I live in the hills. Here in Southern California, or at least where I live, there really is no way to avoid them. I’m not always a fan.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a real benefit to hill training and I regularly incorporate hill repeats into my training schedule but having to run them every single day can get old. On occasion, I will drive to a location with flat terrain, but for the most part, because of practicality and time constraints, I work with what I have directly out my front door. What comes up must go down, but in my neighborhood, it feels like a lot more ups than downs!
The fact is, my body is very well adapted to switching gears when it needs to and this probably works to my benefit in the long run. When I look for bucket list marathons, I generally avoid the super flat courses. I actually prefer using a variety of muscle groups and the only way to achieve that during a race is a variation in elevation. I know this isn’t true for every runner, but for many runners the change is welcome.
With all that said, I don’t mind a hilly course but my personal favorite is a gentle rolling downhill. These are not for everyone. They can be tough on your quads and they can be challenging to pace correctly, but if you do your homework and prepare the correct way, you can really enjoy these courses and they can REWARD you with a new Personal Record and possibly even a Boston Qualification.
I’ve put together a list of some of the fastest downhill marathons in the US, that have the highest percentage of Boston Qualifiers. The only one one this list I’ve run is Mountains to Beach, so I can’t tell you about how well some of the others are organized, or details about the course, but I’m going to start checking my list off because I’m running the Utah Valley Marathon on June 10, 2017. Start with the best, finish with the rest!
10 Downhill Marathons You Don’t Want to Miss
1. UTAH VALLEY MARATHON – June 10, 2017. The Utah Valley Marathon is a fast paced scenic course that begins in Wallsburg, UT running into Provo Canyon, and features much of the diverse scenery offered in Utah County. Marathon runners will run along canyon roads that follow the Provo River.
The race course has spectacular views of Bridal Veil Falls, the mountains, and the city. This Utah Marathon finishes in historic downtown Provo at the Utah County Courthouse park.
2. Canyon City Marathon – November 4, 2017. This incredibly fast and remarkably beautiful road race takes runners from the forests and canyons of the Angeles National Forest to the foothills of Azusa, California. Featuring a smooth downhill slope and spectacular scenery, this race will be sure to help you set your PR and finally hit that Boston Qualifying time. REVEL Canyon City is the fastest and most beautiful marathon and half marathon in California. REVEL in speed. REVEL in beauty. REVEL in Canyon City.
3. Jack and Jill’s Downhill Marathon – July 29 & 30, 2017. The course starts at Hyak parking lot in North Bend, WA, and then proceeds through the Snoqualmie Tunnel. Be sure to carry a flashlight or wear a headlamp through the tunnel. After you pass through the tunnel, volunteers will have a box you can drop your light in, if you wish. Be sure to write you name on your headlamp or flashlight. You can claim you belongings at the finish. You will travel the first 22 miles along the John Wayne Trail and then a right turn on to Snoqualmie Trail to the finish.
4. Run For The Red Marathon – May 21, 2017. Both the full and half marathons start at 7 a.m. at Pocono Mountain West High School in Pocono Summit. The 5K road race steps off at 8 a.m. at Stroudsburg High School. The full marathon and 5K finish in the Stroudsburg High School stadium while the half marathon finishes at the Crescent Lodge in Paradise Valley. The Pocono Marathon serves as a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon in 2018. A total of $8,000 in prize money is awarded for the top three male and female finishers of the Pocono Marathon this year.
5. Steamtown Marathon – October 8, 2017. The Steamtown Marathon is a USATF-certified event and is an official Boston Marathon qualifier. The course features a net elevation drop of 955′. The point-to-point course runs through 14 communities and includes approximately 4.2 miles of paved rails-to-trails along the Lackawanna River. There are 14 official stations and several port-a-lav stations on the course.
10 Downhill Marathons That Might Help You Get Your Next BQ #fitfluential #runchat Click To Tweet
6. Mountains to Beach – The course begins in downtown Ojai, CA, with a 6 mile loop which brings runners back by the start “Mountain 2 Beach Marathon” area which makes for great spectating as it heads towards mile 7 and the community of Meiners Oaks. After several miles, the course takes a right onto the Ventura River Bike Path to Santa Ana Blvd, a beautiful country road. After several miles trending downhill, runners begin to see civilization again on Ventura Ave, the most direct route to the City of Ventura. After a tour of downtown Ventura, runners make one of the final turns and come face to face with the famous Ventura Beach front. Try not to get distracted by the beauty as you still have just over a mile to go. More than a mile of beach side running brings you to the finish line and festival. Over the 26.2 miles, you will see beautiful mountain peaks, the Ventura River Basin, the gorgeous Ventura Promenade, and the world renowned Ventura Coast line. There is a total downhill of over 700 feet.
