The 20 Best Marathons To Run in the USA

Photo: Getty Images / fotog
One of the best parts of being a runner is seeing the world on foot. And when it comes to distances that really let you get a feel for a place, there's nothing quite like the marathon. This iconic distance, 26.2 miles, has captured the hearts of the 1.1 million Americans who run marathons each year. If you're ready to join their ranks, the very best marathons in America are ready and waiting for you.

Generally speaking, marathon season lasts from mid-August to December—but that's not a hard and fast rule. (For example, the Boston Marathon is held annually in April.) During this stretch of time, you can sign up for a race in whatever backdrop most inspire you: the concrete jungle, the verdant Pacific Northwest, the shores of Lake Michigan—your choice.

To make your research a breeze, below, we curated a USA marathon bucket list that's organized by elevation. Whether you're searching for a beginner marathon, a predominately downhill race, or are ready to take on some gnarly elevation, we've got you.

(Mostly) flat marathons

Bank of America Chicago Marathon

The Chicago marathon is famously, gorgeously flat—making it an ideal race for anyone hoping to BQ (Boston qualify). Starting and finishing in Grant Park, this magical race will help you see the city as you've never seen it before.

Date and location: October 28, 2023; Chicago, Illinois

Elevation: net gain of 243 feet

Cost of entry: $230

Where to stay: Visit the official housing site of the marathon.

Restaurants to try: Giordano’s, Sapori Trattoria, Alexander's

Philadelphia Marathon

This mostly flat race will take you by some of Philly's most iconic monuments, from Independence Hall to the Liberty Bell Center. While the marathon itself is fantastic, the Philly food scene is a reason to run here in and of itself. You'll fuel up with some of the best eats the city has to offer before you lace up.

Date and location: November 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Elevation: net zero elevation

Cost of entry: $155

Where to stay: Book your hotel at a discounted rate here.

Restaurants to try: Friday Saturday Sunday, Blazin’ J’s, Buena Onda Rittenhouse

Marine Corps Marathon

The Marine Corps Marathon is one of the largest in the world—and famously covers all the monuments in Washington D.C. If you're looking for a city race that also offers its fair share of natural beauty, this is the race for you. And if you have friends or family who've served, all the better.

Date and location: October 2023; Arlington, Virginia

Elevation: elevation gain: 630 feet; elevation Loss: 593 feet

Cost of entry: $220

Where to stay: Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, Crystal Gateway Marathon, The Westin Arlington Gateway

Restaurants to try: Ruthie’s All-Day, Preservation Biscuit, Thompson Italian

Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon

If you love nothing more than running on a beautiful lakefront course, you're in luck. This marathon skates along Lake Michigan, and most of the elevation occurs at the start of the race. These views are the very best the midwest has to offer.

Date and location: October 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Elevation: elevation gain of 626 feet

Cost of entry: $115

Where to stay: Schuster Mansion Bed & Breakfast, Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Milwaukee Downtown

Restaurants to try: Kopp’s Frozen Custard, Lakefront Brewery, Speed Queen Bar-B-Q

Missoula Marathon

Another Boston qualifying flat course, the Missoula Marathon offers breathtaking views of farmland, mountains, city, and more.

Date and location: Frenchtown, Montana; June 25, 2023

Elevation: max Elevation: 3256 feet; min elevation: 3041 feet

Cost of entry: $95

Where to stay: Double Tree by Hilton Missoula-Edgewater

Restaurants to try: Rattlesnake Gardens Market & Cafe, Tagliare Delicatessen, The Catalyst Cafe


No marathon list is complete without the one and only Boston Marathon. This iconic race is the world's oldest annual marathon and attracts some of the fastest runners out there. While Boston is a net downhill race, the notoriously gnarly Heartbreak Hill (which happens at mile 20) convinced us that this race deserved to be on the "elevation" section of this guide. Note: You will have to qualify for this race, so make sure you check out the hoops you have to jump through to earn your spot at this finish line.

Date and location: April 17, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts

Elevation: 891 elevation gain

Cost of entry: $225

Where to stay: Check here for a list of places to stay.

