The Nationwide Better Health Columbus Marathon, first run in 1980, features a flat, fast course which saw nearly 20 percent of finishers qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2010. That year, the Nationwide Better Health Columbus Marathon once again sold out at 15,000 athletes, the fourth sell-out in a row.
|Course records||Men: 2:11:02 (2010)
Women: 2:28:15 (2003)
The concept of the Columbus Marathon was the brainchild of former Mayors Tom Moody and Greg Lashutka as a way to put Columbus on the map and showcase the city at the same time. The inaugural race, on November 16, 1980, hosted 2,500 runners. Tommy Persson of Sweden set a course record of 2:11:02 that remains unbroken to this day.
The cloverleaf design of the course also makes it easy for spectators to see their athletes at several different points – all within a block walking distance. The course begins in downtown Columbus and takes athletes east through Bexley, Ohio, past the Governor’s Mansion and Capital University; back through the festive neighborhood of Old Town East; south through German Village; up High Street through downtown Columbus and the Short North Arts District; a jaunt through the Ohio State University and through Upper Arlington, through the tree-lined streets of Victorian Village and back to a huge crowd awaiting finishers outside Nationwide Arena in the Arena District.
- Male Marathon: Tommy Perrson of Sweden in 2:11:02 – 1980
- Female Marathon: Lyudmyla Pushkina of Ukraine, 2:28:15–2003
- Male ½ Marathon: Kiprotich Kirui of Santa Fe, NM in 1:03:30–2010
- Female ½ Marathon: Allison Grace of Columbus, OH in 1:14:20–2010
- Male Wheelchair: Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa in 1:26:47 – 2003
- Female Wheelchair: Jean Driscoll of Illinois in 1:51:08 – 1993
- Male Hand Cycle: Dane Pilon, Fayetteville, NC in 1:10:47–2010
- Female Hand Cycle: Dianna Johnson of Indiana in 2:26:22 – 2008
Columbus to Boston
Columbus remains one of the top marathons to qualify runners for the Boston Marathon. The Columbus Marathon has had an impact on Columbus and throughout Central Ohio More than 250,000 runners have come from 37 countries and all 50 states to participate in the Columbus Marathon. The Columbus Marathon is also one of the last qualifying marathons before registration opens for the Boston Marathon.
Columbus Marathon: Road to the Olympics
More than 50 Olympians have run in Columbus, including the 1980 men’s Silver Medalist, Gerard Nigboer, 1984 Women’s Gold Medalist, Joan Benoit, 1984 Men’s Fourth Place Finisher, Joseph Nzau and 1984 Women’s 6th Place Finisher, Priscilla Welch. In 1983, seven women qualified for the Women’s U.S. Olympic Trials event, six of them were from the state of Ohio. The top 10 males also qualified for their Olympic Trials events. Seven of them men ran in the 1984 Olympics for their respective countries. The following year, eight Olympians competed in the Columbus Marathon. In 1992, 109 of the country’s top runners came to Columbus. Only 3 would qualify for the team and their quest for a medal at the Summer Olympics: Steve Spence, Ed Eyestone, and Bob Kempainen.
Since then, more and more athletes have come to Columbus to qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials.
The Columbus Marathon has been designated by Runner’s World as one of the Top 20 marathons in the nation and by USA Today as one of the top 10 Fall marathons.
- Mike VanBuskirk (1980–1981)
- Bill Dejong (1982)
- Doug Thurston (1992–1994)
- Joan Riegel (1995–1999)
- Mike Collins (1983–1991; 2000–2005)
- Scott Weaver (2006–2009)
- Darris Blackford (2010 – Present)