Destination Runs: 15 American Marathons Worth Traveling For

Running a marathon is much more than simple exercise. It includes the personal achievements, experiences, and memories that make a marathon memorable.

Fortunately, several incredible marathons are held across the country. While some offer dangerous and unforgiving trails, others impress with their scenic routes.

These marathons gather large crowds each year globally. Each is unique to its course and the people in the city who come out to cheer for its athletes.

1. Marine Corps Marathon — Vancouver

Marine Corps Marathon
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

There’s no better marathon for a beginner than the Marine Corps Marathon. As one of the United States’ largest marathons, it draws runners from all over the world. The U.S. Marine Corps manages the track.

The iconic route runs through Arlington and into Washington. Participants experience the famous monuments on both sides and enjoy the festive parties afterward.

2. The Flying Pig Marathon — Ohio

The Flying Pig Marathon — Ohio
Image Credit: Pig Works.

This Cincinnati marathon has been voted the best marathon in America. Cincinnati has also won the best categories for street art and botanical gardens, so there are plenty of great views along the way.

The city’s brewery places are fun to explore as a reward after the marathon. Many enjoy themselves at the Findlay farmers market before the race.

3. The Chicago Marathon — Illinois

Chicago Marathon at Grand Avenue passing
Image Credit: Richard Smith – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The entire course runs alongside the Michigan Lake. However, the crowd truly makes the marathon a whole other experience. There’s hardly any part of the course where runners won’t hear themselves being cheered on by the crowd.

The flat course makes the event an accessible marathon, even for beginners. Twenty aid stations are situated along the track, each well-equipped with sports drinks and water.

4. Big Sur International Marathon — California

Big Sur International Marathon — California
Image Credit: Big Sur Marathon Foundation.

As the most scenic marathon in the country, Big Sur is at the top of many runner’s bucket lists. Despite the hilly terrain and course winds, every step is met with breathtaking views. The lovely sound of pianos near the Bixby Bridge calms runners.

It is impossible not to stop and take pictures throughout this memorable marathon. With views of the Pacific Ocean and Redwoods, this marathon feels more like a vacation than a jog.

5. Honolulu Marathon — Hawaii

Honolulu Marathon
Image Credit: Anthony Quintano – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

What better way to holiday in Hawaii than running through it? The Diamond Head is a long hill within the course, but it is also the most beautiful part. Many runners catch a fantastic view of the sunset during the run.

With multiple race photographers and photo spots, runners can finally get their perfect marathon pictures taken. The course might appear primarily flat, but there are a few big climbs and low rollers. Upon completing the marathon, runners get a shell necklace and a medal.

6. Pikes Peak Marathon — Colorado

Pikes Peak seen from the Garden of the Gods
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

This trail marathon goes up and down Pike’s Peak in Colorado. It’s the perfect bucket-list marathon for any mountain lover. Runners need trail shoes for the grueling ascent. The track is over 14,000 feet above sea level and is one of America’s most challenging marathons.

The adventurous marathon is well worth it, and the views will keep the runners returning every year. Colorado Springs, a neighboring city, offers a variety of lodging and sightseeing opportunities.

7. The Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon — Nevada

The Rock n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon — Nevada
Image Credit: SlowRoll.

The Rock n’ Roll Marathon is more than just a race; it’s a party. The marathon keeps its participants running the entire night through the world’s entertainment capital.

From downtown Las Vegas to the fountains of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, this electrifying marathon will keep everyone energized under the city lights. It’s a unique way to experience this bright, lively city.

8. Philadelphia Marathon — Pennsylvania

Image Credit: The Philadelphia Marathon Weekend.

The first part of the marathon takes place in the city’s most historic area. In contrast, the rest takes runners along panoramic waterfronts. Running past the art museum is always a favorite highlight for the athletes.

The marathon is not the hilliest on the list, but it has enough hills to keep things interesting. When the participants reach the finish line, they will be smiling to see the energetic crowds cheering them on.

9. Wineglass Marathon — New York

Image Credit: Corning Classic Charities, Inc.

No marathon has a more unique medal than this one. Made entirely of glass, the medal is a beautiful addition to any marathon runner’s award collection. This stunning course runs through small towns and past farmhouses.

There are many surrounding attractions for participants to enjoy before the race. The glass museum is a must-visit for anyone wanting to make small glass ornaments.

10. St. George Marathon — Utah

Image Credit: Altra Running.

This desert marathon is known for its picturesque views. Athletes can see the mountains and canyons frame the beautiful sunrise. The rock canyons are enough of a distraction to keep any runner going.

The wind can be chilly at the start but becomes more hospitable by the end as the athletes reach town. Numerous campfires keep the athletes warm before the race.

11. Appletree Marathon — Washington

Appletree Marathon
Image Credit: Why Racing Events.

Not every flat and fast marathon has to be bland. The Appletree Marathon takes its runners through Fort Vancouver to the exquisite Columbia River. The marathon is called “Run Through History” due to all the historical sites on the route.

The marathon also offers a shorter distance option for friends and family. This way, everyone can enjoy the experience of running, regardless of skill level.

12. Niagara Falls International Marathon — New York

Niagara Falls International Marathon
Image Credit: Niagara Falls Marathon.

Many have visited this world-famous waterfall, but how many have run through its panoramic terrain? This marathon is literally international, taking its athletes across the border to Canada. The start is in Buffalo, New York, while the end is across the border.

The roar of the Niagra Falls is enough to drown out the noise of one’s footsteps. The adrenaline rush is like no other.

13. Lake Michigan Trail Marathon — Wisconsin

Lake Michigan Trail Marathon
Image Credit: RF Events.

Most of this marathon’s course runs along Lake Michigan’s shore, while the rest passes through parks. The route even includes a few unexpected stone stairways.

Starting from South Beach, the course brings the runners to downtown Miami. There’s even a festival in Lummus Park for participants to enjoy afterward.

14. Atlantic City Marathon — New Jersey

Image Credit: pressofAtlanticCity.

This relatively flat course is easy to run through fast, though its views make runners slow down here and there. Running through the tunnel to the Marina and on the boardwalk is a sight to behold.

This marathon is easy to complete, and there are many ways to celebrate afterward. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s casinos or the Absecon lighthouse.

15. Hatfield-McCoy Marathon — Kentucky

Image Credit: Hatfield McCoy Marathon.

The marathon starts in Kentucky, and its finish line is in West Virginia. Anyone who enjoys elevations will love the many hills in this marathon. The best rise in height comes in the shape of Blackberry Mountain.

The mountainous terrain makes it the fourteenth most challenging marathon in the world. However, the free pasta party for all participants makes it worth the effort.

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