26 Best Marathons In The US To Add To Your Bucket List (2023)

Mae's Miles and Music contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of the links below, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services we use and trust. Read our disclaimer for more information.

Deciding to run a marathon and following through on that decision is a massive accomplishment.

Choosing the proper marathon is also a pretty important decision. Whether running your first or your 50th marathon, you may wonder, “What are the best marathons in the US?

Let’s jump right to it with the top 26 marathons in the US.

26 Best Marathons In The US 2023

Sifting through the internet to find the best marathons to run in the US could take hours or even days. With more than 1,000 marathons hosted annually in the US, there are plenty of races to consider adding to your bucket list.

Word of mouth tends to be one of the most prominent ways runners decide which marathons are worth running and which races should never have happened in the first place.

Some races are known for their fast courses, and others for their incredible spectator support. Some marathons that take place in the US are known worldwide and are highly sought-after races.

The following is a detailed list of the best marathons in the US, spanning 17 states. Amongst these 26 popular US marathons, you’ll find races taking place in 9 different months from January to December.

Course maps and elevation maps are included with most races for you to help make your decision. With a complete list like this, you’re sure to find the next best marathon in the US.

1. Big Sur International Marathon 

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

The running community deeply loves the Big Sur International Marathon.

This race rates exceptionally well for its scenery. The Big Sur International Marathon is a one-of-a-kind race with coastal views from Highway 1, including mountains, redwood trees, and the Pacific Ocean.

The Big Sur Marathon is a point-to-point race. This means you start in one location and finish at another site 26.2 miles from the start line. The race begins in Big Sur and ends in Carmel.

Runners can expect constant rolling hills throughout this course. The course boasts a massive total elevation gain of more than 2,100 feet. Including hills during your training cycle is a necessity for this race.

Highway 1 is closed for race morning, leading to a very early morning race.

Runners begin this race at 6:35 a.m. Factor in travel time to arrive at the start line, and you may need to wake up before 4:00 a.m. Big Sur International Marathon may not be for you if you can’t manage an early bird schedule for race day.

The course is USATF certified and is a Boston qualifier. However, most runners note that with the stunning views, including the iconic Bixby Bridge, this may be a better race for savoring your time on the course instead of hurrying to complete it.

Overall, runners are pleased with the production of the Big Sur International Marathon, from the pre-race expo to on-course support to the post-race snacks and beverages. The race is capped at 4,500 registrants.

Put this marathon on your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed.

2. Missoula Marathon

Dates: June 30, 2024 Location: Missoula, MT

Dubbed “The Last Best Race in the Last Best Place,” the Missoula Marathon has been named one of America’s Best Races several times by Runner’s World, RaceRaves, and The Bib Rave 100.

This is reason enough to add this US marathon to your bucket list.

When looking for the best marathons in the US, the community of Missoula is a great place to start.

Runners say that whether you’re in the residential neighborhoods or the countryside, you’ll find plenty of spectators in their driveways, lining the streets, and playing music to help you push through.

If you’re a runner who despises hilly marathons, I’ve good news. The Missoula Marathon is known to be flat. However, just beyond the halfway mark, there is one very steep, quick hill.

The Missoula Marathon is USATF certified and a Boston qualifier. The race registration is capped at 1,000 runners, making this a small to mid-sized marathon.

This is another early morning race beginning at 6:00 a.m. But when it lands on several “best marathons in the US” lists, it’s worth trudging to the start line for a unique race experience.

Runners praise the race’s organizing, including the registration process, small expo, and aid stations along the course.

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 creating one of the best marathons in the US.

🎶 The best way to listen to music while running isn’t headphones. It’s this lightweight, wearable speaker! 👈🏼

3. Eau Claire Marathon

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

Regarding Eau Claire, runners adore the city’s hometown feel to race weekend. After all, the race is called the “biggest small-town race in the US.”

This marathon sees anywhere from 700 to 800 participants and doesn’t lack in providing the benefits more frequently found at bigger races.

In addition to the marathon, the organization also hosts a half marathon, a four-person relay, 5k, 10k, and a kid’s race. With these events happening in one weekend, you can expect to see nearly 5,000 participants.

Runners love the organization of the Eau Claire Marathon. Between reliable on-course water and aid stations to quality swag, including the race shirt, Eau Claire doesn’t skimp.

