19 Best Marathons in the USA: A Guide to America’s Most Iconic Races

Is running a marathon on your bucket list? Then you aren’t alone! Many amateur and professional runners aim to run at least one marathon in their lifetime. It’s an amazing accomplishment, but one that is totally achievable for runners who put in the time and work.

Once you’ve set your mind on running a marathon, a question naturally pops up: Which marathon should you run? If you’re struggling to answer this question and you’re based in the United States, you’ve come to the right place

You could run a different US marathon every year of your life and you’d still be nowhere close to completing them all.

Below, we’ll look at some of the best marathons the US offers so you can find the perfect race. From the hustle and bustle of city races, to some scenic trails far off the beaten track. Let’s take a look!

Our Pick of the 19 Best Marathons in the USA

Best marathons in the USA

The choices we’ve picked for this list include marathons that span a diverse range of distances and types, from big-city marathons to short races in small towns. 

1. The Honolulu Marathon

The Honolulu Marathon is one of the best in the country for runners and walkers who want to take in the full majesty of Oahu’s beauty. It doesn’t have a cutoff time and is quite a big race, with more than 20,000 runners enjoying landmarks like the King Kamehameha Statue, Iolani Palace, and Diamond Head. 

And, if you like the ocean, then you’ll enjoy the sweeping views of the sea that are plentiful during the Honolulu Marathon. The marathon’s relaxed nature makes it a perfect choice for slower runners who want a laid-back but completely unforgettable race. 

Starting Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Events Available: Marathon

Price of Participation: $60

2. The Boston Marathon

It would be criminal for us to exclude the iconic Boston Marathon from this list. It’s the oldest annual marathon in the world and is among the most rewarding to run if you live in the area. 

The Boston Marathon takes place on Patriots’ Day (the 3rd of April, if you didn’t know) and happens every year. Of course, the marathon wasn’t run in 2020 due to COVID restrictions, but since then, it’s back up and running. 

If we’re talking bucket list runs, then the Boston Marathon is the ultimate. Just getting into the race is a challenge, with runners being required to meet a range of qualifying standards based on their sex and age before they can be accepted. 

This race involves several point-to-point courses, taking runners from Hopkinton to the Boylston Street finish line in Boston, Massachusetts. If for nothing else, it’s an incredible photo opportunity to be seen at one of the most iconic finish lines in the world.

Starting Location: Hopkinton, Massachusetts

Events Available: Marathon

Price of Participation: $225 for US Citizens, $235 for International Runners

3. The Pikes Peak Marathon

If you’re looking for the ultimate challenge in your run, then the Pikes Peak Marathon is your answer. The race takes place in Manitou Springs, Colorado, in late August and mostly involves running on the Barr Trail in Pikes National Forest. 

The marathon progresses through the 16 Golden Stairs that reach the Pikes Peak summit before looping back to the beginning of the race again. The views throughout this race are nothing short of breathtaking but be prepared for a fierce challenge. 

The unpredictable weather, elevation gain, altitude, and challenging terrain make it a difficult marathon, even for the world’s fittest runners. If you can complete the Pikes Peak Marathon, you’ll have achieved many runners’ ultimate goal!

Starting Location: Manitou Springs, Colorado

Events Available: Marathon

Price of Participation: $180 for Early Registration, $190 for Late Registration

4. The Chicago Marathon

The legendary Chicago Marathon crowds
The legendary Chicago Marathon crowds, image courtesy of Richard Smith (CC)

If you want to beat your personal record, consider running the Chicago Marathon. It’s right up there with the Boston Marathon regarding the best runs in America based on runners’ reviews and overall popularity. 

It takes place on the Sunday before Columbus Day and offers the benefit of being a very flat, fast course. This makes it an excellent choice for any runner who wants to crush their personal record and achieve a new best. 

And, if it’s motivation you’re after, you’ll be able to draw on the buzzing energy of more than 1 million spectators cheering the competitors on throughout the course’s 26.2-mile span. With the field’s large size and plenty of runners participating, you’ll speed through the course in no time. 

During this marathon, you’ll see some of Chicago’s greatest landmarks, like Chinatown, Lake Michigan, the Sears Tower, and Wrigley Field. 

Starting Location: Grant Park, Chicago

Events Available: Marathon 

Price of Participation: $230 for US Citizens, $240 for International Runners

5. The Big Sur International Marathon

Do you love sweeping views of the ocean? Then you’ll love the Big Sur International Marathon. It’s a challenging run that moves along the Pacific Ocean’s incredible coastline through Northern California. 

The race starts with you running amongst majestic Redwood trees in Big Sur before you pass along the Pacific Coast Highway. But it’s not an easy race. 

You’ll have to climb a series of challenging hills from the get-go. Then, as you approach the finish line, more hills are waiting for you to climb them. Thankfully, there is some fun entertainment along the way, like a grand piano player at Bixby Bridge and a group of Taiko drummers who beat their drums at the base of Hurricane Point. 

The Big Sur International Marathon is an experience you’ll truly never forget.

