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26 Best Marathons In The US To Add To Your Bucket List (2024)

Finding the best marathons in the US is the way to ensure a memorable race. Whether it’ll be your first or tenth marathon, a great race is a great motivator through training.

When I started running marathons in 2014, I chose my goal race based on location and supporting my favorite charity. In the following years, I turned to other runners for recommendations of favorite marathons they had run.

This list is a collection of their recommendations and my experience running several of these races. So, let’s get to the top 26 marathons in the US!

What are the Best Marathons In The US in 2024?

With more than 1,000 marathons hosted annually in the US, there are plenty of races to consider adding to your bucket list.

The following list spans 17 states. Amongst these 26 popular US marathons, you’ll find races occurring in 9 different months.

Course maps and elevation maps are included with most races to help you decide what race is best for you.

1. Big Sur International Marathon 

Dates: April 28, 2024 Location: Big Sur, California

The Big Sur International Marathon rates exceptionally well for its scenery.

This is a one-of-a-kind race with coastal views from Highway 1, including mountains, redwood trees, and the Pacific Ocean on a point-to-point course.

Constant rolling hills boast a massive total elevation gain of more than 2,100 feet! Including hills during your training cycle is a necessity for this race.

2. Missoula Marathon

Dates: June 30, 2024 Location: Missoula, MT

Spectator turnout is massive for the Missoula Marathon. Whether in the residential neighborhoods or the countryside, you’ll find plenty of spectators in their driveways, lining the streets, and playing music to show support.

The Missoula Marathon is known to be flat.

Run Wild Missoula, a local non-profit organization, came together in 2007 to create the Missoula Marathon. More than a decade later, runners from every corner of the US applaud their dedication to maintaining one of the best marathons in the US.

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3. Eau Claire Marathon

Dates: April 28, 2024 Location: Eau Claire, WI

This race is called the “biggest small-town race in the US” and sees anywhere from 700 to 800 participants while providing the benefits more frequently found at bigger races.

In addition to the marathon, there’s a half marathon, a four-person relay, 5k, 10k, and a kid’s race. Between all events during the weekend, you can expect nearly 5,000 participants.

Even during the cold and rainy 2022 race, runners say the spectators were out full force, bringing the energy to help them cross the finish line.

Expect hills on the front and negative splits on the back. Set your sights on the Eau Claire Marathon as your next PR or Boston qualifying race.

4. Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

Dates: May 5, 2024 Location: Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati was known as “Porkopolis” in the 1800s thanks to the many stockyards and the meat packing industry. They would run pigs in the same streets where you’ll run this race—quite a remarkable history for a marathon

The Flying Pig course runs across the Ohio River and continues in Kentucky for a bit.

Enjoy refueling with bacon at the bacon aid station on the course. Upon crossing the finish line, you’ll be donned with a unique flying pig medal.

One of the most discussed drawbacks of this race is expensive parking. Grab a hotel room in downtown Cincinnati to avoid the rates.

5. Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Dates: October 13, 2024 Location: Chicago, IL

I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2016 and 2017. It remains one of my favorite marathons thanks to the incredible spectator turnout and the course that careens through the beautiful Windy City.

The Chicago Marathon is also an incredibly flat course.

Chicago is one of three Abbott World Marathon Majors that occur in the US. You enter a lottery for a chance to run it. You also have the option to run for charity to guarantee your spot. This marathon ranks as an essential race worldwide.

6. TCS New York City Marathon

Dates: November 3, 2024 Location: Staten Island, NY

The New York City Marathon is known as the most popular marathon in the world. It’s also one of the three World Majors in the US.

This is a very crowded race, with 50,000 runners running through each of New York City’s five boroughs. Spectators and their signs will bring the energy you need.

Like Chicago, the New York City Marathon entry is by lottery. You also have the option to run for charity to guarantee your spot.

Runners mention that the bridges often bring some challenging climbs with them. Overall, the course is relatively flat for most stretches.

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7. Boston Marathon

Dates: April 15, 2024 Location: Hopkinton, MA

The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon. It’s not just one of a kind – it’s the one. This marathon is the holy grail of all marathons worldwide beginning in 1897.

It’s also highly selective, selecting the fastest marathon runners.

You first need to run a certified Boston qualifying marathon. At that race, you need to run a specific time to apply to run Boston. The Boston Athletic Association then pares down the number of qualifying registrants to suit the maximum permitted runners.

Boston is a point-to-point race with a unique start line. The race begins in the quaint town of Hopkinton, MA.

