Best Marathons In The Us

Introduction: The Allure of Long-Distance Running Events

Marathons have gained immense popularity in the US, attracting runners of all levels to test their endurance, determination, and mental strength. These long-distance running events offer participants a unique opportunity to challenge themselves, explore new cities, and connect with fellow runners. As you embark on your journey to discover the best marathons in the US, consider the myriad of experiences that await you, from breathtaking scenery and historic courses to unparalleled crowd support and camaraderie.

What Makes a Marathon Great: Key Factors to Consider

When evaluating the best marathons in the US, it is crucial to consider several essential factors that contribute to a memorable and rewarding running experience. These aspects include the course scenery, difficulty, organization, participant support, and community engagement. By examining these elements, you can make an informed decision about which marathon events align with your personal goals, running experience, and preferred race atmosphere.

Course Scenery

Aesthetically pleasing courses that showcase the natural beauty and landmarks of a city or region can significantly enhance a runner’s experience. Scenic routes often provide additional motivation and inspiration, making the marathon journey even more enjoyable.


The challenge level of a marathon is another critical factor to consider. Some runners may prefer flat and fast courses, while others may seek out hilly or rugged terrain to test their endurance and strength. Understanding your running abilities and limitations will help you select a marathon that matches your skill set and ambitions.


A well-organized marathon ensures a smooth and efficient event for all participants. Key aspects of organization include clear communication, accurate course markings, sufficient aid stations, and reliable timing systems. Events that demonstrate strong attention to detail and logistical planning tend to create a more enjoyable experience for runners.

Participant Support

Supportive race staff, volunteers, and fellow runners can significantly impact your marathon experience. Encouraging words, high-energy aid stations, and helpful volunteers can provide the extra boost needed to push through challenging moments during the race. Additionally, a strong sense of camaraderie among participants can foster a positive and inclusive atmosphere.

Community Engagement

Marathons that actively engage the local community often create a more festive and memorable event. Look for races that offer cultural experiences, unique attractions, and opportunities to interact with residents. High levels of community engagement can lead to increased crowd support, lively spectators, and a more celebratory atmosphere.

Unveiling the Best Marathons in the US: Our Top Picks

To provide a well-rounded selection of the best marathons in the US, we have carefully evaluated various factors and runner experiences. Here are our top picks:

1. The Big Sur International Marathon (California)

Known for its breathtaking scenery, the Big Sur International Marathon features a challenging course with steep hills and stunning ocean views. Participants enjoy a unique experience, running alongside artists, musicians, and fellow enthusiasts in a celebration of health, fitness, and natural beauty.

2. The Honolulu Marathon (Hawaii)

As one of the largest marathons in the US, the Honolulu Marathon attracts thousands of participants from around the world. Runners can enjoy a relatively flat course, tropical weather, and a festive atmosphere, complete with live music and enthusiastic spectators.

3. The Twin Cities Marathon (Minnesota)

The Twin Cities Marathon offers a scenic tour of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, taking runners through parks, neighborhoods, and iconic landmarks. With a net elevation loss, this event is popular among runners seeking a personal best time, while still enjoying a festive and engaging race atmosphere.

4. The Flying Pig Marathon (Ohio)

As a runner-focused event, the Flying Pig Marathon provides participants with a memorable experience, complete with a festive and inclusive atmosphere. The course features a variety of terrain, including hills, flats, and urban and suburban landscapes, making it an appealing choice for runners of all levels.

5. The Missoula Marathon (Montana)

Recognized as a top marathon by Runner’s World magazine, the Missoula Marathon boasts a scenic and challenging course, with a net elevation loss of over 1,000 feet. Runners can enjoy the beautiful Montana landscapes, friendly volunteers, and a lively post-race celebration.

The Boston Marathon: A Timeless Classic

As one of the world’s most prestigious and renowned running events, the Boston Marathon holds a special place in the hearts of runners. Established in 1897, it is the oldest annual marathon in the world and serves as a qualifying event for serious runners striving to achieve personal bests and join the ranks of the sport’s elite.

