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6 August 2020   |   Blog   |   

Run the Abbott World Marathon Majors

The idea is simple. Run the six most widely recognised, and arguably most important, marathons in the world. When you do, you will receive a Six Star WMM Finisher’s Medal from the sponsors, Abbott Healthcare. That’s in addition to the individual medal you receive at the end of each of the marathon you complete on your journey.
To date, less than four thousand runners worldwide have achieved this feat and, as you would expect, that includes a number of Irish runners. In fact, demographically speaking, we are punching above our weight.

There are a few standard ways in which you can get your hands on an entry into one of the World Marathon Majors. These are:
  • Running fast. Most of the major events have a ‘Good for Age‘ programme, which means that if you run below set time target for your age then you may be eligible for direct entry into the event. Qualifying times and entry fees differ from event to event, so it is good to do your research before you run. Further information is available below.
  • The ballot. The ballot takes the form of a lottery. Depending on which event it is, there may be a charge to enter the ballot. If you successfully gain a place, you can pay to enter the event.
  • Running for charity. If your ballot entry is unsuccessful, then you can buy an entry package through a charity. Most of these charities will ask you to commit to a minimum fundraising target, which can vary from charity to charity and per event.
  • Booking with Sports Travel International. We provide guaranteed entry, and travel packages for a wide range of sold out events. Even if you have your own entry, you can still book hotel and support packages with us and of course non-running partners and friends are always welcome too!

So here’s a more detailed rundown on each of these special marathons. The great news is that Sports Travel International can offer you a guaranteed entry to each and every one of them, as part of a tour package. For details on all our packages, please see HERE.

Tokyo Marathon

Tokyo Marathon – 17th October 2021 

The first official Tokyo Marathon took place in February 2007, but even before that running had a long and proud tradition in Japan. Since then, Tokyo has become one of the most popular marathons on the planet, and Japan’s most iconic. The Tokyo Maathon is the newest edition to Abbott Marathon Majors, becoming the sixth star in 2013.

With only 37,500 places it is one of the most difficult marathons to enter. In 2019 the Tokyo Marathon drew over 331,211 applicants. This equates to an oversubscription rate of around 10.8 times.

Due to the global COVID- 19 outbreak, the 2020 Tokyo Marathon was contested as an elite race only. Due to the resulting entry rollovers; there will be a very limited number of event entries available for the 2021 edition of the race. Further postponements have now resulted in the Tokyo Marathon return date being set as 17th October 2021. Over a year and a half in the waiting, the return on the Tokyo Marathon, will be one of the most hotly anticipated events in Japan this year.

Entry availability:

36,000 places. Free to register, with a lottery system utilised to select entrants. Through the lottery, you have less than a 10% chance of selection. The ballot system opens at the start of August, and remains open for 1 month.

The Run as One entry is available to just 300 international runners. To be eligible for one of these entries women and men must run a sub 3.30 and sub 2.45 marathon respectively.

There is also a limited availability of charity entries.

Guaranteed entries are available with travel packages through Sports Travel International.


Sports Travel International will have only a limited number of entry and accommodation packages available for the 2021 Tokyo Marathon. If however, you’re looking for an alternative early season marathon, you might want want to consider the 2021 Paris Marathon or you can join us at the 2021 edition of the Acea Run Rome the Marathon. 

Boston Marathon – 11th October 2021

One of the most popular races in the world, the annual Boston Marathon is famously difficult to gain entry into and, as the oldest marathon in the world is on almost every marathon runner’s bucket list. The race dates back to 1897. Boston is also one of the friendliest cities in the USA, a walkable city, which is the cradle of American civilisation, where the Irish are always welcome.

Usually held on Patriots’ Day (a Monday), the race sets out from Hopkinton village in the beautiful Massachusetts countryside, and finishes in downtown Boston. In 2019 the field will be limited to around 30,000 runners, less than the other five World Marathon Majors. Most of the runners gain entry by achieving tough qualifying times based on their age.

In 2020, the global COVID- 19 outbreak led to  the Boston Marathon being made a virtual only event. This meant that, for the first time in over 120 years, there was to be no marathon on the streets of Boston in 2020. The Boston Marathon has a smaller field than any of the other marathon majors, and the resulting entry rollovers from 2020 mean that competition for 2021 entries is likely to be even tougher than ever before.

The Boston Marathon will return to the road, for its 125th edition, on 11th October 2021.

Entry availability:

Participants can attempt to gain entry by meeting a set qualifying standard. However this time does not guarantee entry. The qualifiers are accepted, from fastest first, until places are full. This means that you could meet the qualifying standard by some margin but you still don’t get in. Your qualifying time needs to have been achieved before September if you want to be taken into consideration for entry the following year. Entries for US runners cost about $180 and International runners who qualify will have to pay about $240.