8. Fargo Marathon

Dates: June 1, 2024 Location: Fargo, ND

The start and finish lines are located inside the FargoDome. When you cross the finish line, you’ll see yourself on the jumbotron, and spectators throughout the stadium will cheer on your accomplishment.

The Fargo Marathon course crosses state borders. A portion of the course runs through Moorhead, Minnesota.

If you love the feel of a small, hometown race, you should run the Fargo Marathon. It’s an affordable race option that has the benefits of a larger race.

50+ bands and DJs lining the course will motivate you to finish strong.

9. Hatfield McCoy Marathon

Dates: June 8, 2024 Location: South Williamson, KY

The Hatfield McCoy Marathon is a state border crossing race like the Flying Pig and Fargo marathons. The start line is in South Williamson, Kentucky, and the finish line is in Williamson, West Virginia.

Race Weekend brings about 1,000 runners to the small town between the marathon, half marathon, and 5k events.

When deciding whether you’re a Hatfield or a McCoy… the participants are assigned to one of the two families upon registering. Once the race is completed, the finish times are averaged among the families, and the fastest family takes the bragging rights.

10. The Cowtown Marathon

Dates: February 25, 2024 Location: Fort Worth, TX

Known simply as “The Cowtown,” this Texas marathon takes runners through Fort Worth’s historic stockyard district, the TCU campus, city parks, and down Magnolia Avenue.

This course is full of rolling hills, with a large hill at mile 9.

The Cowtown Marathon is a race that gives back to the North Texas community. All proceeds from the race go towards helping local children learn proper running techniques and guiding them to live an active, healthy lifestyle.

The program also helps provide running shoe fittings for children in low-income homes and discounted entry to The Cowtown kids’ race.

11. California International Marathon

Dates: December 8, 2024 Location: Folsom, CA

Beginning in Folsom, CA, the course is a net downhill, takes runners through rural countryside and towns, and finishes at the State Capitol in Sacramento.

This course still has its fair share of gently rolling hills near the start, but overall, it’s a fast course and an excellent option for attempting a PR or BQ.

While the scenery is not much to write home about, runners applaud the overall organization of this race. A race with a motto of “a marathon organized by runners, for runners” means you can count on a near-perfect race experience.

12. Allianz Partners Richmond Marathon

Dates: November 16, 2024 Location: Richmond, VA

Nicknamed “America’s Friendliest Marathon,” this race is an excellent choice for new and veteran marathoners. One massive perk – a downhill finish!

Runners appreciate the numerous aid stations and the “junk food” stops along the course. If you’re a runner who tends to cramp up, the Richmond Marathon provides pickle juice to combat those cramps.

Due to the extraordinary community support and volunteer turnout, the Richmond Marathon is an excellent option if you’re looking to run your first marathon. Many first-time marathoners finish this race and recommend it to any and everyone!

13. Napa Valley Marathon

Dates: March 3, 2024 Location: Calistoga, CA

Are you a fan of Wine Country? If so, put this next marathon on your bucket list!

The Napa Valley Marathon is a vineyard-lined course with around 1,500 marathon runners. This marathon was listed on Forbes’s “Top 10 Marathons Worth Traveling For” list in 2014.

The Napa Valley Marathon tends to be a very quiet race with few areas for spectators. This point-to-point marathon is mostly downhill with a few early rolling hills.

In addition to viewing the late winter vineyards, marathoners also pass by various wineries. Due to the typical cooler temperature during this race, runners will enjoy soup and bread at the finish line.

14. BMW Dallas Marathon Festival

Dates: December 15, 2024 Location: Dallas, TX

Looking for a winter marathon that gets high praise from runners around the US? The BMW Dallas Marathon is Texas’ longest-running marathon.

The marathon course is designed to take you through many notable city landmarks and beautiful neighborhoods. The race begins and ends at Dallas City Hall Plaza, and the start line brings incredible pageantry with fireworks and music.

Runners in previous years have mentioned community support as one of the best parts of the BMW Dallas Marathon.

15. IMT Des Moines Marathon

Dates: October 20, 2024 Location: Des Moines, IA

Numerous runners point out the bike support as a unique element at the Des Moines Marathon.

In addition to on-course aid stations and volunteers, further aid is provided by volunteers riding on bicycles handing runners tissues, candy, hydration, music, and more.

About 1,000 runners complete the Des Moines Marathon each year, running through neighborhoods and parks, around the lake, and a university track.

16. Little Rock Marathon

Dates: March 3, 2024 Location: Little Rock, AR

Into heavy medals? The Little Rock Marathon has some of the largest finishers’ medals ever seen.

