By Kevin Strehlo

I’m giving clients currently training for Boston several ways to pick up the additional minutes they now need to get to their BQ. One of the primary considerations is choosing the right course and training to run it. Gravity’s boost on net downhill courses is one of the things people often look to.

A client I’m training to do well at Boston says the Ventura Marathon course helped him make his BQ last year. Ventura is now a net downhill course after years of being a flat course along the coast. But it’s not giving runners that big a boost with a drop of only 1000 feet and many short ascents.

Others tout the CIM near Sacramento, CA for similar reasons (see elevation profile below).

Runner’s World recently listed 10 races to consider, including CIM, and they back up some of their recommendations with the percentage of BQ times achieved at each race. In fact, another BQ percentage ranking I’ve seen doesn’t include CIM in the top 20. So maybe net downhill isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
It turns out BQ percentage ranking is actually a misleading statistic, because the race that produces the most BQs for Boston is … Boston, at 9248 in 2018. Boston is THE race for fast runners and thus has a very high BQ percentage.


Maybe the answer is white glove support and pacing. Last Chance BQ.2 Chicagoland Marathon, which RW says achieves a 51% success rate with a flat shaded loop course, white glove support and pacing assistance included in the entry fee, sells out every year because of that extraordinary success rate. Ah, but it turns out they get that rate because they cherry pick applicants and only accept runners already on the cusp of a BQ.


The outfit that seems to have the best formula for BQs, at least if you like downhills or train specifically for them, is Revel with its series of marathons run on long smooth mountain highway descents.  The average times people achieve on Revel courses are certainly impressive.

REVEL Mt. Hood

Good grief, look at the average finishing time for the LA Marathon compared to Revel Mt. Charleston: ONE HOUR FIFTEEN MINUTES slower.

REVEL Mt. Charleston

I talk to my clients about Revel and tell them not everyone is cut out for that kind of course.  When clients choose the downhill approach, I use video analysis, a change in the drop of their shoes, and lots of downhill training to help them make the necessary adjustments. Often Revel courses have a much steeper descent on one half or the other, which makes pacing particularly tricky. I offer to be an angel in their ear with one of my CoachingBuds, which allows me to talk to them while following their pace and urge them to adjust if they waver from the plan.

REVEL is not the only way to go. I routinely qualify for Boston by as much as 30 minutes running on limited talent but with the advantage of being hale and hearty despite being 64.

I’m upfront with any runner I take on to train to a BQ if it looks like they may not make it the first year. I do an initial analysis and tell them flat out if they don’t have a ghost of a chance of picking up the time they need in the time we’ve got. But I also offer to keep working with them at no additional fee until they do. Because all I really have to do is keep them healthy until they get to be my age and I’m sure they’ll make it. Particularly, if they run the workouts I give them at the paces I recommend and follow my weekly advice for staying healthy, I guarantee it.

Kevin Strehlo is a VDOT Certified Coach, Founder of and a competitive masters runner. He placed third in his age group at the Los Angeles Marathon and specializes in helping masters runners reach their marathon goals. To learn more about Kevin’s coaching bio and training products visit his profile on the VDOT Marketplace