Step into the world where gravity becomes a runner's ally and fast times take center stage. We’ll uncover the exhilarating courses that promise not only fast times and burning quads but also an adrenaline-fueled experience like no other. From scenic descents through gorgeous mountains to the thrill of defying gravity, join us in discovering the top picks that invite both seasoned runners and adventurous newcomers to embrace the rush of downhill marathons. Get ready to lace up, let gravity guide you, and dive into the best downhill marathons.
Advantages of Downhill Marathons
One of the most notable benefits is the increased pace facilitated by the assistance of gravity, allowing runners to cover more ground with less effort compared to flat or uphill courses. This often translates to faster finish times, making downhill marathons attractive to those aiming to set personal records or achieve competitive results.
Additionally, the reduced energy expenditure in downhill running contributes to a more efficient use of energy, enabling runners to maintain a faster pace without depleting their reserves as quickly. The unique racing experience, characterized by the exhilarating combination of speed and the challenge of managing descents, adds an extra layer of excitement to the event. Many downhill marathons are set in picturesque locations, offering runners breathtaking scenic views as they descend, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the race.
Disadvantages of Downhill Marathons
While downhill marathons offer the allure of speed and excitement, there are potential disadvantages and challenges associated with running on a predominantly downhill course:
The constant descent puts additional strain on muscles, particularly the quadriceps and knees, leading to increased fatigue and soreness. Joints, especially the knees, are susceptible to heightened stress due to the repetitive impact of downhill running, potentially contributing to discomfort or overuse injuries.
Pacing becomes a critical factor, with the temptation to start too fast posing challenges in maintaining a consistent speed throughout the race. Moreover, individuals with pre-existing knee or joint issues may find downhill running exacerbates their conditions. Despite these challenges, proper training, technique adaptation, and recovery strategies can help mitigate the disadvantages, allowing runners to embrace the excitement and speed of downhill marathons.
The Best Downhill Marathons
These marathons were hand-picked based on which had the most Boston Marathon qualifying runners based on MarathonGuide.com.
When: Late February
Where: Ventura, CA
Net Loss: 900 feet
The Ventura Marathon offers a perfect balance of speed and scenic downhill excitement. Starting in the charming town of Ojai, California, this point-to-point downhill marathon unfolds along the paved paths of the Ojai Valley Trail and Ventura River Trail, culminating in the lively beach town of Ventura. With a gentle descent of approximately 900 feet, the course ensures a remarkably fast run without the strain associated with ultra-downhill marathons. As a testament to its speed, the 2022 edition ranked as California's 3rd top Boston Marathon Qualifier. This USATF-certified course not only promises speed but also serves as an excellent qualifier for the prestigious Boston and New York Marathons.
When: Late April
Where: Ventura, CA
Net Loss: 700 feet
Embark on a scenic journey from mountain peaks to sandy shores! Nestled in majestic mountains, the city of Ojai is the unique starting point for the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon. This point-to-point race winds its way through the picturesque Ventura River Valley, culminating at the pristine beaches of Ventura, California – the last great surf town in the state. Revel in the race's gradual downhill trajectory, designed to enhance speed without compromising the well-being of your knees, all while basking in the delightful weather of the region. Certified as a Boston Qualifier (marathon only), the course, the event, and the welcoming communities make the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon an ideal destination for both full and half marathon enthusiasts. Spanning 26.2 miles of mountain and beachfront scenery, this lightning-fast course begins in downtown Ojai, gracefully descending from over 700 ft. to sea level across 22 miles, concluding near the iconic Ventura Pier. It stands as a USATF-certified Boston Marathon Qualifier (CA16086RS), promising a remarkable and rewarding racing experience.
When: Early April
Where: Las Vegas, NV
Net Loss: 5,100 feet
Embark on an astonishingly swift and visually stunning road race that guides runners from the scenic forests of Kyle Canyon on Mt. Charleston to the vibrant cityscape of Las Vegas, Nevada. With a seamlessly smooth downhill slope and breathtaking scenery, this race is poised to propel you toward your personal record and help you achieve that coveted Boston Qualifying time. Recognized as the fastest marathon and half marathon in Nevada, it's an invitation to REVEL in speed, REVEL in beauty, and gracefully descend Mount Charleston!
Where: Big Bear, CA
Net Loss: 5,000 feet
Embark on a phenomenally fast and breathtaking road race that guides runners from the majestic mountains and unspoiled forests of Big Bear to the foothills of Redlands, California. With its seamlessly smooth downhill slope and captivating scenery in the San Bernardino National Forest, this race is your ticket to setting a new personal record and achieving that elusive Boston Qualifying time. Recognized as the fastest and most picturesque marathon and half marathon in California, REVEL Big Bear invites you to REVEL in speed, REVEL in beauty, and immerse yourself in the allure of Big Bear.
When: Early October
Where: St George, UT
Net Loss: 2,600 feet
Recognized in Runner’s World's 10 Most Scenic and Fastest Marathons as well as the Top 20 Marathons in the USA, this event kicks off amidst the majestic Pine Valley mountains. Descending nearly 2600 feet through the scenic landscapes of southwest Utah, the race concludes at the serene Worthen Park. Noteworthy as a point-to-point race, the St. George Marathon is both USA Track & Field Certified and Sanctioned, adding to its acclaim. Runner’s World has also lauded it as the fastest fall marathon, making it not only a thrilling but also a visually stunning race. Join in the fun and experience the scenic beauty of the St. George Marathon.
Where: North Bend, WA
Net Loss: 2,000 feet
Experience the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon, a unique mid-June event located 50 miles east of Seattle, Washington. This point-to-point downhill marathon unfolds along a picturesque gravel rail-trail, boasting the best profile in the country for achieving a fast time. The course, a Boston qualifier, is characterized by a consistently gentle downhill grade and a low starting elevation.
Nestled in the stunning North Bend and Snoqualmie area, this one-of-a-kind course unveils a mesmerizing 2-mile tunnel carved through rugged terrain. Emerging from the tunnel, participants are greeted by the breathtaking expanse of a Pacific Northwest paradise. The initial three miles within the unlit tunnel offer a flat, cold, foggy, and damp experience, where flashlights are highly recommended. Upon exiting the tunnel, the gravel trail begins a gradual descent, spanning 2050 feet over the next 23 miles. The slope is never steep enough to be uncomfortable, providing runners with the sensation of having an exceptionally good day. This marathon promises a unique and unforgettable journey through the scenic beauty of the North Bend and Snoqualmie region.