for me would be sub-3:10. In reality to guarantee entry I would need a sub-3:00 marathon, as faster runners are given priority. This of course is part of the race’s appeal, but means I will most likely be doing Boston as my last Major, if at all.

Berlin – general entry, but again sells out in a matter of minutes.

Which leaves Tokyo. A new Major, in fact a very new marathon only established as a mass-participation event in 2008. Staggeringly, the organisers receive 300,000 applications to run every year (which will only increase) and are able to offer ‘only’ 36,000 places.

So if you, like me, fancy collecting medals from each of the - now six - World Marathon Majors, I would start saving (for entry and plane fares), start crossing your fingers and start running really, really fast…

Happy running


2012 to date: miles run - 448.3, miles biked - 106.1, metres swum - 3950, surfing hours - 2, races - 5