Restaurants to try: Giulia, Santarpio's Pizza, Seabiscuit

Kiawah Island Marathon

You're in for a beautiful tour of the South Carolina Lowcountry with the Kiawah Island Marathon. From trees heavy with moss to miles and miles of marshland, there's plenty to see throughout this beautiful run. Plus, you'll only gain about 129 feet in elevation, so it's a perfect course for chasing a personal record.

Date and location: December 2023, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Elevation: elevation gain: 129 feet; elevation loss: 129 feet

Cost of entry: $130

Where to stay: The Sanctuary, Comfort Inn Downtown Charleston, Embassy Suites by Hilton

Restaurants to try: The Nest Market, Bertha's Restaurant, Lewis Barbecue

Honolulu Marathon

Cruise along Honolulu's oceanfront in this (semi) out-and-back race with a few mild hills. This course will serve you plenty of gorgeous ocean views before steering you inland so you can see the city. Plus, weather doesn't get much better than Hawaii in December.

Date and location: December 2023; Honolulu, Hawaii

Elevation: elevation gain: 457 feet; elevation loss: 455 feet

Cost of entry: $185

Where to stay: Waikiki Beachcomber by Outrigger, Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort (use code "MARATHON" at checkout for a discount)

Restaurants to try: Over Easy, Kyung’s Seafood, Waiola Shave Ice

Walt Disney World Marathon

Get running through the most magical place on earth. This race weekend is a blast for people who run all distances—so if you're traveling with someone who'd rather run a 5K or a 10K, they will be all set, too. In all honesty, it's hard to get a spot in this marathon. So if it's on your bucket list, make sure to set a timer so that you don't miss registration.

Date and location: January 8, 2023; Walt Disney World Resort, Florida

Elevation: elevation gain: 351 feet; elevation loss: 354 feet

Cost of entry: $229

Where to stay: If you're running the Disney World Marathon, chances are you will want to stay at a Disney Resort.

Restaurants to try: Topolino's Terrace, Satu'li CanteenCinderella's Royal Table

Space Coast Marathon

Florida's oldest marathon is a zany mission through space—and it deserves a spot on your bucket list. The event kicks off in Cocoa Village and finishes on the River in Lee Wenner Park and Cocoa Riverfront Park. The whole course is inspired by the galaxy, so get ready for an out-of-this-world experience.

Date and location: November 2023; Cocoa, Florida

Elevation: elevation gain: 262 feet; elevation loss: 259 feet

Cost of entry: $130

Where to stay: Book your hotel here.

Restaurants to try: This marathon offers a pre-race pasta dinner, but you may also want to check out Brano’s Italian Grill and Simply Delicious Café and Bakery.

Marathons with elevation

Big Sur International Marathon

It doesn't get much better than running 26.2 miles of California's jaw-droppingly gorgeous Highway 1. This Boston qualifying race rolls through redwood trees, coastal mountains, and miles upon miles of ocean. You'll always have something to look at—and since it's a point-to-point race, you'll have the absolute satisfaction of driving the long course you just ran at the end of the day when it's time to head back to your hotel.

Date and location: April 30, 2023; point-to-point race from Big Sur to Carmel

Elevation: +2,182 feet, -2,528-feet

Cost of entry: $265 for domestic participants

Where to stay: Fly into the Monterey Airport and stay in the Monterey Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn Monterey, or an Airbnb.

Restaurants to try: Dine oceanfront in some of Monterey's best restaurants, including Nepenthe and Tides Waterfront Kitchen.

Vermont City Marathon

If you're looking for a marathon with that small-town charm, consider your search overWhile this course is considered "flat" by New England standards, it will still seem pretty hilly for most runners. Make sure your legs and mind are prepared for the elevation so you can simply enjoy the fallcore that is this 26.2 course.

Date and location: May 28, 2023; Burlington, Vermont

Elevation: elevation gain: 855 feet; elevation loss: 856 feet

Cost of entry: TBD

Where to stay: Hotel Vermont, Comfort Inn and Suites

Restaurants to try: A Single Pebble, Penny Clusé Café, Zero Gravity Taproom

Montana Governor's Cup Marathon

This point-to-point race is a Boston qualifier with a challenging patch of hills between miles 16 and 20. You'll run through the mining Ghost Town of Wickes and rural views for a unique marathon setting you can't find anywhere else.

