What counts as an official marathon?

race bibsHere’s a good question about when a distance officially goes into the marathon (or half marathon) count. This was featured in the quick tip on MTA Podcast episode #281.

For the sake of clarity most people only count officially organized races as part of their marathon numbers. In the course of marathon training most people will run the half marathon distance many times so those 13.1 mile (21.1km) runs go in the category of training runs.

What counts as an official marathon?

I have run three marathons so far (Rotterdam Netherlands, Hamburg Germany 2x) and was wondering: when does a marathon count officially? I was thinking of running a more scenic marathon without a time chip this year in order to enjoy the run more rather than race for time. Can I count this as marathon number four? What about if I literally ran a marathon by myself, can I claim that in the community as number 4? Last weekend we had beautiful weather here in Berlin and I went for a long run which turned out to be a half-marathon in the end. Would Trevor count that as one of his 20+ half-marathons or only if it’s officially timed and measured? Trevor: keep up the jokes! -John

I belong to the Marathon Maniacs running club and their criteria (and that of most running clubs) is for a race to count it needs to have some official organization and have at least ten finishers. Elites runners use the officially organized race calculation too because many go beyond the marathon distance in their training but only count official races toward their total. In the case of the question from John it sounds like the more laid back (chip-free) event would be counted toward his marathon total as long as it’s timed in some fashion and measured.

According to Marathon Maniacs Club:

What counts as a Race:

  • Fixed Distance Races that are 26.2 miles or longer.
  • Fixed Duration Races (AKA set time races / timed races).
  • Races must be open to the public. Club-only or private group races DO NOT count.
  • Races must be advertised via web site at least one month prior to the event.
  • You must complete the distance for which you registered.
  • Minimum of 15 starters and 10 finishers (AKA 15/10). Events that appear to be fixing, stacking, or manipulating the rule by having starters drop to a different distance, too many DNFs in the results, or race directors name in the results, can and will be deemed an unacceptable race.
  • An official Race Director (AKA the RD)- which can’t be you.
  • Official results posted on the race website or timing company website (Athlinks, Racewire, etc).

What Does Not Count:

  • If you have been disqualified for any reason, it DOES NOT COUNT.
  • If you finish after the official cut off time and are not in the official results, it DOES NOT COUNT.
  • If you were swept or removed from the course for any reason, it DOES NOT COUNT.
    If you are signed up for a 50K, 100K, 50 miler, 100 miler, etc and stop at the 26.2 mark, it DOES NOT COUNT.
  • Banditing a race DOES NOT COUNT.
  • Pacing a friend, if you are not a registered runner, DOES NOT COUNT.
  • If 15 runners start, but only 9 finish, it DOES NOT COUNT.
  • A Virtual Race DOES NOT COUNT. (10)


Each individual runner may come up with their own standard for what they count toward their race total but they should be aware that only official races will be recognized by most running clubs and governing organizations.

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