If you’ve not yet run a race in the Midwest, put this at the top of your run bucket list. With awe-inspiring views of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers from above as you run over many of the city’s bridges, you won’t soon forget the many miles in Wisconsin.

The course also takes you through the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus – known as the Blugold Mile. Runners appreciate the community support year after year.

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.

This marathon begins at 7:00 a.m. It’s still early, but it is undoubtedly one of the better options for late risers.

The course has hills on the front and negative splits on the back. You should set your sights on the Eau Claire Marathon as your next PR or Boston qualifying race. The course is USATF certified and a Boston qualifier. Train well, and this marathon might be a fast course for you!

4. Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

Dates: May 5, 2024 Location: Cincinnati, OH

The reason behind this race being called the “Flying Pig” is super interesting. Cincinnati was referred to as “Porkopolis” in the 1800s. This name came from the many stockyards and, of course, the meat packing industry.

They would sometimes run pigs in the streets where you’ll run this race—quite a remarkable history for a marathon

There are many great experiences surrounding the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. One aspect is that the course runs across the Ohio River and continues in Kentucky for a bit. While this occasionally happens at races, it’s still a unique experience.

If you have a love for pigs (or bacon), then this race is going to be especially memorable for you. Before the race, you’ll find your spot in your “Pig Pen” (starting corral). 

Lining the streets, many “Street Squealers” cheer you on. You’ll also be grateful to the “Grunts” volunteering to provide you with water, fuel, and aid.

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. That’s certain to make you squeal with joy!

Be prepared for the city of Cincinnati and this race. One of the most notable drawbacks is expensive parking. Many former Flying Pig runners recommend grabbing a hotel room in downtown Cincinnati to avoid this debacle.

This race is course-certified as well as a Boston qualifier. Beware that there are many hills, especially within the first 9 miles.

One notable 300-foot climb will provide a fantastic view worth the elevation gain. You’ll likely fly with the pigs once you get past those hills.

Close up of the Cincinnati skyline and Cincinnati Reds field.

5. Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Dates: October 8, 2023 Location: Chicago, IL

Three of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors take place in the States and should certainly end up on a “best marathons in the US” list. After all, people travel from all over the world to cross these finish lines.

Beginning with the Chicago Marathon, you can’t quite beat a course as fast as this one. It’s a top qualifying race for Boston. The total elevation gain over the 26.2 miles is just 243 feet.

Due to everyone wanting to run this race, you must enter via lottery. You also have the option to run for charity to guarantee your registration.

Chicago is a beautiful city and magical to run through with 40,000 other marathoners. As this marathon ranks as a pretty important race worldwide, you can count on the production of race weekend to be flawless.

The organization is preparing for elite runners and everyday athletes, so each race weekend’s step flows smoothly.

Generally, one would think of Chicago in October as ideal fall weather. However, the race has experienced well above-average temperatures for several years, including the race in 2021.

Birds eye view of downtown Chicago.

Much of the course will be lined by spectators. With several turns back into the city spread a few miles apart, your supporters can easily catch a glimpse of you on the course a handful of times.

The course careens through the downtown streets, heading to the north before returning to the city’s center. Runners will then run to the city’s west side, followed by the southern parts of downtown Chicago.

Ending in Grant Park is an incredible location to drink your post-race beverage of preference and grab some deep-dish pizza from Giordano’s to replenish your body.

6. TCS New York City Marathon

Dates: November 5, 2023 Location: Staten Island, NY

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

With up to 50,000 runners taking on the city streets, runners commend the race organization and its amenities. The race will take you through each of New York City’s five boroughs, and spectators throughout the city will bring the energy you need to succeed.

Like Chicago, the New York City Marathon entry is by lottery only. 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.

View of the New York City skyline.

It’s worth mentioning that with the number of runners that turn out for the race, transportation to the start and leaving the city after the race can be pretty hectic. Some runners successfully took the ferry to Staten Island as the subway quickly became crowded.

Runners also point out that areas of the race can become congested as the roadways narrow. This is especially true for the last few miles of the race.

The New York City Marathon is a late start race, especially for slower runners in a later corral. The last wave of the race sends off at noon, which is very different from most marathons.

Although there are a few things runners wish could be better, nearly everyone agrees: you must add the New York City Marathon to your bucket list.

