With many of us starting to think about training for our fall marathons, I thought it would be good time to reflect on what I consider the top U.S. marathons you should try to run before you hang up those ol’ running shoes. This list is based off of marathons I have run, have had friends run and good old fashion research.

These are not necessarily the fastest, hardest or best weather marathons – just ones I feel have staying power, good organization, good crowd support and are usually some of the older marathons out there. My bias, I will throw out here, is that I enjoy the pageantry and gala of a big marathon. While I know some of you like the small town marathon, I am not a big fan. My only reason is that if I am going to train 5-6 months for a 26.2 mile race I want people to know about it and be cheering for me all the way through.

So, here you go…

  • Boston Marathon – Do I really need to explain this one? Great crowd support, oldest marathon in the U.S., you need to qualify to get in, you run on a Monday, it’s a state-wide holiday (Patriot’s Day) so throngs of people are out there cheering you on and what a great vibe all around. (April)
  • New York City Marathon – One of the hardest marathons to get a spot for because of the number of people who register every year. If you do run some faster times for your age then there are some automatic spots for you. I’m from New York and would work the marathon every fall – what a blast. Great crowds, great finish in Central Park – and you’re in NYC – the Big Apple, baby! You run through all 5 boroughs of the city, which is way cool, as well. (November)
  • Chicago Marathon – This was my first ever marathon run – I didn’t train enough, but still had a blast. Chicago is just a great city on so many levels (and this race being one of them). It’s a fast course with again great crowd support and very well organized. (October)
  • Marine Corps Marathon – Any race where you get saluted by a marine and given a heartfelt “congrats” I say go race it. Just a good feeling and patriotism surrounds this race. People are running not only for themselves but for lost loved ones, as well. People are pushing their wounded warriors through this race – a very emotional day on many levels (October).
  • Philadelphia Marathon – This is where I ran my marathon PR, so I may be a bit biased here, but it is a well run marathon in one of the largest and most historical cities in the U.S. The course is fair, the whether usually is great and the city has really embraced it. (November)
  • Napa Valley Marathon – Any race where the winners get their weight is wine is all the reason I need to run it. Heck, your running in Napa – just make it a weekend with some friends and family and enjoy some good food, wine and, oh yeah, a great marathon as well. The weather usually cooperates, volunteer support is awesome and what scenery to take in while you run. (March)
  • Twin Cities Marathon – A fast, scenic and well thought out course. Great fan and volunteer support. Has been the USATF Marathon National Championship for a number of years as well. And you can hang out in the Metrodome before the start, which is pretty cool. (October)
  • Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon – Just what a great name for a race. The crowd support and music along the course is awesome! And so many wonderful views as well.  Wonderful volunteers and good on the water stops. Cincinnati is a sneaky cool city – so check this one out! (May)
  • California International Marathon – Great town, great support, great weather, and great organization. A good race to run a PR in as well. (December)

Like to know what your favorite marathons are. Let the debate begin…



  1. No Big Sur or Pikes Peak? Speed and flat courses are great for sub 3 hour marathoners but who once to see overpasses and convenience stores. Do the hard hilly ones with great scenery and enjoy the run.

  2. My favorite three marathons in order so far: Philadelphia Marathon (ran in 2014 and 2015, both years got a new PR), Atlantic City Marathon (also got a PR in 2015, small race nut very well organized, great volunteers, only 60 dollars for returning racers if you register by end of November), New York City Marathon.

  3. I agree that Big Sur should be on the list and also Mount Desert Island Marathon in Maine. Both races are on challenging scenic courses and organized by people who really understand runners.

  4. I’ve run Twin Cities twice and agree on the course and crowd support. You failed to mention being able to high five NFL Hall of Famer Alan Page–who has completed 9 marathons himself–just before mile 3. The only complaint is mile 19-22 is uphill.

  5. Remember you could always do a Charity bib for Boston. It’s a lot of fundraising but if you know you will never be able to qualify then that is the way to go. I’ve ran Marine Corps the last two years. I am running again and thanks to the Active Duty registration I don’t have to wait for the lottery. I also got into Chicago so two marathons in 14 days..

  6. A good list. I ‘ve run several of them and will likely try to run a couple of others you mention. I do think Big Sur should have made your list.

  7. The Metrodome (Twin Cities) was demolished in 2014, and US Bank Stadium doesn’t allow runners on race morning. However, waiting in 40-degree weather is worth it because then you get to run in 40-degree weather. That’s the best thing about Twin Cities.

  8. Walt Disney World Marathon – stop and take your picture with characters, maybe ride a ride, large crowds, you get to run through all 4 theme parks and the iconic moment of running out the castle! By far the most fun marathon I have ran!

  9. Ran Boston 7 times but the system they have in place now sucks especially last year when they took 870 qualifying spots away so they can have a 2 minute under BQ to run. Promised to raise $5000-7500 and a bib is brought. Check some of these charity bibs. Most can’t even raise $200. It’s a total joke.

  10. Missing Big Sur on this list is sort of an amazing mistake. I also think the Revel ones should be mentioned for spectacular scenery. All of those are well organized and stunning. But. Hard!

  11. Honolulu Marathon (December) is awesome. Nothing like getting up at 02:30 to line up with 33,000 of your closest friends for a 5am start with FIREWORKS!


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