World Marathon Majors BEST list

Since March 3rd, I’ve relaxed and limited my mileage as well as celebrated my Six Star Medal after running the Tokyo Marathon. I took three-and-a-half weeks off before starting up again. It was a nice break because marathon training can be grueling and both physically and emotionally draining. It’s good to give your body a chance to recharge. In fact, after my first day back on the road running. I was very sore the next day as if I had never run before.

Soreness and other nagging muscle issues aside, I’ve had a chance to reflect on running the six World Marathon Majors since starting my journey in 2014 at the Boston Marathon. Each major marathon was special. Each has its charms and each experience was very different from the others. It’s what makes the World Marathon Majors so special. No race is the same as the other.

For those of you who are also looking complete, start or restart your Six Star journey, or for those of you who have finished the adventure and still love to read about it, here’s my BEST list for the World Marathon Majors. There are many topics I could list but I’m going to limit it. Some of you will agree. Some won’t. But one thing is certain–all six races are amazing.

BEST EXPO

London Marathon— I’m not necessarily a fan of expos, however, I don’t dislike them either. The London Marathon expo, I felt, was the best by far of the six. Yes, the location isn’t near the start or finish but ExCeL is a fine place to have the event. As far as expo logistics, it was easy to find, easy to get your bib and anything else you needed. The people there were friendly and helpful. I felt the layout was the best. It wasn’t tight or cramp like Boston or Tokyo. It wasn’t cavernous and didn’t feel half empty like Chicago. You really couldn’t get lost in different sections like Berlin. The apparel selection was good. They had nice areas to take pictures and provided an upbeat, lively vibe which got me excited about the race.

BEST PRE-RACE WARM UP AREA

Berlin Marathon–While I did like Greenwich Park in London, I think Berlin wins here. The area was easy to get into and close to a subway station. There was plenty of room to stake out a small area to sit and relax before warming up. Plus, how cool is it to prep for one of the world’s best races in front of an iconic building like the Reichstag?! You also had the Tiergarten too which provided a scenic area for a quick warm-up jog.

BEST START

New York City Marathon–There’s a serenity amidst the high energy of 50,000-plus runners when you look out from the Verrazano-Narrows bridge and see the blue waters around you and the magnificent Manhattan skyline in the distance. You realize your’re in the right place at the right time. It’s by far the most scenic start of the majors and maybe any marathon.

FASTEST COURSE

Berlin Marathon–This should be obvious given that the last several world records, including Eliud Kiphoge’s amazing 2:01:39, were run on this course. It’s also the course where I ran my PR of 2:48:48. So, what makes it so fast? It’s a very flat course. Chicago is also quite flat but there are far more turns in Chicago which can slow you down. Berlin doesn’t have all that many turns. Also, the weather is usually cool. With temperatures in the low to mid-50s, the conditions are there to run a PR.

HARDEST COURSE

Boston Marathon–I did consider putting New York here but I think Boston presents the most challenges. The first half is mostly downhill but then you have the Newton Hills in the second half and other small inclines toward the end that can make things tough. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to start too fast then blow up in the second half. For me, the crowded streets the first several miles kept my pace in check which helped me toward the end. I train in southern California in a somewhat hilly area so the Newton Hills weren’t anything I wasn’t already used to but they have broken many people. While I do think it’s the hardest of the majors, I managed to run my second-fastest time of 2:49:21.

BEST WATER

London Marathon–I understand plastic bottles, especially if they’re still half-full, can present a hazard. However, it was so convenient to squeeze the water and drink it without concern it’ll spill everywhere. This was important in 2018 when it was sunny and hot. I needed all that water when I crashed and burned.

BEST VOLUNTEERS

Tokyo Marathon–First, all the volunteers are great. They give up their time to make sure us runners can have a great experience. But since I have to choose one, I choose Tokyo. The volunteers kept thing organized before the race. They kept the course exceptionally clean at the water stations and they guided exhausted runners like myself after the race to the places we needed to be. They did it all with smiles, even in the rain and cold.

best crowd

London Marathon— Again, this was a tough one because all the crowds were great. I think London wins out here. I don’t recall any spot along the course that there weren’t loud cheers. This crowd was the loudest and most excited of six that were loud and excited. I could feel their energy and their support pushed me along when I was crashing and burning at mile 20. I heard nothing but encouragement. As a runner, it really felt like I was on the field at the Super Bowl or the World Series with the home crowd roars pulling me through.

BEST FINISH

Boston Marathon–I think cases can be made for London and Berlin but the Boston Marathon finish on Boylston Street is legendary. Turning from “Mount Hereford” onto Boylston for the last 600 meters is something runners of all abilities dream of accomplishing. Making that left turn and seeing the finish line gives you instant goosebumps amid the exhaustion. The cheers and roar of the crowd get louder as you get closer and you realize you’re about to make into reality something that was just a dream at one time in the past.

BEST POST-race gathering AREA

Chicago Marathon–Berlin was similar but I think Chicago was the easiest to navigate. I was offered beer before water after finishing–LOL! Seriously! That’s what makes Chicago fun. The volunteers lead you to a nice open area in Grant Park where you don’t have to fight crowds or sit on concrete or asphalt after a grueling race. There’s also more beer too–and it’s free as well if you remembered to bring your ticket from your goodie bag.

Me and my parents in Chicago 2015

BEST MEDAL

The Six Star–Why? The Six Star Medal represents all the hard work, planning and money spent to earn the other medals. It signifies that dedication, planning, fundraising and money well-spent for incredible experiences that will last a lifetime and more.

Agree or disagree with my list? Did I forget something? Write a comment below.

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