🦶🏼 Looking for the best running shoe for wide feet? I recommend Altra Running shoes for their FootShape™ toe box. Your toes will thank you!

7. Boston Marathon

Dates: April 15, 2024 Location: Hopkinton, MA

The world’s oldest annual marathon, the Boston Marathon is not just one of a kind – it’s the one.

This marathon is the holy grail of all marathons worldwide and began in 1897. Except for the 2021 cancellation due to COVID-19, the Boston Marathon has been run yearly.

This race is highly selective.

To register, you first must run a certified Boston qualifying race marathon. At that race, you must run a specific time to qualify to enter to run Boston. Just because you’ve earned a “qualifying” time does not mean you’ve qualified for Boston.

Once all prospective runners have submitted their times, the Boston Athletic Association pares down the number of qualifying registrants to suit the maximum permitted runners. This number has often been around 30,000 runners.

The love is real for those lucky “unicorns” who get to run Boston. Boston’s production of the marathon is the best of any organization.

Boston is a point-to-point race with a unique start line. The race begins in the quaint town of Hopkinton, MA, with a population of around 17,000.

View of the Boston skyline from above Fenway Park.

As a runner, you’ve likely heard about “Heartbreak Hill.” Named for the place a runner overtook his competition at the race in 1936, this hill is found in the 20th mile.

Heartbreak Hill may also break your heart with its rather steep elevation gain. Since this hill is a significant talking point for Boston runners, many forget to mention the decline for the first 6 miles of the race.

If you qualify for this race, you can almost guarantee it will be the best you’ll ever run. For those who can’t compete with the qualifying times, charity running is an option too!

8. Fargo Marathon

Dates: June 1, 2024 Location: Fargo, ND

Small but mighty, the Fargo Marathon begins and ends with outstanding distinctiveness.

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

Like the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon, the Fargo Marathon also has a course that crosses state borders. For part of the marathon, runners will run in Moorhead, Minnesota.

If you love the feel of a small, hometown race, you should highly consider the Fargo Marathon. Capped at just 2,000 marathon registrants, it’s an affordable race option that still provides all the bells and whistles desired in a larger race.

As the race begins inside the FargoDome, there are plenty of bathrooms. This can be one of the most concerning parts of race morning, but in Fargo, have no worries.

Although the scenery is often described as just so-so, the race organizers and community have ensured you won’t be disappointed with the overall marathon experience. Excellent spectator support and 50+ bands and DJs lining the course will motivate you.

Fargo is known to be “flat, fast, and friendly,” so this is a great course to consider when attempting your Boston qualifying time.

9. Hatfield McCoy Marathon

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

Are you a True Hatfield or a Real McCoy? If unsure, you’ll have to run RaceRaves, rated “Best Marathon in West Virginia.”

You may be confused as this race’s location is listed as Kentucky. The Hatfield McCoy Marathon is a state border crossing race like the Flying Pig and Fargo marathons.

What makes the Hatfield McCoy Marathon a bit more remarkable is that 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.

Although there are tens of thousands of runners at many marathons like the New York City Marathon, the Hatfield McCoy Marathon pulls its weight as one of the best in the US and deserves your consideration.

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.

Now, that’s a unique marathon experience.

South Williamson, Kentucky, is a small town. The population count sits at just above 500 people.

Rolling hills in Kentucky similar to those at the Hatfield McCoy Marathon.

Runners warn that although fun, this race is far from easy. Many tell tales of hills that are the height of mountains. However, where this race creates struggles, the volunteers bring support.

Although spectators are far fewer in this small-town race, many runners recount the great assistance of the volunteers at aid stations placed at every mile.

The Hatfield McCoy Marathon is not a Boston qualifier. With hills like mountains, it’s likely not the desired course for such a feat anyway.

😎 For the best running sunglasses for summer training runs, I recommend goodr. Most pairs are just $25, but the quality is excellent.
➡️ Purchase here

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. Where some marathons have consistent scenery, The Cowtown Marathon provides variety.

Runners have mentioned spotting cowboys on horseback, longhorns, and even Elvis! This course is full of rolling hills and a large hill within mile 9. This course is much less intimidating than the Hatfield McCoy Marathon hills.