Starting Location: Big Sur, California

Events Available: 5K, 12K, 11 Miler, 21 Miler, Marathon

Price of Participation: $25 to $265 for US Citizens, $299 for International Runners

6. The New York City Marathon

New York City Marathon
New York City Marathon, image courtesy of Official FB

For an incredible marathoning experience in the one and only Big Apple, consider taking on the New York City Marathon. It’s the largest marathon in the world, with more than half a thousand participants finishing the race each year.

When running this marathon, you’ll make your way through Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. You’ll end the race back in Manhattan for a grand finale at the iconic Central Park. 

This diverse marathon course makes its way over bridges and along city streets. The best part? At every point in the race, thousands of enthusiastic onlookers cheer on the racers so you can draw on their energy. 

Starting Location: Staten Island, New York

Events Available: Marathon

Price of Participation: $255 for US Citizens, $358 International Runners

7. The Flying Pig Marathon

The Flying Pig Marathon is an excellent option for any runner who wants to party. It takes place in Cincinnati in May and boasts an incredible party atmosphere that will keep you energized throughout the race. 

This race is extremely well organized and even offers a few designated Party Areas throughout the race, offering some special refreshments to participants. It’s a lot of fun and is definitely worth featuring on your bucket list.

Starting Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

Events Available: 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $45 to $115

8. The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Thanks to its fast, flat nature and refreshing fall weather, the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon has seen a boom in popularity over the years. The course moves through many of the state’s greatest landmarks, like the Indiana State Capitol, Butler University, Monument Circle, and the Lucas Oil Stadium.

Between miles 8 and 9, you’ll run through the Indiana State Fairgrounds, which has hosted over 115 State Fairs since it opened in 1892! The finish line has a great atmosphere with food, drinks, games, and plenty of entertainment for the whole family.

Starting Location: Indiana State House, Indianapolis

Events Available: 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $65 to $85

9. The Mount Desert Island Marathon

Taking place in Bar Harbor, the Mount Desert Island Marathon is very likely the US’s most scenic marathon. It features charming New England towns and stunning fall views that will take your breath away. 

Another exceptionally-organized marathon, runners who have completed this race often praise the setup and execution of the Mount Desert Island Marathon and its unique Crusher Claw medals. 

Starting Location: Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, Maine

Events Available: Marathon, Half Marathon

Price of Participation: $100 to $145 depending on registration date

10. The Walt Disney World Marathon

Perhaps the most fun marathon in America, the Walt Disney World Marathon brings out the inner child in all of its participants. It takes place in January every year, offering the benefit of cooler weather to keep you from overheating while you run.

As you may have already guessed, the marathon will take you through each of the Walt Disney Parks. You’ll run through Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom before returning to Epcot to finish. 

While it’s one of the flatter courses out there, it is shared by non-racers attending the parks, so you’ll need to watch out for them while you run. As for the cutoff time, it’s a generous 7 hours, so you’ll definitely be able to finish it. 

The best part is that plenty of runners come dressed in their favorite Disney character costumes, so don’t be afraid to bust out your cosplays if you choose to participate. 

Starting Location: Epcot, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Events Available: Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $125 to $188

11. The Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon

The Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon, while certainly not a very large race, brings in just under 5,000 runners annually to take place in the Summer Solstice event. It’s also not a very easy course, with 14 of its miles taking you up an incline. 

However, the effort is well worth it. Stunning views of the local wildlife, wilderness, and incredible natural water features will greet you along the way. 

Starting Location: Kincaid Park, Anchorage, Alaska

Events Available: 5 Miler, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $45 to $140 depending on registration date

12. The Missoula Marathon

Often called The Last Best Race in the Last Best Place, the Missoula Marathon has been crowned as one of the best races in America many times by various running publications, including RaceRaves, Runner’s World, and The Bib Rave 100. 

Commendations from those companies are more than enough reason to add this marathon to your bucket list. Whether you’re running through the rural countryside or residential neighborhoods, with the Missoula Marathon, you’ll have plenty of spectators on the sidelines cheering you on. 

What’s more, if you hate hilly marathons, you’re in luck – the Missoula Marathon is wonderfully flat. At least, save for the one quick, very steep hill just past the halfway mark.

If you plan on running this marathon, be prepared to wake up early, as it begins at 6:00 am sharp. Past runners have praised the marathon’s excellent organization, citing the efficiency of the registration process, aid stations, and the race’s small expo. 

Starting Location: Frenchtown, Montana

Events Available: 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $35 to $105

13. The Fargo Marathon

The Fargo Marathon is small but mighty, beginning and ending with incredible distinctiveness. This marathon’s start and finish lines are both situated within the FargoDome – as you return to cross the finish line, you’ll be able to watch yourself go on the jumbotron, with thousands of spectators throughout the stadium cheering you on. 

This race is similar to the Flying Pig Marathon because its course crosses state lines. For a good portion of the race, you’ll be in Moorhead, Minnesota – if you’ve ever wanted to visit, now’s your chance!

