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Cheat Sheet for Marathon Competitions at Topcoder

By guestblogger In Community Stories

Posted April 11th, 2017

Marathon Matches have been around for over a decade. On one hand, this means that they are a well-known competition format, and there is plenty of information about them. On the other hand, this information might be hard to find for a newcomer, so approaching them might seem like a daunting task. I’ve put together some links useful for starting with Marathons.

Introducing Marathon Matches has always been a popular topic; here are a few introductions:

  • Official intro gives a very high-level overview.
  • Historic intro was written about ten years ago and is a great place to get a feel for the format. However, keep in mind that some of the facts mentioned might be no longer valid.
  • Modern intro by fellow blogger gorbunov is a yet another view at the format.

The main page for Marathons gives you several useful links. The most useful, of course, is the list of active matches. You can track upcoming events at Events Calendar.

You can view the list of past challengesto get familiar with the kinds of problems usually offered. Then you can practice solving some of the past fun Marathons to prepare for your first participation.

If you need some hints about how to approach the problems, there are lots of tutorials available:

  • Marathon tutorials offer (another) high-level intro to the format.
  • Marathon editorials cover several first matches in great detail.
  • Topcoder Cookbook has a lot of useful Marathon recipes across several forums: 1, 2, 3.
  • If a specific problem has piqued your curiosity, look for related forum in Marathon forums: typically each forum will have a “Post Your Approach” thread in which several participants will explain their solutions – both general approaches and more specific optimizations.

I hope this will make the upcoming Marathon Round 1 (starting on April 12) more approachable. See you on the leaderboard?


Mariia “Nickolas” Mykhailova is a software engineer in Microsoft Research. In her scarce spare time she plays board games and laser tag, goes for hikes and invents puzzles, travels and, of course, writes problems for programming competitions.