7. Phoenix Marathon– February 2018. The Phoenix Marathon has a beautiful race course that begins below the large white Phoenix sign painted on the Usery Mountain. Marathon runners will experience nearly 1000 feet of net elevation loss in this fast Boston Qualifier. The race has thousands of parking spots available around the finish at a large shopping center in Mesa. Marathon runners will enjoy the diverse scenery from cactus desert to spectacular views of the Phoenix Valley from N. Usery Pass Rd.
8. California International Marathon – December 3, 2017. The same route SRA management created for the 1983 inaugural CIM will take you through rural countryside, then through the towns of Orangevale, Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, Carmichael, and finally, under a canopy of trees in full fall colors, into the city of Sacramento for the State Capitol finish. Even though the course has remained the same, the race has grown into a true international event. Due to its excellent race organization and fast course, the California International Marathon has always been a favorite event for first-time marathoners, fitness runners, and especially for runners seeking a PR, a Boston Marathon, or Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying standard.
9. Whistle Stop Marathon – October 13 & 14, 2017. The Whistle Stop Marathon & Half-Marathon is a point-to-point course to be held on the Tri-County Corridor, a rail-trail paved with limestone gravel. The course offers a flat and fast running trail surface that is firm but is much more forgiving to the knees then asphalt. This is an excellent first-timer or personal record course!
The course stretches from two miles east of Iron River, Wisconsin and features ten re-decked railroad trestles, wetlands, trout streams, Chequamegon National Forest, woodlands, dairy farms, residential neighborhoods, and traffic-free quiet. Being a Fall marathon, the course will feature some of the nation’s finest Autumn colors!
10. Freakin Fast Marathon – September 9, 2017. This is primarily a road course, over 24 miles are paved and the out and back section a couple miles in are packed gravel and dirt. It is fast, most of it being downhill for the first 20 miles. We really encourage you to do at least some downhill training before race day. You will have a very decent shot at a PR or BQ as long as you know what to expect from a largely downhill course.
I’ve got some great news for you. I’ve got a DISCOUNT Code for 15% off entry into the Utah Valley Marathon. It’s their 10th Anniversary so instead of a race shirt they are giving runners this very cool jacket. USE RW15 at checkout.
Before you go signing up, check out these helpful posts on how to best prepare for a Downhill Course.
This Runner’s Recipes: Laura ran an 18 minute PR at CIM, a race that’s included in this list. She has really great information on what and how to run a successful downhill course. Check out here post HERE.
Run To The Finish: Amanda teaches us how not to avoid, but to embrace those hills and has tips for both UP and DOWNhill training in this post right HERE.
Coach Debbie Runs: Debbie happens to be running Utah Valley with me in June, Woot! Always exciting to see Social Media friends in real life. Debbie has great tips for Downhill racing in this post right HERE.
TCS New York City Marathon
And one last thing! Not a downhill, but a Bucket List race for sure. If you didn’t get into the TCS NYC Marathon this year, you’re not alone, but there is one last chance to get in.
Last year, 80K runners entered the TCS New York City Marathon lottery, but only 20K were selected for the race. This year, PowerBar wants to offer those who find themselves unlucky after the lottery drawing on March 2nd another shot at getting a bib. And for those hundreds of runners who found themselves on the “Did Not Finish” list from marathons past due to injuries, fatigue or just a bout of bad luck, PowerBar is offering a do-over they so desperately want and need.
PowerBar believes everyone deserves a Clean Start, so to help launch the new Clean Whey product line, they’re offering 17 deserving athletes the chance to approach the starting line at the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon. 26.2 miles. 17 Clean Starts.
From March 1, 2017 through April 12, 2017, consumers can visit PowerBarCleanStart and share why they deserve a Clean Start at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon. Winners will receive a race bib (entry to the race), along with training tips from PowerBar athletes, PowerBar product and gear leading up to the race.Didn't get into @nycmarathon ? @Powerbar is giving 17 people the chance to run with a #CleanStart Click To Tweet