Date and location: November 2023; Wickes, Montana

Elevation: cumulative elevation gain of 638 feet throughout the race

Cost of entry: TBD

Where to stay: Elkhorn Mountain Inn, DoubleTree by Hilton Helena Downtown

Restaurants to try: The Roadhouse Diner, Firehouse BBQ Co, Biga Pizza

Amica Seattle Marathon

This is Seattle's hometown marathon—and it's absolutely glorious. The course's rolling hills will take you on a tour of the city's bridges, waterways, and sweeping vistas. Just make sure you're ready to take on the elevation.

Date and location: November 2023; Seattle Washington

Elevation: elevation gain: 931 feet; elevation Loss: 929 feet

Cost of entry: $147

Where to stay: The Westin Seattle

Restaurants to try: Seattle Hot Dog, The Pink Door, Bar Del Corso 

TCS New York City Marathon

Take it from someone who lived on the NYC marathon race course for several years: marathon day is the most special energy the city has to offer. From the non-stop cheering to the Empire State sites, there's an indescribable aliveness to this race. While it's a bit tricky to get your hands on a bib, the work will be well worth it. You'll remember running through Central Park for the rest of your life—promise.

Date and location: November 5, 2023; New York City, New York

Elevation: elevation gain: 810 feet; elevation loss: 824 feet

Cost of entry: $295

Where to stay: Book your hotel here.

Restaurants to try: Levain Bakery, Atlas Kitchen, Jacob's Pickles

Gorham Savings Bank Maine Marathon

Hosted by the Maine Track Club, this race leads you through rolling hills and stunning ocean vistas. Since the race takes place in early October, this is a great foliage marathon—if you know what I mean. You can expect cool weather

Date and location: October 1, 2023; Portland, Maine

Elevation: elevation gain: 821 feet; elevation loss: 821 feet

Cost of entry: $115

Where to stay: Holiday Inn Portland by the Bay, Hilton Garden Inn Portland Downtown Waterfront

Restaurants to try: Check out the race directors' full list of recommendations

Newport Marathon

The Newport Marathon starts at Easton’s Beach and has long been considered the best marathon in Rhode Island. You'll enjoy beautiful fall weather and many, many hills—so make sure you train elevation, okay?

Date and location: October 2023; Middletown, Rhode Island

Elevation: elevation gain: 847 feet

Cost of entry: $118

Where to stay: Newport Beach Hotel & Suites, Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina, Residence Inn by Marriott

Restaurants to try: Le Bec Sucré, Becky's BBQ, Port Pizza Middletown

Predominately downhill marathons

Los Angeles Marathon 

Tour Los Angeles on foot with this lovely marathon. You'll start at Dodger's Stadium and finishes at Avenue of the Stars in Century City. While the course is a bit hilly initially, you'll finish on a nice downhill grade. So put in the work at the beginning, and prepare to be rewarded.

Date and location: Los Angeles, California; March 19, 2023

Elevation: net elevation drop of 430 feet

Cost of entry: $179

Where to stay: Learn about the LA marathon partner hotels here.

Restaurants to try: Market Venice, Quarter Sheet Pizza Club, Sidecar Donuts

Salt Lake City Marathon

This high-altitude race is mostly flat and downhill. You'll start at the Olympic Legacy Bridge, run through the Wasatch Mountains and different parts of the city, and cross the finish line in the middle of downtown.

Date and location: April 32, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah

Elevation: +918 feet, -1501 feet

Cost of entry: $70 to $110

Where to stay: Marriott City Center (walking distance from the finish line)

Restaurants to try: Grab a bite at Chunga's if you're in the mood for Mexican food or Banbury Cross Donuts for a pre-race donut.

Napa Valley Marathon

If running through wine country sounds dreamy to you, this is the 26.2 race for you. This scenic route takes you through miles of vineyards and mountains for a beautiful course that will feel like one long day of sightseeing. Celebrate at the finish line with a generous pour of California red.

Date and location: March 23, 2023. point-to-point race from Calistoga to Napa

Elevation: The race starts at nearly 400 feet above sea level and ends about 60 feet above sea level.

Cost of entry: $175

Where to stay: Hampton Inn & Suites Napa, Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa, Holiday Inn Express

Restaurants to try: The Model Bakery, Pizzeria Tra Vigne, Gott's Roadside

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