Running Planet’s Top Ten U.S. Marathons


All top ten lists are subjective in nature. It all depends upon what the writers prefer. We have a diverse group at Running Planet with a lot of different tastes so hopefully we have something here that everyone will enjoy. We based our top ten on scenery, history, organization, crowd support and difficulty. Difficulty was a bit hard to score because some of our editors like an easy race and for others harder is better. At any rate, here is our top ten U.S. Marathons.




























Disney World Marathon


Number one on our list is the Disney World Marathon. It really isn’t a fair contest. How can you beat running with Mickey, Donald, Goofy and the gang? The course is mostly flat (with the exception of a lot of freeway overpasses) and fast. You get the fringe benefit of running through all of the Disney World theme parks without paying a fee. Crowd support is great within the park, but a bit sparse on the surrounding highways.


The Disney folks are experts at the logistics of handling big crowds so getting runners to and from the race runs like clockwork. If you stay on the Disney World they will pick you up at your hotel and drop you off at the staging area. After the race your bus will be waiting at the finish line and drop you back at your hotel. It couldn’t be easier. Disney also provides transportation for spectators so they can travel to different viewing areas. In terms of course, support, logistics, excitement and plain old fun, you can’t beat the Disney World Marathon.


New York Marathon


New York makes number two on the list due to pure excitement and crowd support. The New York Marathon has perhaps the most memorable start of any race. A two level start on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, a 26.2 mile standing ovation, the finish in Central Park and New York pizza make this race a must do.


Big Sur International Marathon


Spectacular scenery, great race organizers, the best on-course entertainment and a fabulous vacation spot makes the Big Sur Marathon a perennial top ten. Don’t plan on setting a PR on this tough course – just relax and enjoy the experience.


Maui Marathon


Running a close second to the Big Sur in terms of scenery and vacation value is the Maui Marathon. You just can’t beat running on the beach, hula skirts and a chance to see some humpback whales along the way.


Chicago Marathon


I can sum up the major appeal of this race with three simple words – fast, fast, fast. This course is perfect for setting a PR. The speed of the course, great crowd support, excellent organization and the appeal of the Windy City makes this marathon a top ten choice.


Marine Corp Marathon


Nicknamed “The Peoples Marathon” – this is a classic that will make your chest fill with patriotism and national pride as you run past such historical landmarks as the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery and The Pentagon.


Famous Marathon in Boston


The most famous, prestigious and oldest race of them all is the one in Boston. This one is all about history and the right to say you ran Boston. Who doesn’t want to brag that they ran up Heartbreak Hill? I can’t mention the official name of this marathon because the race organizers are so over protective that the mere mention of the official trademarked name without notarized, written permission in quadruplicate will cause their attorneys to start burning the midnight oil and sharpening their pencils. Note to race directors – lighten up, it’s a race, not the cure for cancer.


Pike’s Peak Marathon


This one is a sleeper that you won’t see on many top ten lists. It made ours for two reasons. Unbelievable scenery and eye popping difficulty. This brutal race starts at an altitude of 6,294 feet before climbing to a mind numbing, lung searing altitude of 14,110 feet. Then you get to start the quad cramping descent back down to 6,345 feet at the finish. Difficult – Yeah, but talk about bragging rights!


San Diego Rock N’ Roll Marathon


This one makes the list for party atmosphere. This race features over 40 bands on the course to keep you motivated. Great bands, good crowd support, unbeatable climate, nice vacation spot and a great finishers medal makes this race a good choice.


Honolulu Marathon


Yeah, I know. There is already a Hawaiian marathon on the list. But let’s face it; you can’t get enough of the islands. If you like a big crowd this one is larger and less laid back than the Maui Marathon. Some notable sights you will see along the course are Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach and Koko Head Crater.



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