This is one of the few highly inclusive marathons. If you’re a “back of the pack” runner, organizers want you to enjoy the race as much as any runner. You can even submit a request for an early start.

The marathon course has a 6-hour limit, but with the early start option, “Arkansas’ Race For Every Pace” is an extraordinary event. This makes it an especially great marathon for those who prefer the run-walk method.

17. Baystate Marathon

Dates: October 20, 2024 Location: Lowell, MA

The Baystate Marathon is one of the top marathons for BQ attempts. Every year, Baystate sends more finishers to Boston than any other race in the US!

New England can’t be beaten in the fall, so the opportunity to run the Baystate Marathon and earn a BQ makes this one of the best marathons in the US.

The double-loop course is almost entirely flat.

Although the scenery tends not to be a highlight for many runners, most agree that you’ve got a great chance of earning a PR here. If you bring your supporters, they’ll also have the opportunity to see you on the course several times.

18. Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

Dates: April 28, 2024 Location: Oklahoma City, OK

The race fundraiser benefits the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. The race is called “The Run to Remember” and was created so that runners could honor every person impacted by the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Before the race begins, a 168-second silence honors those lost in the bombing.

Along the course, 168 banners hang. Each banner displays the name of a bombing victim, guiding runners through an emotional and meaningful race.

Runners begin the race at the 9:03 Gate of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

After completing the race, each runner receives free entry to the museum with a race bib.

19. Williams Route 66 Marathon

Dates: November 19, 2023 Location: Tulsa, OK

The Williams Route 66 Marathon is another excellent marathon in the Sooner State.

This race brings out upwards of 1,500 runners for the marathon. Runners warn that this race is hilly and more complicated than expected.

You can also complete the “World’s Shortest Ultramarathon.” Upgrade your registration to the “Center of the Universe Detour.” You’ll run just 0.3 miles beyond the finish to a historic Tulsa landmark.

The Center of the Universe is the location’s name that provides an auditory anomaly. This is a unique chance to earn the ultra-marathoner title.

20. Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Dates: November 9, 2024 Location: Indianapolis, IN

Flat and fast!

These are the two best words to describe the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

This marathon has a great rapport for runners earning BQs and new PRs. The race is also one of the largest in the nation, consistently placing in the top 15 biggest races in the US.

The start and finish lines for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon are both at the State Capitol. Before the race begins, runners can take shelter in the warm convention center, a benefit of a downtown start.

Spectator support is excellent for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, and the volunteers who support runners are enthusiastic about helping you keep going.

21. Space Coast Marathon

Dates: December 1, 2024 Location: Cocoa, FL

The Space Coast Marathon notably runs near the Kennedy Space Center. Runners earn a space-themed medal and experience the support of volunteers in NASA-style uniforms.

This race is relatively flat but does contain two different out-and-backs. Runners first run the northern out-and-back before returning to the start area to tackle the southern out-and-back.

Race morning may be hot and humid, as expected from Florida. However, running beside the water for the entire race makes for a peaceful marathon experience.

22. Marine Corps Marathon

Dates: October 27, 2024 Location: Arlington, VA

The Marine Corps Marathon is undoubtedly one of the best and largest marathons in the US. The marathon is managed by the US Marines in D.C. and Virginia.

Runners pass numerous national monuments, run the Blue Mile to honor fallen soldiers, and receive their medals from Marines.

The course begins in Arlington, VA, between Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon.

It eventually crosses the Potomac River into D.C., where runners can view the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, and the Washington Monument.

The Marine Corps Marathon is a very well-organized, must-run marathon. The scenic course, support from spectators and US Marines, and a challenging uphill finish to receive your medal from a Marine make this one of the best marathons in the US.

23. Walt Disney World Marathon

Dates: January 7, 2024 Location: Orlando, FL

I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon on my 27th birthday, and it’s truly a magical race.

It’s a unique experience with character photo-ops along the course. Stop and grab a picture with your favorite character, or continue on the course, focusing on the race.

The Walt Disney World Marathon takes runners through the four theme parks and the ESPN Zone.

Depending on your speed and start time, you may run through each park before they open. Some runners enter Hollywood Studios when the park opens and stop at the Tower of Terror for a quick ride.

In addition to the marathon, runDisney offers runners the opportunity to run the “Goofy Challenge” or the “Dopey Challenge.”

Complete the half marathon on Saturday, followed by the marathon on Sunday to be a bit Goofy. Run the 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, half marathon on Saturday, and the marathon on Sunday, and you’re entirely Dopey!

24. Surf City Marathon

Dates: February 4, 2024 Location: Huntington Beach, CA

The Surf City Marathon is a scenic, warm-weather winter marathon option. It covers 10 miles of beautiful California beach with a handful of miles of ocean views.