This is another well-organized race with great on-course support. Runners also share that the volunteers are friendly and eager to help. That’s always a welcomed part of any marathon.

This is a certified course, and it’s a Boston qualifier. The hills are plentiful, so consider this before choosing this as your goal race.

A remarkable aspect of The Cowtown Marathon is that this race 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.

If you’re searching for the top marathons in the US, you’re likely a runner who understands the importance of quality running shoes and proper running form. Running The Cowtown isn’t just for you but for tomorrow’s marathon runners.

11. California International Marathon

Dates: December 3, 2023 Location: Folsom, CA

Do you enjoy running downhill? Yes? Well, you’re going to love the California International Marathon.

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.

It’s important to note that net downhill doesn’t mean there are no uphills.

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. Of course, this means that the course is certified and a Boston qualifier.

Although most runners agree the scenery is not much to write home about, they 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 pretty near-perfect race experience.

With many aid stations, volunteer support, and spectators every mile of the way, the California International Marathon wins the hearts of new and seasoned marathoners.

Runners also appreciate the number of porta-potties at the start line, as this race brings out upwards of 9,000 participants.

Something to consider: several runners over the years have mentioned issues with the shuttles pre-race. Be well prepared; as with any race, being too early is always better than being late.

12. Allianz Partners Richmond Marathon

Dates: November 11, 2023 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!

A few rolling hills throughout the course will prepare you for a great descent to the finish line party.

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 – if you’re into that sort of thing.

This race is another contender for the top Boston qualifier. It tends to be a “fast” course, so it’s a great option if you’re looking to earn a new PR.

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!

If you’re like me, running in the heat isn’t enjoyable, especially with the marathon distance. The Richmond Marathon occurs in the fall in a great geographically located part of the US. Runners get to enjoy the colorful leaves and often cool fall temperatures.

One note of caution – although the course is relatively flat with few rolling hills, runners say that crossing over Lee Bridge is ruthless. Fortunately, the view of the Richmond skyline might be your saving grace.

Join around 4,000 other marathon runners and experience the beautiful city of Richmond, Virginia, on foot. You’ll likely want to run this race more than once.

13. Napa Valley Marathon

Dates: March 3, 2024 Location: Calistoga, CA

Are you a fan of Wine Country? You’ll want to put this next marathon on your bucket list!

For those not interested in road marathons with overcrowded streets full of runners, the Napa Valley Marathon is a perfect fit for you. An intriguing, 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.

If you thrive off of spectator energy, this one likely won’t do it for you. The Napa Valley Marathon tends to be a very quiet race with few areas for spectators.

The marathon is mostly downhill with a few early rolling hills. It’s also a point-to-point race with the start line in Calistoga, California, and the finish line in Napa.

The course is also a relatively straight line, so some runners point out that the gradual downhill bonus was lessened by the mental defeat of always seeing what was coming ahead.

Vineyards in Napa Valley, a sight that can be seen during the Napa Valley Marathon.

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.

At the Napa Valley Marathon, there’s a lot of fun for anyone who enjoys good wine-tasting post-race.

14. BMW Dallas Marathon Festival

Dates: December 10, 2023 Location: Dallas, TX

Are you looking for a winter marathon that gets high praise from runners around the US? The BMW Dallas Marathon is Texas’ longest-running marathon, and they’ve truly mastered the race weekend experience.

If you’ve never visited the city of Dallas, the marathon course is brilliantly designed to take you by many notable city landmarks and through beautiful neighborhoods. Runners also spend an eight-and-a-half-mile stretch running around White Rock Lake.

The race begins and ends at Dallas City Hall Plaza, and the start line brings incredible pageantry with fireworks and music. Not a bad way to start a 26.2-mile trek through any city.

Downtown Dallas skyline.

This race begins a little later with an 8:30 a.m. start time. You late risers will love this marathon and should put it on your bucket list.

Though Dallas has some hills, most agree that the course isn’t overly challenging. Include some hill work in your training; you should succeed at this race. This course is a Boston qualifier.

Thanks to the course spending most of the time in downtown Dallas, the chance for a good spectator turnout is high for this race. 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 15, 2023 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.

When thinking of Iowa, the usual expectation is corn fields. However, with the production of the Des Moines Marathon, runners will enjoy much more of the beauty of the Hawkeye State than just corn fields.

