Narrowing down the best marathons in the US can be quite challenging, since there are seemingly endless options from which to choose. With multiple marathons in each state, so many different course options, race sizes, fun themes and beautiful scenery, finding your bucket list marathon can feel impossible.
Which marathon is the most prestigious?
While the title is subjective, most runners consider the bigger, well-known marathons to be the most prestigious. The Marine Corps Marathon is often a frontrunner, as runners get the honor of running with Marines through the nation’s capitol.
What are the biggest marathons in the US?
The biggest marathons in the US are some of the best! When you run a marathon with a finishing field of 20,000+ runners, you can be confident that it will be well organized. The New York City Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Boston Marathon and Marine Corps Marathons all clock in as some of the biggest in the country.
What are the hardest marathons in the US?
Determining the hardest marathon in the USA is subjective, but there are a couple which nearly all runners agree are some of the most difficult. The Pikes Peak Marathon and Barkley Marathons (although technically an ultramarathon) are consistently found on most runners’ lists, as they take you through incredibly difficult terrain.
You’ll likely find yourself wondering some of these questions – and probably more. While each runner is looking for something slightly different when it come to their goal race, we all want a few of the same qualities: organized, beautiful, and supportive.
When it comes down to it, the best USA marathons are those that embody all of these qualities and more. Once a marathon has been deemed organized, it’s time to look into the course, location, timing and uniqueness.
The top marathons in the US are those that keep runners engaged, motivated and supported during all 26.2 miles. They provide an exciting race weekend filled with organized events and stress-free logistics on race day. They are unique from other experiences and leave runners feeling inspired and proud.
What are the best marathons in the US?
After reading extensive race reviews and personal recaps, checking out pictures, videos and news, we narrowed down the options. Each of these 20 US marathons provides runners with an inspiring, encouraging experience. Whether you’re looking for a local, friendly feel or hoping to take a massive tour of the city – there’s something for you.
We can confidently say that these are the best 20 marathons in the US.
The 20 Best Marathons in the US
Location: Traverse City, MI
Date: May 25, 2024
The Bayshore Marathon takes place on a peninsula in beautiful Northwest Michigan. You’ll enjoy waterfront views along the entire course of this race. This smaller race gets plenty of support from locals, providing snacks, drinks and cheers along the way. This gorgeous course and smaller-sized race is a bucket list marathon.
Location: Big Sur, CA
Date: April 28, 2024
The Big Sur Marathon provides gorgeous views every step of the way. You’ll enjoy the coastline, redwoods and so much more along the point to point course. Big Sur is so popular that a lottery entry system is used, creating a smaller race environment that’s perfect for setting new PRs.
Location: Boston, MA
Date: April 15, 2024
Running the Boston Marathon is a badge of honor in the running community. This prestigious marathon only allows runners to register if they meet a qualifying standard. The race takes runners through downtown Boston, packed with cheering fans, over Heartbreak Hill and through some of the most historic sites in the country.
Location: Boulder, CO
Date: October 8, 2023
After nearly tripling in size within its first two years, Boulderthon is back for a 3rd year! This beautiful marathon hasn’t been around for long but is already ranking as one of the top marathons in the US — and for good reason. The course takes you through the beautiful Flatirons with a finish at the Pearl Street Mall. This marathon is the perfect excuse to travel to National Geographic’s “Happiest City in America”.
Location: Sacramento, CA
Date: December 3, 2023
The California International Marathon is a fast, flat course that will set you up for a PR. This popular marathon is one of the biggest in the country and provides the terrain and support you need to meet your goals. The course boasts a “downhill to downtown” before finishing at the state capitol.
Location: Chicago, IL
Date: October 8, 2023
The Chicago Marathon provides a versatile experience for runners by combining city streets with lakefront views. This course is exceptionally flat with powerful crowd support throughout 26.2 miles to keep runners motivated and inspired. The race is so popular that you’ll have to enter through a lottery or run with a charity to join.
Location: Dallas, TX
Date: December 10, 2023
The Dallas Marathon takes runners on a unique tour of the city. The course winds its way through diverse neighborhoods and various entertainment districts to keep things interesting. With thousands of spectators lining the streets, you’ll feel inspired and entertained along the way.