To participate in the Boston Marathon, runners must meet specific qualifying times based on their age and gender. This unique aspect sets the Boston Marathon apart from other marathons, as it serves as a tangible measure of a runner’s dedication, skill, and perseverance. The qualification process adds an extra layer of prestige and excitement to the event, making it a highly sought-after achievement for runners across the globe.

The Boston Marathon’s historic course spans 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, taking runners through eight unique towns and cities. Along the way, participants are treated to enthusiastic spectators, live music, and a festive atmosphere. The race’s final stretch, known as “Heartbreak Hill,” is a challenging uphill section that tests even the most seasoned runners. Crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon is a moment of immense pride and accomplishment, marking a significant milestone in any runner’s journey.

The New York City Marathon: A Spectacular Urban Experience

The New York City Marathon is an iconic running event that attracts more than 50,000 participants from around the world each year. As the largest marathon in the US and one of the most popular in the world, this race offers runners a unique and unforgettable urban experience.

The marathon’s course spans all five boroughs of New York City, taking runners through historic neighborhoods, across iconic bridges, and past famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. The diverse scenery and lively atmosphere create a one-of-a-kind backdrop for runners, making the New York City Marathon a must-run event for many participants.

One of the most appealing aspects of the New York City Marathon is its massive participation, which fosters a sense of camaraderie and unity among runners. The event brings together individuals from various backgrounds, ages, and abilities, creating a diverse and inclusive community that celebrates personal achievement and collective effort. Additionally, the marathon’s unparalleled crowd support and energy provide an extra boost for runners, propelling them toward the finish line.

The Chicago Marathon: A Flat and Fast Midwest Challenge

The Chicago Marathon is a premier running event that attracts thousands of participants each year, offering a flat and fast course that appeals to both amateur and professional runners. With its ideal running conditions and enthusiastic spectators, the Chicago Marathon is a must-run event for those seeking a personal best time or an unforgettable race experience.

One of the primary reasons runners flock to the Chicago Marathon is its flat and fast course, which spans 26.2 miles through the heart of the city. The route takes participants through 29 diverse neighborhoods, showcasing the city’s rich history, culture, and architecture. Runners can enjoy scenic views of the Chicago skyline, Lake Michigan, and iconic landmarks such as the Art Institute of Chicago and Grant Park.

In addition to its fast course, the Chicago Marathon boasts ideal running conditions, with temperatures typically averaging between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit on race day. This moderate climate, combined with the course’s minimal elevation changes, makes the Chicago Marathon an attractive option for runners looking to achieve a personal best time or qualify for other prestigious marathons, such as the Boston Marathon.

Beyond its course and running conditions, the Chicago Marathon is also known for its enthusiastic spectators, who line the streets to cheer on participants. The event’s festive atmosphere, complete with live music and entertainment, creates an unforgettable experience for runners, making the Chicago Marathon one of the best marathons in the US.

The Marine Corps Marathon: A Patriotic Run Through the Nation’s Capital

The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is a unique and inspiring running event that takes participants on a patriotic journey through the nation’s capital. As one of the largest marathons in the US, the MCM offers a historic course, strong military ties, and a sense of community pride, making it a must-run event for many participants.

Established in 1976, the Marine Corps Marathon has built a reputation as a world-class event that showcases the spirit, dedication, and camaraderie of both military personnel and civilians. The marathon’s course, which spans 26.2 miles, takes runners through Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Virginia, past iconic landmarks such as the US Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Arlington National Cemetery.

One of the most distinctive aspects of the Marine Corps Marathon is its strong military connection. As the largest marathon in the world that does not offer prize money, the MCM focuses on fostering a sense of camaraderie, teamwork, and personal achievement among participants. The event is organized and staffed by members of the United States Marine Corps, who serve as volunteers, race officials, and motivators throughout the course.

The Marine Corps Marathon’s historic course and military ties are complemented by its commitment to environmental sustainability and runner-focused amenities. The MCM has been recognized as a certified green event by the Council for Responsible Sport, and it offers a variety of resources and support for participants, including training programs, gear check, and post-race refreshments.