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

If you love that small-town feel of a marathon that’s well organized and provides all the necessary things for a triumphant race, add the Des Moines Marathon to your bucket list.

This is another great race with a fall race date. That means you’ll likely have excellent weather that isn’t overbearingly hot or incredibly frigid. Although the course is a Boston qualifier with some significant elevation, this marathon could be your next PR.

16. Little Rock Marathon

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

Do you like heavy medals? Runners from previous years’ races say the Little Rock Marathon has some of the largest finishers’ medals ever seen.

In 2017, the Little Rock Marathon ended up on Runner’s World’s “Bucket List: 10 Great Marathons for First-Timers.” Indeed, if a race is significant for first-time finishers, it’s likely an excellent race for anyone. It’s also a Boston qualifier!

If you’re a runner and a history buff, the course designed for the Little Rock marathon takes runners through a 26.2-mile history lesson.

The marathon will have you running by the Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock Central High School, the Governor’s Mansion, and the William J. Clinton Library and Museum.

The Little Rock Marathon is one of the few highly inclusive marathons. If you are a “back of the pack” runner, organizers want to be sure you can enjoy the race as much as any runner. With this marathon, you can 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 15, 2023 Location: Lowell, MA

Residing in the same state as the infamous Boston Marathon, the Baystate Marathon is a great race to consider adding to your bucket list.

This Boston qualifier is one of the best courses to earn a BQ. The Baystate Marathon is one of the top marathons for BQ attempts, and every year, the marathon sends more finishers to Boston than any other race in the US.

New England in the fall can’t be beaten, so to have the opportunity to run the Baystate Marathon and potentially earn a BQ (or an exciting PR) 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.

Runners love the support of the community, the volunteers, and the finish line accommodations. Stand-out finish line items include soup and a PB & J sandwich.

The Baystate Marathon brings out about 1,400 runners, so you’ll have plenty of space on-course to earn that new PR or BQ.

18. Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

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

The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon earned a spot on the Runner’s World “12 Must-Run Marathons in the World.” With its ranking on the international scale, it deserves placement on a list of the best marathons in the US.

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 victim of the bombing, 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. Add this race to your list and take the time to learn and remember those lost by spending time at the museum post-race.

Running a marathon for a cause as important as this impacts your race. The race is the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum’s largest fundraiser. The marathon alone often brings out about 2,000 runners. 

The race is also a time for spectators and the general Oklahoma City community to honor the victims of the bombing. Coming together to remember while accomplishing the marathon is a perfect reason to add the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon to your bucket list.

19. Williams Route 66 Marathon

Dates: November 19, 2023 Location: Tulsa, OK

Once you run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and love running in Oklahoma so much, you can get yourself signed up to head back for this next marathon in November.

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.

An exciting addition to the Route 66 Marathon is the ability to complete the “World’s Shortest Ultramarathon.” Have you ever wanted to run an ultramarathon but can’t quite bring yourself to train for or push yourself to run beyond the 26.2-mile course?

Consider upgrading your registration to the “Center of the Universe Detour” at the Route 66 Marathon!

This course will take you 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.

Route 66 painted on road.

Although the course is similar to any other marathon that runs through a smaller city, runners say that the local spectators are unmatched. You’ll see plenty of people having parties while you run by their homes, and you’ll likely be offered an adult beverage more than a few times on the course.

It’s a Boston qualifier that may be difficult to obtain due to the hills, but it’s a fun one nonetheless!

20. Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Dates: October 28, 2023 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.

Nearly 5,000 runners participate in the marathon in Indianapolis; many say it’s the most well-organized race in the Midwest. This marathon taking place in the fall means that, generally, the weather is on the chilly side.

If you like the concept of training in the heat and racing in the fall, this could be the best marathon for you.

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. It can get quite cold on race morning in the Midwest in the fall.

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

If you want to try your hand at a flat and fast midwest marathon, look no further than Indianapolis.

21. Space Coast Marathon

Dates: November 26, 2023 Location: Cocoa, FL

If space travel interests you, put the Space Coast Marathon on your marathon bucket list!

At the Space Coast Marathon, runners will run near the Kennedy Space Center, earn a space-themed medal, and experience the support of volunteers in NASA-like uniforms.

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

This race event also has two half marathon options – each out-and-back equalling the 13.1-mile distance.

