Boston Marathon: America’s Most Grueling Race? (Photos)

The Daily Beast crunches the finishing times of 16 courses to find the ultimate running challenge.

The starting gun for the Boston Marathon goes off Monday, April 16, with a stampede of world-class runners not far behind. It’s one of five World Marathon Majors (the New York City and Chicago marathons are the other majors in the U.S.), the most important races each year in the running world.

But is the Boston Marathon also one of the toughest in America? Turns out, not quite.

To find America’s most grueling marathon, we started with marathons that had at least 5,000 finishers in its most recent race. These marathons attract the best runners from around the country—and the world.

Then we looked at the coldest, most telling statistic available as a proxy of a race’s toughness: finishing time. Specifically, we took into account overall average finishing time, best average finishing time for the men’s winner, and the best average finishing time for the women’s winner, over the most recent three-race period available—with data from Marathon Guide. Each category was weighted equally to determine our final ranking.

Mary Schwalm / AP Photo

16. Boston Marathon

Total finishers (2011): 23,879
Average finishing time (2009-2011)*: 3 hours, 50 minutes
Average best men’s finish (2009-2011): 2 hours, 6 minutes
Average best women’s finish (2009-2011): 2 hours, 27 minutes

2011 winner, men: Geoffrey Mutai; Kenya
2011 winner, women: Caroline Kilel; Kenya

*All ranges 2009-2011 unless otherwise noted.

Brett Coomer / AP Photo

15. Houston Marathon

Total finishers (2012): 7,637
Average finishing time (2010-2012): 4 hours, 30 minutes
Average best men’s finish (2010-2012): 2 hours, 7 minutes
Average best women’s finish (2010-2012): 2 hours, 24 minutes

2012 winner, men:
Tariku Jufar; Pennsylvania
2012 winner, women: Alemitu Abera; Pennsylvania

Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

14. Chicago Marathon

Total finishers: 35,670
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 37 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 6 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 21 minutes

2011 winner, men: Moses Mosop; Kenya
2011 winner, women: Liliya Shobukhova; Russia

Timothy A. Clary, AFP / Getty Images

13. New York City Marathon

Total finishers: 46,536
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 27 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 27 minutes

2011 winner, men: Geoffrey Mutai; Kenya
2011 winner, women: Firehiwot Dado; Ethiopia

Anthony Ramos / Flickr

12. California International Marathon

Sacramento, California

Total finishers: 5,755
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 13 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 13 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 33 minutes

2011 winner, men: Erick Monyenye; Texas
2011 winner, women: Serkalem Abrha: Ethiopia

Andy King / AP Photo

11. Twin Cities Marathon

Total finishers: 8,531
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 17 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 13 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 29 minutes

2011 winner, men: Sammy Malakwen; Minnesota
2011 winner, women: Yeshimebet Bifa; Maryland

Denis Poroy / AP Photo

10. Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

San Diego, California

Total finishers: 8,267
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 54 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 11 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 26 minutes

2011 winner, men: Terfa Negari; Kenya
2011 winner, women: Buzunesh Deba; Ethiopia

Steve Grayson / Getty Images

9. Los Angeles Marathon

Total finishers (2012): 18,729
Average finishing time (2010-2012): 5 hours, 18 minutes
Average best men’s finish (2010-2012): 2 hours, 9 minutes
Average best women’s finish (2010-2012): 2 hours, 26 minutes

2012 winner, men: Simon Njoroge; Kenya
2012 winner, women: Fatuma Sado; Ethiopia

Joseph Kaczmarek / AP Photo

8. Philadelphia Marathon

Total finishers: 10,313
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 15 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 19 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 40 minutes

2011 winner, men: Folisho Tuko; New York
2011 winner, women: Mariska Kramer; Netherlands

Kathy Strauss, Duluth News-Tribune / AP Photo

7. Grandma’s Marathon

Duluth, Minnesota

Total finishers: 6,333
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 27 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 33 minutes

2011 winner, men: Christopher Kipyeg; Texas
2011 winner, women: Yihunlish Bekele Delelecha; Washington, DC

Ken Lund / Flickr

6. St. George Marathon

St. George, Utah

Total finishers: 5,700
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 22 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 23 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 46 minutes

2011 winner, men: Jonathan Kotter; Utah
2011 winner, women: Rosanna Lee; Utah

Hugh Gentry / Reuters

5. Honolulu Marathon

Total finishers: 19,078
Average finishing time: 5 hours, 57 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 31 minutes

2011 winner, men: Nicholas Chelimo; Kenya
2011 winner, women: Woynishet Girma; Ethiopia

Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

4. Marine Corps Marathon

Washington, DC

Total finishers: 20,895
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 43 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 22 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 45 minutes

2011 winner, men: Charles Ware; Illinois
2011 winner, women: Tezata Dengersa; Maryland

Ben Margot / AP Photo

3. San Francisco Marathon

Total finishers: 5,999
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 31 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 26 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 49 minutes

2011 winner, men: Michael Wardian; Virginia
2011 winner, women: Emily Field; California

Matt Stroshane / Disney via Getty Images

2. Disney World Marathon

Orlando, Florida

Total finishers (2012): 13,512
Average finishing time (2010-2012): 5 hours, 7 minutes
Average best men’s finish (2010-2012): 2 hours, 21 minutes
Average best women’s finish (2010-2012): 2 hours, 45 minutes

2012 winner, men: Fredison Costa; Brazil
2012 winner, women: Renee High; Virginia

Montag2k / Flickr

1. Portland Marathon

Total finishers: 8,461
Average finishing time: 4 hours, 45 minutes
Average best men’s finish: 2 hours, 27 minutes
Average best women’s finish: 2 hours, 51 minutes

2011 winner, men:
Ian Nurse; Oregon
2011 winner, women: Marci Klimek; Oregon