If you want an excellent location to plan a “runcation,” then put Huntington Beach, CA, on your list. The Surf City Marathon is a crowd-pleaser and a great way to see Southern California.

With its relatively flat course, many runners can earn a new PR at the Surf City Marathon. Imagine running your next marathon, earning a personal record time, and then vacationing on a beautiful Southern California beach.

25. Garmin Kansas City Marathon

Dates: October 19, 2024 Location: Kansas City, MO

For a challenging hilly marathon, try your hand at the Kansas City Marathon.

The second half of the course of this marathon includes a gradual incline, so be prepared to test your grit! You’ll enjoy a long downhill run to the finish line if you can push through.

The organizers have worked hard to keep runners satisfied pre-, during, and post-race. Runners are pleased with the post-race food, beer, and massages.

A nice touch at the Kansas City Marathon is the inclusion of free race photos. That’s a rarity at such a famous race! RaceRaves calls this the “Best Marathon in Missouri.” Put this challenging but rewarding race on your “must-do-marathons” list.

26. Long Beach Marathon

Dates: October 6, 2024 Location: Long Beach, CA

This race is another opportunity to run along the Pacific Ocean, where runners can watch the sunrise.

Runners run by Queen Mary – the retired British ocean liner.

Being seaside during the Long Beach Marathon means the course is relatively flat. For a strong finish, runners will head downhill for the last stretch. Part of the course careens through local neighborhoods where the locals come to support runners.

Many runners running a large race.


What Is The Toughest Marathon In America?

The toughest marathon in America is actually classified as a trail marathon. The Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent in Manitou Springs, Colorado. The average uphill grade is a whopping 11%.
The ascent alone can demand the time it typically takes to run a complete flatland road marathon. The race sees an overall 7,800 feet of elevation gain.

What is the Toughest Road Marathon in the US?

Regarding challenging road marathons, the Kauai Marathon is one of the toughest in the US.
Though you’ll run the race on one of the most beautiful islands in the US, it won’t be without obstacles. Hot, humid, and hilly are the three words runners commonly use when discussing the Kauai Marathon.
Marathoners ascend to the top of Kalaheo before descending to the finish. The course takes runners on a journey climbing a total of 2,171 feet.

What is the Hardest Ultramarathon in the US?

The Barkley Marathons. Note: that’s “Marathons,” plural. This is not a 26.2-mile marathon; it’s a 100-mile run.
Best explained in the 2014 documentary film “The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young,” this Tennessee race is preposterously tricky. If you’re a runner who craves the unimaginable struggles of a race, attempting The Barkley Marathons will surely take you beyond the lengths of the most challenging marathon in America.

What Is The Easiest Marathon In The US?

“Flat” and “fast” are words associated with identifying one race as easier than others. When it comes to the easiest marathon in the US due to its flat and fast course, Baystate Marathon wins it.
The Baystate Marathon consistently sends more registrants to Boston than any other US marathon. Therefore, it’s a top contender for the easier marathon in the US.

What Are The Most Fun Marathons To Run?

Some of the most fun race options come from the runDisney company. If you enjoy the magic of Disney, you will love the Walt Disney World Marathon.
If you’re not quite into Disney but a fan of the big marathon experience, one of the World Majors may be for you. The New York City, Chicago, and Boston Marathons bring unbelievable spectator support. Production is also top-notch because these races are so important internationally.

What Is The Most Prestigious Marathon?

Hands down, the Boston Marathon is the most prestigious in the US. It’s the oldest annual marathon in the world.
For many marathoners, Boston is the ultimate goal. However, of the 6 Abbott World Marathon Majors, Boston is the only marathon that doesn’t offer the option to enter the race via lottery.
This race is the carrot and stick that keeps speed-oriented marathoners pushing themselves harder each race. The Boston Marathon is one of the world’s most distinguished races and is undoubtedly prestigious.

What’s The Best Marathon In The US For Beginners?

The Marine Corps Marathon earned the endearing moniker “The People’s Marathon.” Of all the marathons worldwide, the Marine Corps Marathon is the largest marathon that does not award prize money. This race isn’t about the elites; it’s about everyone.

Runner stretching leg muscle.

Final Thoughts: Best Marathons In The US 2024

As a runner, you’ve got a lot of races to sift through when searching for the best marathons in the US.

Whether you want a challenging, small-town race like the Hatfield McCoy Marathon or a go at the Abbott World Marathon Majors in New York, Chicago, or Boston, there’s a marathon in the US for everyone.

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