Location: Detroit, MI
Date: October 15, 2023
The Detroit Free Press Marathon provides a one-of-a-kind experience, taking runners on a course that travels to and from Canada. Runners first travel over a bridge and then return by an underwater tunnel. You’ll finish in downtown Detroit and experience fantastic crowd support with plenty of runners by your side along the way.
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Date: May 5, 2024
The Flying Pig Marathon truly embodies its name. This race provides plenty of entertainment and excitement as spectators and race organizers share plenty of pig-themed swag, pig-themed starting corrals and mid-race chili contests. The beautiful countryside along with tons of crowd support and cheering fans make all the hills worth it.
Location: Honolulu, HI
Date: December 10, 2023
Escape the dreary winter season and experience the laid-back vibe of Hawaii in December. The Honolulu Marathon is one of the largest road races in the world – but doesn’t feel like it. This race has no time limit, making it perfect for walkers or those looking for a recreational challenge. You’ll love all the beautiful sites – not to mention the perfect excuse to travel this winter.
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Date: March 17, 2024
The Los Angeles Marathon takes runners on a beautiful tour of the city. The race begins at Dodger Stadium for a one-of-a-kind experience, and continues throughout some of the most iconic city streets. With near perfect weather in the California fall, you’ll love the experience in this race.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: October 29, 2023
The Marine Corps Marathon, commonly known as “The People’s Marathon” takes runners on an extensive tour of the nation’s capital. This race plays tribute to those who have served and are serving the country with its patriotic theme. The “wear blue mile” provides a powerful tribute to the fallen heroes of the military. This race will keep you inspired throughout the course.
Location: New York, NY
Date: November 5, 2023
The New York City Marathon is the biggest marathon in the world – and for good reason. The course takes you along the five boroughs in New York. You’ll cross through bridges, run through diverse neighborhoods and finish by running through Manhattan and Central Park. The crowd support throughout this race is unlike any other, affectionately providing a 26.2 mile block party for the runners.
Location: Niagra Falls, CA
Date: October 22, 2023
The Niagara Falls International Marathon provides an experience for runners by taking them between the United States and Canada. This gorgeous course is completely flat and packed with beautiful scenery. You’ll start in Buffalo, New York and cross the border to finish right on the brink of Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Canada.
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Date: November 19, 2023
The Philadelphia Marathon takes runners on a fantastic tour of American history. The course begins by passing some of the most well-known monuments and continues by following along the Schuylkill River before finishing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The cheering fans, interesting scenery and gentle course make this race perfect for beginners or those looking to PR.
Location: Manitou Springs, CO
Date: September 17, 2023
The Pikes Peak Marathon is not for the faint of heart. This course takes runners over 15,000 feet of elevation change, summitting midway through the race. The terrain is narrow and rugged, forcing a smaller race size to allow for runners to space out. If you are looking for the ultimate challenge, Pikes Peak is for you.
Location: Portland, OR
Date: October 1, 2023
The Portland Marathon takes runners on a tour of beautiful Portland. You’ll start and finish at Portland’s Waterfront Park and run past many different monuments. This course is fast and flat, providing the perfect set up for a PR. Enjoy the city streets near the finish with plenty of crowd support to keep you motivated.
Location: St. George, UT
Date: October 7, 2023
The St. George Marathon is perhaps one of the best opportunities to PR in the marathon, with a net loss of 2,500 feet throughout the course. This race is incredibly organized and structured in a way that makes runners feel confident and eases the nerves. Views of the Veyo Volcano and red rock keeps runners distracted throughout the entire 26.2 race.
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Date: September 30, 2023
The Twin Cities Marathon is the perfect race for runners looking to feel supported the entire way without being stuck in massive crowds. This race takes runners on a tour of Minneapolis with tons of gorgeous fall views. Runners will appreciate the organization and structure of logistics throughout the entire race weekend.
Location: Lake Buena Vista, FL
Date: January 7, 2024
The Walt Disney World Marathon is an excellent way to escape the dreary winter and be transported into a fairy tale. The race starts and finishes at Epcot, and boasts a flat and fast course that’s perfect for achieving your goals. You’ll be surrounded by Disney characters, getting to experience the park firsthand without other tourists.