As a distance runner, there is something particularly enticing about a fall marathon. Between the weather, timing of training and abundance of race choices, fall seems like the perfect time to run a marathon.
Starting to train in the heat of the summer and continuing as the temperatures gradually cool is a great way to set yourself up for success on race day.
Choosing a goal race that takes place when the weather is cool and the scenery is beautiful is ideal for most runners.
Which is why fall marathons are so popular.
These optimal conditions mean that many of the bigger, more popular races take place sometime in the fall. And while having a plethora of choices is certainly a good thing, deciding on a single race can often feel overwhelming.
Deciding to run a fall marathon is a big commitment. Choosing to dedicate 12, 16 or even 20 weeks to long runs, interval workouts and cross training is not a decision to be taken lightly. Finding the right training plan and committing to train may seem like a pivotal step – but selecting the right race is often just as important.
If you are willing to travel to run a fall marathon, there is no doubt that you can find your “perfect race”. Regardless of whether you’re willing to travel across the United States or limiting yourself to driving distance from home, there is a fall marathon for you.
As you begin the process of selecting a fall marathon to run this year or just add to your bucket list, here are 16 of the best fall marathons to keep in mind.
The 16 Best Fall Marathons to Consider in the U.S.
Date: November 1st, 2020
Location: New York City, NY
Just about every runner and even many non-runners have heard of the New York City Marathon. As the biggest marathon in the world, this race clocks in at over 50,000 finishers every fall.
To run the New York City Marathon, you’ll need to enter an online lottery or sign up for guaranteed entry by running with a charity group. Many runners find that it takes years before they are randomly selected to run via the lottery, but continue to try each and every year.
The New York City Marathon is a bucket list marathon for just about every distance runner. With a course that takes you through the five burroughs and over numerous bridges, through central park and between many skyscrapers – this course won’t fall short of your expectations.
Related: New York City Marathon Recap
Date: November 7th, 2020
Location: Indianapolis, IN
The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon takes runners through downtown Indianapolis, and is one of the 10 biggest marathons in the country most years. This race is especially scenic when running through the downtown streets, and even the local neighborhoods become a sight to see with the beautiful colors this time of year.
Runners can sign up for the Monumental Marathon without needing to enter a lottery of any kind, making it particularly appealing for those looking to run a larger race without dealing with the uncertainty of an online lottery.
The Indianapolis Marathon is known for its flat course, making it an ideal race to hit a new PR or qualify for Boston. The marathon takes place the same day as a half marathon, so be sure to arrive at the start early enough to secure your spot in the crowded corrals.
Date: October 18th, 2020
Location: Detroit, MI
The Detroit Free Press Marathon is truly one of a kind – with the option to run internationally and cross into Canada. You’ll run over the Ambassador Bridge to head into Windsor, Ontario near the beginning of the race and then cross back through the tunnel to finish in Detroit.
The nearly mile-long tunnel back to the U.S. makes this race the only marathon in the world where you run underwater.
Throughout the course you’ll find plenty of spectators, both in Canada and the United States. This race starts with a half marathon as well, so be sure to secure your spot in the corrals plenty early. Enjoy the convenience of pre-race facilities within walking distance to the start, so you won’t have to wait outside for long.
Date: October 11th, 2020
Location: Chicago, IL
The Chicago Marathon is another well-known race among runners, and for good reason – clocking in with a little over 45,000 finishers each year, this marathon is one of the largest in the United States.
There is nothing more convenient than walking out of your hotel room to the starting line, which is one of the major advantages of the Chicago Marathon. With tons of lodging options within walking distance to the start line, this massive marathon is actually quite convenient to navigate.
Enjoy plenty of spectator support throughout this flat course, making it another great opportunity to set a PR or qualify for Boston. You’ll have to enter the marathon lottery for a chance to get selected to run this race, or grant yourself guaranteed entry by running for charity.
Date: October 25th, 2020
Location: Washington, D.C.
The Marine Corps Marathon is an incredibly meaningful marathon to many. As another one of the top ten biggest marathons in the United States, the Marine Corps Marathon lands on many runners’ bucket lists.
This fall marathon takes place in Washington, D.C. in late October, providing plenty of historical views along with beautiful colors and crisp, fall weather.
You’ll have to enter an online lottery to run the Marine Corps Marathon, but with fast turnaround for the results, you’ll know if you’ve been selected just a few weeks later.
Date: October 3rd, 2020
Location: St. George, UT
If you’re looking for a relatively large marathon with absolutely breath-taking views, the St. George Marathon is for you.
This race takes you through the mountains in Southwest Utah and has an overall elevation loss, making it the ideal race to set a new PR or qualify for Boston.
The beautiful views and local hospitality make this fall marathon a perfect item for your running bucket list.
Date: October 4th, 2020
Location: St. Paul, MN
The Twin Cities Marathon course is unique in the fact that it takes you through two major cities in Minnesota: St. Paul and Minneapolis.
This race crosses the Mississippi River and boasts more than 300,000 spectators along the course. As one of the ten largest marathons in the U.S., you’ll find plenty of support on this course – from both runners and spectators.