Runners say that race morning may be hot and humid, as one would expect from Florida. Running beside the water for the entire race makes for a peaceful marathon experience.

The race is capped at 1,500 marathoners. Half marathoners will also be on the course, adding 5,500 runners.

If you enjoy completing race challenges, the Space Coast Marathon has great three and 4-year challenge options.

The Starship challenge is for participants who complete three races (half marathon or marathon) within four years. The Mission to Mars challenge is for participants who complete four races within four years.

For an out-of-this-world time, the Space Coast Marathon is a unique contender for the best marathons in the US.

22. Marine Corps Marathon

Dates: October 29, 2023 Location: Arlington, VA

The Marine Corps Marathon is undoubtedly one of the best and largest marathons in the US. The marathon is one of the best-organized races 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 one of the many Marines managing this incredible race.

The race has garnered the label “Marathon of the Monuments” for obvious reasons.

This marathon is so popular that many runners talk about how crowded the course stays for most of the race. The course is also a bit hilly and winding.

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.

Runner runs past the Washington Monument in D.C.. One of the best marathons in the US, the Marine Corps Marathon, will run past several monuments such as this one.

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

The Walt Disney World Marathon is an excellent race for participants, from elites to walkers. The excitement of running through the Disneyworld parks before and during sunrise is unmatched.

The Walt Disney World Marathon is 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.

The Disney race begins very early.

A 5:30 a.m. start time means many runners wake up before 3:00 a.m. to get a shuttle to the start line. In addition to the marathon, runDisney offers runners the opportunity to run the “Goofy Challenge” or the “Dopey Challenge.”

Spaceship Earth displayed at night in Epcot theme park at Walt Disney World.

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!

These challenges add extra fun and fatigue to the race week for participants, but many say it’s worth it.

Remember that although the marathon course is relatively flat and easy, the January weather in Florida is unreliable.

The marathon experiences frigid temperatures for some years, especially considering the early start time. The 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon is still my coldest and most southern marathon to date! 🥶

Other years, the race happens on a sweltering and humid Florida morning.

It turns out the most magical place on Earth is also home to one of the best marathons in the US!

24. Surf City Marathon

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

The Surf City Marathon is a scenic, warm-weather winter marathon option.

This race covers 10 miles of beautiful California beach, and runners will spend a handful of miles with ocean views. The course has a few out-and-back areas, including one inland stretch.

Although out-and-backs can mentally tax some runners, most say the scenery helps ease the difficulties. Runners mention that the race is well-organized and the course is easy with just a few slight hills.

Huntington Beach Pier.

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. The community supports the runners, and the volunteers help with a lot of energy.

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. It sounds like the perfect marathon to me!

25. Garmin Kansas City Marathon

Dates: October 21, 2023 Location: Kansas City, MO

If you’re looking 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.

Are you the type of runner who appreciates seeing a city on foot?

This race is specifically great for experiencing all of the beautiful and exciting landmarks in Kansas City. Whether you’ve visited the city in the past or are seeing it for the first time during race weekend, the course is sure to keep you entertained.

Runners will see the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain, the World War I Museum and Memorial, and pass through well-known neighborhoods, including Waldo and West Port. Post-race runners can find a lot of fun activities to do while staying in Kansas City.

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 popular 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 15, 2023 Location: Long Beach, CA

This race is another opportunity to run along the Pacific Ocean, where runners can watch the sunrise with the 6:00 a.m. start time. Runners also 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 bit of the marathon. Some of the course careens through local neighborhoods where the locals come to support runners.

Once completing the race, runners aged 21(+) can enjoy the beer garden. Post-race snacks, beverages, and live music entertainment are great rewards for runners.

View of downtown Long Beach, California.

Runners mention that the event is very well-organized. As can be expected, the weather in Long Beach during the race is possibly the best weather a runner could ask for on a race day.

For those who enjoy completing multi-race challenges, complete the Long Beach Marathon with the Surf City Marathon and SDCCU OC Marathon to earn a Beach Cities Challenge medal.

Accomplishing a 26.2-mile feat in a beautiful place like Long Beach makes this another great race and one of the best marathons in the US. 

Best Marathons In The US: FAQs

Runners enjoy marathons for many different reasons. While one runner may gush about how incredible one race’s organization and logistics were, another may have felt they waited too long in line to use the pre-race bathrooms.