In summary, the Marine Corps Marathon is a one-of-a-kind running event that combines history, patriotism, and community pride in a picturesque and challenging course. For runners seeking a unique and memorable marathon experience, the MCM is an excellent choice and one of the best marathons in the US.

The Portland Marathon: A Hidden Gem in the Pacific Northwest

The Portland Marathon, held annually in Oregon’s largest city, offers runners a unique and memorable experience that combines picturesque scenery, eco-friendly initiatives, and runner-focused amenities. As a well-regarded event among the best marathons in the US, the Portland Marathon is an excellent choice for runners of all levels looking for a top-notch marathon experience.

One of the standout features of the Portland Marathon is its scenic course, which takes runners through the city’s most iconic neighborhoods and landmarks. Participants will enjoy views of the Willamette River, the historic St. Johns Bridge, and the lush greenery of Forest Park. The course’s combination of urban and natural landscapes, along with its gentle rolling hills, offers a visually appealing and moderately challenging experience for runners.

In addition to its scenic course, the Portland Marathon is committed to eco-friendly practices and sustainability. The event has been certified as a Climate Smart Event by the Council for Responsible Sport, and it offers compostable cups at aid stations, recycling and composting bins throughout the course, and a carbon offset program for participants. These initiatives demonstrate the Portland Marathon’s dedication to reducing its environmental impact and promoting sustainable practices within the running community.

The Portland Marathon also prioritizes runner comfort and convenience, providing a variety of amenities and support services throughout the event. Participants can enjoy access to gear check, massage stations, and a finish line festival with food, drinks, and live music. The marathon’s smaller size, compared to other major events, allows for a more personalized and intimate experience, with ample opportunities for runners to connect with fellow participants and the local community.

In conclusion, the Portland Marathon is a hidden gem among the best marathons in the US, offering a perfect blend of scenic beauty, eco-friendly initiatives, and runner-focused amenities. For those seeking a memorable and rewarding marathon experience, the Portland Marathon is an excellent choice.

How to Choose the Perfect Marathon: Tips for Runners

Selecting the ideal marathon can be a challenging task, given the wide variety of events available across the US. By considering your personal goals, running experience, and preferred race atmosphere, you can find the perfect marathon that suits your needs and provides a memorable experience. Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision when choosing from the best marathons in the US.

1. Evaluate Your Running Experience and Fitness Level

Assess your running experience and current fitness level to determine which marathon is best for you. If you are new to marathon running, consider selecting an event with a relatively flat course and mild weather conditions. More experienced runners may opt for challenging courses with significant elevation changes or extreme temperatures to test their limits.

2. Consider the Course Scenery and Difficulty

The course scenery and difficulty are essential factors when choosing a marathon. If you prefer scenic routes, consider events that offer picturesque views of cities, parks, or landmarks. For those who enjoy a challenge, look for marathons with hilly or mountainous terrain. Remember to review the course elevation profile and consider how it may impact your performance and overall experience.

3. Research the Event’s Organization and Participant Support

A well-organized marathon with ample participant support can significantly enhance your race experience. Look for events with clear communication, accurate course markings, and sufficient aid stations. Additionally, consider the availability of medical support, gear check, and other amenities that may contribute to your comfort and convenience during the event.

4. Assess the Race Atmosphere and Community Engagement

The race atmosphere and community engagement play a crucial role in shaping your marathon experience. Research events that align with your preferred race atmosphere, whether it be a large-scale event with massive crowd support or a smaller, more intimate gathering. Consider marathons that involve the local community, as these events often provide unique cultural experiences and opportunities to connect with fellow runners and residents.

5. Plan According to Your Personal Goals

Your personal goals should guide your marathon selection. If you are aiming for a personal best time, consider events with fast and flat courses, ideal running conditions, and minimal distractions. If you are more interested in the overall experience, look for marathons that offer unique themes, historic courses, or eco-friendly initiatives.

By considering these factors and exploring various marathon events, you can find the perfect fit and create a memorable running experience. Remember, the best marathons in the US cater to a wide range of preferences and abilities, ensuring that there is an event for every runner to enjoy.