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Why the Manitoba Marathon may be Canada’s most underrated Boston qualifier

Qualify for Boston, or run your fastest 42K to date, at the 2017 Manitoba Marathon in Winnipeg, one of the flattest courses in the country.

Manitoba Marathon
Manitoba Marathon
Start of the 2016 Manitoba Marathon. Photo: Brian Hydesmith.

So you’re looking for a fast and enjoyable marathon experience this year.

There are few better flatter (and faster) options than the Manitoba Marathon in Winnipeg. The June 18 race is one of the lesser-talked about big-city marathons in Canada but that doesn’t mean it can’t be your shot at qualifying for the Boston Marathon, the world’s most famous road race.

Here are seven reasons why the Manitoba Marathon may be the race for you this June.

You’ll feel like a rock star when you finish

For the first time in event history, the Manitoba Marathon will finish inside Investors Group Field, home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It’s the first major move made by the marathon in 30 years. Plus, the rush you will get coming through to the finish inside the new stadium may boost you to the finish and shave valuable seconds off what you hope to be a Boston qualifying mark.

“Marathoners tend to remember the end of a race the most, and the idea of finishing in the stadium is really exciting,” says local Bradley Keefe, who has run the race six consecutive years, winning in 2016.


World-class concerts, the NHL Heritage Classic, the CFL Grey Cup, the FIFA Women’s World Cup and many other events have been held inside Investors Group Field. You may even make it onto the jumbotron in the 33,500-person stadium.

Manitoba Marathon
The spectacular finishing area of the Manitoba Marathon, also home to the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Photo: provided.

The marathon bodes well for winter procrastinators

Did you have any hiccups in marathon training this past winter or early this spring? Well, the Manitoba Marathon is in mid-June which, when compared to other Canadian big-city marathons like Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton or Toronto, could mean a few weeks of extra training in the buildup.

We’re less than 10 weeks out from the 2017 Manitoba Marathon so there’s still time to make the leap of registering too.

Reasonable prices

Until June 14, registration to the Manitoba Marathon is $100. That’s a small investment to get the chance to qualify for Boston at what has become a Father’s Day classic in the province’s capital.

No elevation map needed

The Manitoba Marathon is flat. So flat that you won’t even need to see the course profile. The maximum elevation change is just three metres, staying true to the profile of the Canadian Prairies. There are no uphills to physically and mentally conquer and no downhills that destroy your quadriceps.

Manitoba Marathon
Bradley Keefe on course before winning the 2016 Manitoba Marathon. Photo: Wayne Hewitt.

“The Manitoba Marathon is the place for you if you don’t like hills,” says Keefe. “Overall, it’s a great way to see the city if you’ve never experienced it.”

The pre-race amenities

Marathon participants have their own designated toilets at the start line of the race. That means less time waiting in line, more time warming up, and a reduced chance of having to delay going to the washroom and instead stopping somewhere on course. 

A reverse loop

This year’s race will be the second consecutive year in which the Manitoba Marathon is run in the reverse direction when compared to the first 37 years of the race. Organizers say that the change adds much-appreciated shade during certain portions of the course. More protection from the sun mid-marathon means a better chance for you to run fast. There are also no 180-degree turns on course allowing runners to maintain their rhythm throughout. Plus, the course is closed to all traffic instead of runners having to share the streets with vehicles.

“Manitoba is the race that people get excited for,” Keefe adds. “It’s like the running equivalent of Hockey Day in Canada. No other road race [in the province] has more people cheering on course than the Manitoba Marathon.”


As Boston Marathon qualifying times range depending on sex and age, it’s important for races to have enough pacers to cover the more than two-hour differential between the men’s 18-34 qualifying time (3:05) and the women’s 80-and-over division (5:25).

Manitoba Marathon
You’ll be well on your way to a sub-4:00 marathon with the help of the Manitoba Marathon pace bunnies. Photo: Wayne Hewitt.

Fortunately, the Manitoba Marathon has a fleet of runners who will aim to run even splits, an effective way of hitting your target time, with eight pacers running times between three and four hours. An additional five pacers will run between four and five hours to help you reach your time goal.