Achieving the set qualifying standard does not guarantee your entry. It simply grants you the opportunity to submit for registrationSee the current qualifying standards below:

18-34 3hrs 00min 00sec 2hrs 58min 21sec
35-39 3hrs 05min 00sec 3hrs 03min 21sec
40-44 3hrs 10min 00sec 3hrs 08min 21sec
45-49 3hrs 20min 00sec 3hrs 18min 21sec
50-54 3hrs 25min 00sec 3hrs 23min 21sec
55-59 3hrs 35min 00sec 3hrs 33min 21sec
60-64 3hrs 50min 00sec 3hrs 48min 21sec
65-69 4hrs 05min 00sec 4hrs 03min 21sec
70-74 4hrs 20min 00sec 4hrs 18min 21sec
75-79 4hrs 35min 00sec 4hrs 33min 21sec
80 and over 4hrs 50min 00sec 4hrs 48min 21sec
18-34 3hrs 30min 00sec 3hrs 28min 21sec
35-39 3hrs 35min 00sec 3hrs 33min 21sec
40-44 3hrs 40min 00sec 3hrs 38min 21sec
45-49 3hrs 50min 00sec 3hrs 48min 21sec
50-54 3hrs 55min 00sec 3hrs 53min 21sec
55-59 4hrs 05min 00sec 4hrs 03min 21sec
60-64 4hrs 20min 00sec 4hrs 18min 21sec
65-69 4hrs 35min 00sec 4hrs 33min 21sec
70-74 4hrs 50min 00sec 4hrs 48min 21sec
75-79 5hrs 05min 00sec 5hrs 03min 21sec
80 and over 5hrs 20min 00sec 5hrs 18min 21sec

Guaranteed entries, with travel packages, are available through Sports Tours International. You also do not need to have achieved a qualifying time when booking through us, but interest is high, so you will need to join our waitlist. You can try to gain entry through a charity, but there are only about 2,500 charity entries up for grabs, and often these charity places come with high fundraising commitments. Alternatively, you can test yourself at one of our other popular spring marathons such as the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll half/full Marathon, or you can try something completely different, at the breathtakingly beautiful, Two Oceans Ultra and Half Marathon in South Africa.


Virgin Money London Marathon – 3rd October 2021

Since its inception in 1981 (a year after Dublin!), the London Marathon has been recognised as a leading event on the world sporting calendar. It has achieved legendary status for its mix of first-class elite fields with heart-warming examples of ordinary people running extraordinary marathons. This is a world-class city , backed by superb organisation, and wildly enthusiastic supporters. Millions are raised for charity every year by runners in the London Marathon and it holds the Guinness world record as the largest annual fundraising event.

Starting from Blackheath near Greenwich, the course runs through many famous London districts and past many landmarks, including the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. It finishes at the Mall in the heart of the city. The course is mostly flat and remains largely unchanged since 1981. The Finish Line is open for at least 8 hours. The minimum age for participants is 18 years.

A record total of 457,861 people entered the ballot for the 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon. With just 17,000 ballot entries available on any given year, the overwhelming popularity of the London Marathon makes the chances of selection very slim indeed. Throw into the mix deferrals from the cancelled 2020 mass participation race and we imagine that competition for 2021 places will be higher than ever. For the 2021 London Marathon the race has announced plans to host the world’s first 100,000 participant marathon. 50,000 will take on the traditional route on the morning of the third of October, while another 50,000, made up of unsuccessful ballot entries, will be invited to participate virtually on the same date. As with last year, the Virgin Money London Marathon App powered by TCS will enable runners to track and record their runs.

Not Content Just to Be there Virtually?

The 2021 London Marathon will take place on Sunday 3rd October. If you have been unsuccessful in the Virgin Money London Marathon ballot, but still want to experience the race in person, you can guarantee your place on the start line with one of our GUARANTEED entry and accommodation tours.

Our tour offers a wide choice of transport options, and you can stay for either 3 or 4 nights (with additional nights available on request.  We also provide the comfort of a private coach on race day from our hotel in central London to the start in Blackheath. You make your own way back! In fact, the finish line is not that far away.

Berlin Marathon Irish Visitors

Entry availability:

It is very difficult to get into the London Marathon. The ballot opens for a short window of just 5 days, during the month of May, and is the most over subscribed marathon ballot in the world. You will find out if you are in when you receive a magazine in October. There are plenty of charity options, but many have fairly high fundraising requirements.

You can attempt to qualify for a ‘Good for Age’ spot, but the times are pretty tough to achieve and you need to apply for this by mid June.