Enjoy a full weekend of events in St. Paul, with everything from a 5k to a marathon. This fall marathon is the perfect opportunity to take a family trip for the weekend and get everyone involved.
Date: November 15th, 2020
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Not only do you get to run the Las Vegas strip in this fall marathon, but you’ll get to do so at night. With a start time around 4:30 pm, this race will take you up and down the strip when things get dark and the lights go on.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon is a perfect way to combine the vacation of a lifetime with your bucket list race – all in one trip.
With a time limit of 5 hours, you’ll need to be able to finish the marathon rather quickly to earn your finisher medal. The race size of around 2,000 is perfect for sticking close to other runners throughout the course without being crowded out.
Date: October 4th, 2020
Location: Milwaukee, WI
If a smaller race with a friendly, local-feel is more your thing, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon is for you. This race starts at a local high school and runs through rural land and neighborhoods before taking you along the shore of Lake Michigan.
With just over 2,000 finishers, you’ll never be alone in this marathon, but won’t be crowded out either. Enjoy the ease of leisurely arriving at the start to find your way into the corral without the pressure of a big city or big crowds.
You’ll get to experience some of the best of Wisconsin in this gorgeous Milwaukee Marathon.
Date: October 4th, 2020
Location: Portland, OR
This fall marathon takes place a city that played a pivotal role in the start of distance running, so it’ll be hard to find a more meaningful race than the Portland Marathon.
This marathon takes you on a tour of Portland, running through some of its most iconic city streets and downtown neighborhoods. You’ll get to enjoy all facets of Portland throughout the course – from downtown views to gorgeous outdoor landscapes.
Enjoy one of the most runner-friendly marathons, with free race photos and a finish line party you’ll get to join even if you have to drop out. With a race size just shy of 2,000 finishers, the Portland Marathon is the perfect size – not so small that you end up running alone, but not so big that you get crowded out.
Date: September 19th, 2020
Size: Dayton, OH
The United States Air Force Marathon takes place in early fall, which is perfect for those looking for a bit warmer weather without the heat and humidity of summer.
Starting at the Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force Marathon takes you along a unique course with a great mix of neighborhood streets and wide open spaces.
This marathon is a great size for those looking to run with others but not get crowded out.
Date: October 4th, 2020
Location: Corning, NY
The Guthrie Wineglass Marathon boasts a picturesque course that is sure to take your breath away. With an entire race series, your whole family will be able to participate in some event throughout the weekend.
Surround yourself with a few thousand other runners and enjoy this flat, fast course. You’ll run through country roads and scenic small towns, giving you plenty of space so you never feel cramped.
As one of the most beautiful marathons in New York, this race provides the perfect reason to get away with your family in the fall.
Date: October 11th, 2020
Location: Scranton, PA
If you’re looking for a challenge worth taking, the Steamtown Marathon is for you. This race course takes you through multiple hills and rolling terrain to give your legs and body a challenge on race day. Although the course may be difficult, nearly a quarter of the finishers qualify for Boston.
The Steamtown Marathon takes you through a part of Pennsylvania that is packed with history. You’ll run through Northeast Pennsylvania and get to experience some of the most beautiful colors this time of year.
With such a highly rated race experience by previous runners, the Steamtown Marathon is definitely one for the bucket list.
Date: October 17th, 2020
Location: Baltimore, MD
The Baltimore Marathon is a great way to experience all the city has to offer! With a course that takes you through plenty of diverse locations, you’ll run through just about everything – from the Maryland Zoo to the waterfront area and past historical landmarks.
Although the course is interesting, it certainly has its fair share of challenges. This course is packed with various hills to keep your muscles active and make you work for that finish.
With a race size of slightly less than 2,000 runners, you’ll enjoy the local feel with all the perks of a big city race.
Date: December 6th, 2020
Location: Sacramento, CA
The CIM race is one of the biggest races in the U.S., and for good reason! With a net elevation loss, the course provides the perfect opportunity to nail your next PR, qualify for Boston or the Olympic Trials.
With more than 7,000 finishers each year, you’ll never be alone in this marathon. With temperatures in the mid-50s in California near the end of the year, this race boasts a high probability of nearly perfect running weather on race day.
Enjoy training through the fall and avoid the summer heat as you prepare for this race. If you’re looking to run a bigger marathon but want to avoid the uncertainty of a lottery, the California International Marathon is for you.
Date: November 22nd, 2020
Location: Philadelphia, PA
The Philadelphia Marathon provides a scenic course that will keep you interested and engaged throughout all 26 miles. This fall marathon takes you through urban neighborhoods, past many historic landmarks, and along a beautiful waterfront all within 26 miles.
As a race that is consistently one of the top 10 biggest marathons in the United States, this fall marathon will not disappoint.
Whether running a fall marathon is a yearly tradition or one-time item on your bucket list, you can’t go wrong with any of these races.
Choose a small, local race or a massive, big city party. Enjoy historical views, the lakefront, or running through sky scrapers. Run as the sun sets or underwater through a tunnel.
No matter what race experience you prefer, there is something for everyone with these fall marathons. So sign up, print your training plan and get started running.