The 10 Best Marathons to Run in America

The 10 Best Marathons to Run in America

In what's consistently named one of the world's most scenic marathons, starting in Pfeiffer State Park in Big Sur, this marathon follows Highway 1 through towering redwoods, blooming wildflowers and past the rocky cliffs of the California coast. Pass the Point Sur Lighthouse, then try not to get too distracted after you pump up the two-mile Hurricane Point climb and are dwarfed by a perfect view of the iconic Bixby Bridge (which you'll shortly cross while being serenaded by a tux-wearing man playing a grand piano). Finish the course running through actual strawberry fields that (thankfully) do not last forever.

Usually in: April/May

Mickey and Minnie, Donald Duck, Goofy and the Disney Princesses will cheer you through this race as you frolic through all four of the Disney Kingdoms. Keep your pace with seven-foot-tall chipmunks and talking characters acting as mile markers through EPCOT, the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Travel to this race, and we guarantee your kids (or your inner-kid) will thank you.

Usually in: January

The ninth-largest marathon in the world, this race sweats red, white and blue. Military units running in formation, national monuments, giant marble Abe Lincoln, the Korean and Vietnam Veteran's war memorials and even the Capitol building itself fill the scenery while you trace the George Washington Memorial Parkway over the Potomac and through Georgetown. Can we get a "USA! USA! USA!"?

Wildlife-lover runners, rejoice! With the Chugach Mountain range to your east, Cook Inlet to the west and an Alaskan sun that, with the summer solstice, never sets, you'll share the northern tundra with the likes of moose and bear. After catching a glimpse of the unique flora and fauna, stick around for a while—there's much to explore.

Usually in: June


Let's get straight to it—this marathon is in Hawaii. Do you need more reason to sign up? If so, consider the fact that this Waikiki race starts and ends at the beach (a dip in the Pacific might just be the perfect cool-down) and, even if you hate hills, there's a cool factor inherent in climbing the Diamond Head 700-foot volcanic crater.

Usually in: December

A trail runner's fantasy, this marathon takes you to the top of one of Colorado's 14-ers, up wild and winding dirt and gravel trails. Pushing through the 7,815 vertical feet of the course (6,000 of which occur within the first 10 miles), you're rewarded with gorgeous mountain scenery and the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing an insanely challenging (or, better, straight-up insane) task. Warning: Do not expect to make good time on this course—winning times usually barely miss the four-hour mark.

Usually in: August

Run along the Silverado Trail on the east side of scenic Napa Valley as you whiz past abundant fruit trees and drink in endless rolling vineyards and beautiful countryside. Cross the finish line in the town of Napa before you inevitably turn on your heel and head back toward world-class wineries.

Usually in: March

Are you ready for space references? Good. Just minutes from the NASA Kennedy Space Center, the "roar of the space shuttle countdown and liftoff" kick off the races 6:15am "Blast Off." Running the space-food flat course along the Florida waterfront, cool temps and glimpsing the occasional astronaut help your speed. Go ahead and dress like an alien or a space-nut—you know, tin-foil hats, Jodie Foster in Contact, "They're coming" sandwich boards, etc.—your costume could win you $50 in the post-race contest.

Usually in: November

This course starts in Fresno, loops through the historic Town of Clovis that's bursting with gorgeous foliage and ends in the amphitheater at 300-acre Woodward Park. While many feel ho-hum about the actual 26.2 miles, participants gush over stellar organization and top-notch pre- and post-race goodies. Ratcheting up its appeal, Fresno sits smack in the middle of Yosemite and Sequoia, begging you to take a few extra days off work and go explore.

Usually in: November

The Bataan Death March is not, as its name implies, a march to your death—necessarily. Nor is it your typical marathon. This race—which actually is more of a march—commemorates the service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II. Packed with service members (who don full military garb), but also open to civilians, the course is a marathon-length trudge across sand dunes and unstable ground that's sure to challenge even the most fit.

Usually in: March