The Good for Age qualifying times accepted for the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon are:

Men Time (in hours) Women Time (in hours)
Age 18-39 sub 2:57:20 Age 18-39 sub 3:40:45
Age 40-44 sub 3:02:20 Age 40-44 sub 3:45:45
Age 45-49 sub 3:07:20 Age 45-49 sub 3:48:45
Age 50-54 sub 3:12:20 Age 50-54 sub 3:55:45
Age 55-59 sub 3:17:20 Age 55-59 sub 4:00:45
Age 60-64 sub 3:42:20 Age 60-64 sub 4:25:45
Age 65-69 sub 3:57:20 Age 65-69 sub 4:55:45
Age 70-74 sub 4:57:20 Age 70-74 sub 5:55:45
Age 75-79 sub 5:12:20 Age 75-79 sub 6:15:45
80+ sub 5:27:20 80+ sub 6:35:45

Sports Travel International are proud to be an official travel partner of the Virgin Money London Marathon. We have guaranteed entry and accommodation packages for anyone who wishes to take the stress out of their London Marathon experience. If, however, you decide to leave running the UK to another year, but still want an unforgettable race experience, we are delighted to announce that we have greatly increased our offering of adventure marathons for 2021, and, in the Month of May, can offer you both the Great Wall Marathon and the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon, to wet your appetite for adventure!

BMW Berlin Marathon – 26th September 2021

The Berlin Marathon has been held annually, usually on the last weekend of September, since 1974. It starts and finishes close to the famous Brandenburg Gate. Before the unification of East and West Germany in 1990, runners were restricted as to where they could actually run. But once the country was finally reunited, runners could at last run through both halves of the formerly divided city.

2018 saw a truly historic moment when Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the world record, completing the course in a dazzling 2:01:39. Sub two hours cannot be far off.The course is flat, traffic-free and fast. The world record has been broken four times in Berlin in the past six years, making it the perfect marathon to run your PB. The finish line closes after 6 hours 15 minutes.The Breakfast Run (6K) on Saturday morning is also one of the best anywhere. The run finishes in the historic 96,000-seater Olympic Stadium, scene of the 1936 Olympics and where the World Cup Final took place in 2006.

We offer guaranteed entry and three nights in a top central hotel, from which you can explore Berlin’s many attractions.Sadly, due to the global COVID – 19 outbreak, the 2020 edition of the Berlin Marathon had to be cancelled. Due to the number of entry rollovers that this has created, we expect competition for entries to the 2021 race to be high. Sports Travel International will however still have a limited number of entries and accommodation packages available, so you can still secure your Berlin Dream.

Entry availability:

As Berlin has gained such  reputation for speed and is the World Marathon record course, it has seen unprecedented increase in popularity over recent years. This is a sell out Marathon and you have to enter the ballot to have a chance of securing an entry. In excess of 100,000 people enter the ballot and entrants have only a 16% chance of success. Entering the ballot is free and the ballot opens mid October. Race entry costs €110, if you win a spot in the ballot and you will find out whether your entry was successful in November. If you don’t get in through the ballot, there will be charity entries available, but these usually have a minimum fundraising target.

Alternatively, Berlin offers qualification places to ‘fast runners’. The minimum qualifying times as follows:

Male Runners: Age 18 to 44: under 2:45 hours | Male Runners Age 45 to 59: under 2:55 hours| Male Runners Age 60 and up: under 3:25 hours.

Female Runners: Age 18 to 44: under 3:00 hours| Female Runners Age 45 to 59 : under 3:20 hours| Female Runners Age 60 and up : under 4:10 hours.


If you’d rather a less competitive and more lighthearted running experience; we also offer entries and packages for the always a sell out, Marathon du Medoc. The Medoc Marathon is a celebration of all things ‘the good life’ – food, wine, and of course running. All at the same time! Fancy dress is not only encouraged at this event, its compulsory – not an experience you’d be likely to forget in a hurry!

Chicago Marathon – 10 October 2021

Known as the second city (because it burnt down in 1871), Chicago is famous for its stunning architecture,  beautiful Lake Michigan – and for being home to the Blues.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of the best in the world and the city itself is full of life – one of America’s greatest. Up to 55,000 runners take part in the marathon, and there is huge crowd support around the course. Live bands add to the atmosphere.

The flat, loop course is also one of the fastest in the world! The average temperature at the start is a cool 7oC, rising to a pleasant 13oC at the finish.The start/finish is in lovely Grant Park in the city centre and the course passes through 29 of Chicago’s historic and ethnic neighbourhoods. The finish line closes after 6 hours 30 minutes. Minimum age of participants is 16 years. Successful ballot entries account for just over 50% of the field at the Chicago Marathon (53%) with another 36% being qualified runners. Guaranteed entries are available with travel packages through Sports Travel International. The limit for registered entrants is usually reached as early as 6 months before race day.