Some runners like to run flat and fast marathons to speed through the course. Other runners prefer a challenge and want to take on the most brutal hills.

If you’re looking for standout marathons for one reason or another, you’re likely to find the answer to these frequently asked questions regarding the best marathons in the US.

What Is The Toughest Marathon In America?

The marathon distance is already a challenge.

Then there are the runners who desire a more extreme race. There are many substantially challenging marathons to choose from in America. When you want to try the toughest of the tough, try your hand at these demanding US marathons.

The Toughest Trail Marathon in America

If you want to run the absolute toughest marathon in America, look no further than the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Here, the average uphill grade is a whopping 11%.


This marathon contains an ascent that can demand the time it typically takes you to run a flatland road marathon. The race sees an overall 7,800 feet of elevation gain. The Pikes Peak Marathon is not a marathon for the faint of heart.

Remember that while Pike’s Peak is America’s most difficult 26.2-mile marathon, it’s not a road race.

This race takes place scaling Pike’s Peak, a summit within the Rocky Mountains. Runners should expect trail running with narrow pathways and an unlikeliness to pass other runners.

If you crave the challenge, sign up for the Pikes Peak Marathon to say you’ve run the toughest marathon in America.

The Toughest Road Marathon in America

Not into trail running? Test your runner’s spirit at the Kauai Marathon.

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.

The race runs along the coastline, and runners will enjoy the unique race view of the island’s beaches, volcanic peaks, and rain forests. Not bad for the most challenging road marathon in America.

View of tropical island and sea.

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.

Previous runners are sure to point out the incredible kindness offered by the locals. For a fantastic but tough road marathon, Kauai takes the cake.

The Toughest Ultramarathon in America

If you search the internet for the most challenging marathon in America, you’ll likely land on a page mentioning 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.

From the run’s founding in 1986 to the present day, only 15 runners have completed the course. Two finishers have been determined and capable enough to finish the race in multiple years.

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 toughest marathon in America.

What Is The Easiest Marathon In The US?

“Easy” is a highly subjective term regarding marathon running. As the saying goes, if running 26.2 miles were easy, everyone would do it.

Of course, certain aspects make one marathon easier than another. Location can be a significant consideration when looking for the easiest marathon in the US. Hawaii and Alaska each have several options for marathons, but they aren’t as easy to get to as the state where you already live.

Flat and fast are associated most when considering one race 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 has to be a top contender for the easier marathon in the US.

Many runners running a large race.

What Are The Most Fun Marathons To Run?

Considering a marathon “fun” first takes a particular type of person. Beyond that, you must consider what you enjoy most from the marathon racing experience.

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.

With on-course character meet and greets, running through the parks before sunrise, and the recognition the Disney cast members give you while walking through the parks during your stay, you will soon understand why this is one of the most fun marathons in the US.

If you’re not quite into Disney and need another option, if you’re 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. Also, the production is top-notch because these races are so important internationally.

You’ll need to earn your spot by winning the lottery (NYC and Chicago), making a fast enough qualifying time (Boston), or running for charity. Whatever the means of entry to the race, you’ll have fun competing at one of these top marathon options.

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.

The only way to run Boston (aside from committing to raising a large amount of money for charity) is by qualifying with a wicked-fast marathon time in a certified race.

Earning a qualifying time doesn’t guarantee registration; it only guarantees your application to register. Once all runners apply, the field is narrowed, and a new qualifying time is announced. Each year, “qualified ” runners miss the actual qualifying times by seconds.

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 the most prestigious.

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

If you’re new to marathon running and are wondering what race to choose, look no further than the Marine Corps Marathon.

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.

The US Marines manage the marathon. This makes the production run incredibly well. The community comes out to support runners in most areas of the course.

Although there are a few notable hills, the course remains relatively flat. Just don’t forget about the uphill finish, where you’ll be greeted by cheering Marines ready to place your well-deserved medal around your neck.

If you want the actual marathon experience for your first race and all the emotions that come with it, the best marathon in the US for beginners is the Marine Corps Marathon.

Runner stretching leg muscle.

Final Thoughts: Best Marathons In The US 2023

As a runner, you’ve got a lot to consider 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 for everyone.

Similar Posts