The Fargo marathon is an excellent option if you love the feel of those small hometown races of your childhood. The race has a maximum participation cap of 2,000 registrants and is one of the more affordable options. Even at its lower price tag, it still packs a punch. 

Starting Location: FargoDome, Fargo, North Dakota

Events Available: 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $39 to $104

14. The Cowtown Marathon

Simply called ‘The Cowtown’ by runners, this Texas-based marathon will have you running through the historic stockyard district of Fort Worth. Further down the line, you’ll make your way through city parks, the TCU campus, and down Magnolia Avenue. If it’s a variety of scenery you’re after, the Cowtown Marathon is your solution. 

Previous runners have mentioned seeing longhorns, cowboys on horseback, and even Elvis – though we can’t verify that last one. The Cowtown Marathon is packed with rolling hills and beautiful scenery, making for a less intimidating marathon. 

It’s well-organized, offering excellent support while you’re out on the course. The volunteers are plentiful, friendly, and always eager to help you. 

Starting Location: Fort Worth, Texas

Events Available: 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon, Ultramarathon (31.1 miles)

Price of Participation: $35 to $280

15. The California International Marathon

If running downhill is more your speed, then you’ll love the California International Marathon. It starts in Folsom and is pretty much entirely downhill, taking you through rural towns and countryside before finishing in Sacramento. 

Of course, pretty much means that the race isn’t completely downhill. In fact, there are a couple of gently rolling hills near the beginning. But overall, this is quite a quick course and is another great option if you’re trying to set a personal record. 

The scenery is nothing special, but the organization of this marathon is where it shines. The California International Marathon is proud of its motto – a marathon organized by runners, for runners. It’s the closest thing to a perfect running experience. 

There’s plenty of volunteer support, numerous aid stations, and spectators throughout the race.

Starting Location: Folsom Dam, California

Events Available: Marathon

Price of Participation: $189

16. The Napa Valley Marathon

Keep the Napa Valley Marathon on your list if you’re a fan of Wine Country. When you don’t feel like running a road marathon packed with runners, the Napa Valley Marathon makes for a great change of pace – figuratively, of course.

It’s a fascinating course lined with vineyards and only brings in about 1,500 runners each year. Just don’t expect many spectators – this tends to be a quiet, peaceful race, with very few places for spectators to watch from. 

One of the greatest things about this course is that it’s relatively straight, so you’ll always be able to see what’s coming. Throughout the Napa Valley Marathon, you’ll pass by several wineries and vineyards that make for some beautiful vistas. 

Starting Location: Napa Valley, California

Events Available: 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $50 to $185

17. The Little Rock Marathon

Previous runners of the Little Rock Marathon rave about the large finisher’s medals offered to contestants at the end of this race, so if you’re looking to bring home a hefty memento, this is the marathon for you. 

What’s more, if you’re a history buff, get excited about the 26.2-mile history lesson you’ll be running through. Throughout the Little Rock Marathon, you’ll make your way past Little Rock Central High School, the Arkansas State Capitol, the William J. Clinton Library and Museum, and even the Governor’s Mansion.

It’s also one of the few extremely inclusive marathons out there. If you often find yourself at the back of the pack when racing, you’ll appreciate the organizers, who ensure you can enjoy this race just as much as the next runner. 

Starting Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Events Available: 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon 

Price of Participation: $45 to $140

18. The Williams Route 66 Marathon

Here we have another marathon that’s best for folks who don’t want to run amongst a sea of participants. The Williams Route 66 Marathon brings around 1,500 runners each year, making it a quieter, more tranquil run. 

You’ll finish this course at the historic Tulsa Landmark – also called The Center of the Universe. It earns this name thanks to its unique auditory anomaly. 

While this course is similar to many other marathons, runners have said that the local spectators are on another level. Throughout the race, you can expect to see hundreds of people partying outside their homes, and you’ll probably be offered an adult beverage more than once while you’re racing. 

Starting Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma 

Events Available: 1 Mile, 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $20 to $110

19. The Space Coast Marathon

Love space travel? Be sure to mark the Space Coast Marathon on your calendar. During this marathon, you’ll have the privilege of running near the iconic Kennedy Space Center, experience the support of a large team of volunteers in NASA-themed uniforms, and even earn a space-themed medal at the end of the race. 

For the most part, this is quite a flat race, though it does contain two out-and-back laps. You’ll first make your way on the northern out-and-back before you proceed to the start area to take on the second one. 

Runners who’ve taken on this marathon in the past say that the morning race can be a little humid and hot, but that’s to be expected when running a marathon in Florida. But there’s some relief, as running alongside the water for the duration of the race makes things a little more peaceful. 

Starting Location: Cocoa, Florida

Events Available: Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $110 to $135

Author Profile

Thalia Oosthuizen

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Thalia started running during the the pandemic as a way of getting out of the house. The running bug bit, and now much of her life revolves around everything to do with running - videos, podcasts, studies, books, articles, and interviews. She's also done several courses on running nutrition and mechanics to aid in her training and advising others.
Thalia Oosthuizen

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