Entry availability:

Runners can gain an automatic ticket to the starting line by achieving specific qualifying times, set for their age and gender. The new time standards are a strategy for race organizers to give all participants an equal chance to qualify for guaranteed entry, regardless of age or gender. In the past, the time qualifier guaranteed-entry option only applied to men who ran 3:15 or faster and women who had a sub-3:45 race to their names, no matter what their age.

The following standards, achieved on an IAAF-certified course to Chicago for 2021:

Age Group Men’s Women’s
16-29 3:05 3:35
30-39 3:10 3:40
40-49 3:20 3:50
50-59 3:335 4:20
60-69 4:00 5:00
70-79 4:30 5:55
80+ 5:25 6:10

The ballot system is only open from the end of October until the end of November, and the results are announced in the second week of December. Entering the ballot entry is free. You can earn a guaranteed entry if you’ve run the race five times in the previous ten years. There are numerous charities that typically have fundraising minimums.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Chicago Marathon was sadly cancelled in 202o, however will return for 2021, and we expect demand to be higher and, due to the high number of rollover entries, there to be less ballot entries available than ever before! Guaranteed entries are available with travel packages through Sports Travel International.


If, however, you want to experience a Marathon closer to home; Sports Travel International can offer guaranteed entries and accommodation packages for the Amsterdam Marathon or we can give you the authentic and original marathon experience in Greece in Athens .


TCS New York City Marathon – 7th November 2021

New York City needs no introduction and neither does its marathon. It is the biggest annual footrace in the world (over 50,000 participants), and for many, the best marathon experience there is. The buzz is unbelievable.

The Marathon starts on Staten Island and runs through all 5 city boroughs (Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan). It finishes in iconic Central Park; beautiful in its autumnal glory.

Walkers as well as runners are welcome to participate as the Finish Line is open for at least 8 hours. As on all of our tours, we welcome non-running partners, family and friends – a great time is guaranteed! The TCS New York City Marathon is one of the world’s greatest participatory events and it is also a wonderful spectacle for supporters..The Abbott Dash to the Finish Line takes place the day before the main event – a 5K fun run from the United Nations, down 42nd St, through Times Square, to its conclusion at the Marathon Finish Line in Central Park. Fun!

Entry availability:

In previous years, runners had around a 16% – 18% chance of getting in through the ballot. However, more recently these chances have shrunk significantly. In 2019 for example there were close to 117,000 total lottery entrants, all trying to get their hands on one of just 10,500 places (around a 10% chance of success). The window for entering the ballot is usually from around January 30, 2021, until February 13, 2021. After the application process has closed, there is a 2-week waiting period before you find out if you have secured a place. On around February 26th, NYRR will announce which runners have gained entry this year. Runners not accepted into the event can still get entry via charities, or book to travel and race with Sports Travel International.

Qualification for the TCS New York City Marathon is gained by running fast enough to meet the time standards at the following NYRR races: Fred Lebow Half-Marathon, United Airlines NYC Half,  SHAPE Women’s Half-Marathon,  Popular® Brooklyn Half,  NYRR Staten Island Half, TCS New York City Marathon.

A limited number of time-qualifier spots are available to runners competing at a non-NYRR race. These spots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Verification will be completed prior to the 2021 entry drawing.

The 2020 New York City Marathon was set to be the 50th edition of the event, it was however cancelled, as a result of the COVID- 19 pandemic. 2021 will now see this landmark edition of the race. Due to the already high demand for this year’s race, and the number of deferrals and roll over entries, it is likely  this year that it will be more difficult than ever before to secure your place!

Men’s Standards:

Age* Marathon Half-marathon
18-34 2:53:00 1:21:00
35-39 2:55:00 1:23:00
40-44 2:58:00 1:25:00
45-49 3:05:00 1:28:00
50-54 3:14:00 1:32:00
55-59 3:23:00 1:36:00
60-64 3:34:00 1:41:00
65-69 3:45:00 1:46:00
70-74 4:10:00 1:57:00
75-79 4:30:00 2:07:00
80+ 4:55:00 2:15:00

Women’s Standards:

Age* Marathon Half-marathon
18-34 3:13:00 1:32:00
35-39 3:15:00 1:34:00
40-44 3:26:00 1:37:00
45-49 3:38:00 1:42:00
50-54 3:51:00 1:49:00
55-59 4:10:00 1:54:00
60-64 4:27:00 2:02:00
65-69 4:50:00 2:12:00
70-74 5:30:00 2:27:00
75-79 6:00:00 2:40:00
80+ 6:35:00 2:50:00
*Age on November 1, 2021, for the 2021 TCS New York City Marathon.

For an inclusive and unforgettable ace experience, you need look no further than Rundisney race experience.  Disneyland Paris Run Weekend offers a fun filled and magical running experience for the whole family!

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