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The 15 Best Fall Marathons in the U.S.

15 Best Fall Marathons

For many of us, summer means lazy beach vacations, barbecues and a break from schoolwork. But for runners around the world, it’s also time to jump-start fall marathon training. So just where will these aspiring marathoners, who sweat it out during the hot and humid months, race their 26.2 miles this fall? Look no further than our list of the country’s best fall marathons. While a few of the most popular races are already sold out this year, it’s never too early to mark your calendar and make your way to a starting line in 2014! (Note: The below races are listed by date, starting with September.)

Air Force Marathon

Photo: Air Force

1. U.S. Air Force Marathon
Location: Dayton, OH
Date: September 21, 2013
Marathoners will hopefully feel light on their feet at the U.S. Air Force Marathon, as they fly through a relatively flat 26.2-mile loop of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. An Air Force jet flyover kicks off the 17th annual race, and 15,000 runners — military personnel and civilians alike — race past historical aviation sites including the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the Air Force Institute of Technology and the Wright Brothers Memorial Monument. They’ll even take home an aircraft of their own! That’s right — this year’s custom finisher medal features an engraving of a C-130J Super Hercules. There may not be a high volume of spectators since it’s on a military base, but the race weekend does offer a half-marathon, 10K and 5K for runners of all levels. Registration fee: $80-$105; sold out

Jackson Hole

Photo: drljohnson

2. Jackson Hole Marathon
Location: Jackson Hole, WY
Date: September 22, 2013
For the nature-loving runners out there, Jackson Hole Marathon doesn’t disappoint. The course traverses scenic vistas with Instagram-worthy fall foliage, and, the eco-friendly race is also part of a growing number of “cup-free” running events around the country. There are still plenty of aid stations with water, Gatorade and gel packets, but participants are responsible for carrying their own hydration system. In its third year, the Jackson Hole Marathon is small (with only 122 finishers in 2012), but there is also a half-marathon and marathon relay along the course on the same day. Registration fee: $80-$100

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon

Photo: Competitive Image, courtesy of Twin Cities In Motion

3. Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
Location: Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN
Date: October 6, 2013
When it comes to big city races, you might as well double down. At the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, celebrating its 32nd year as the “most beautiful urban marathon in America,” runners get two cities for the price of one! This year’s 12,200 participants will make their way from the Mall of America Field in downtown Minneapolis all the way to the State Capitol in St. Paul. Along the way, they’ll pass sparkling lakes, tree-lined streets, the riverbanks of the Mississippi, rolling hills and, of course, some 300,000 cheering spectators. The weekend’s events also include a 10-mile, 10K and 5K races. Registration fee: $105-$130; sold out

Portland Marathon

Photo: Portland Marathon

4. Portland Marathon
Location: Portland, OR
Date: October 6, 2013
For more than 40 years, Portland has welcomed runners to its city with open arms. So it’s no surprise that the Portland Marathon is continually hailed by Runner’s World and other marathon authorities as a fun, friendly and well-organized race. This fast Boston Qualifier starts and ends in downtown Portland, crosses the St. John Bridge, and minimizes turns — there are only 21 in the whole course. Sure, there are plenty of serious runners in the field, but the race is known for being especially walker-friendly. It’s also a pioneer when it comes to high-energy entertainment on the course (with more than 70 performers last year!), and features a half-marathon option if 13.1 miles is more your speed. Registration fee: $150

Wineglass Marathon

Photo: Michael Buchinger / Michael B Studios

5. Wineglass Marathon
Location: Corning, NY
Date: October 6, 2013
Just try to guess what’s waiting at the finish line for the winos (ahem, runners), who take on the Wineglass Marathon. In its 32nd year, this Boston Qualifier is growing at a rapid pace and expects 2,250 participants this fall (and another 2,000 at the half-marathon event). Maybe it’s the flat and fast point-to-point run from Bath to Corning, NY, or the picturesque autumn colors of the Finger Lakes region. Or maybe it’s the wine. Yeah, we’re betting on the wine, too. Registration fee: $70-$125; sold out

Baltimore Marathon

Photo: marathonfoto.com

6. The Under Armour Baltimore Marathon
Location: Baltimore, MD
Date: October 12, 2013
The second week in October is a full-on running festival, taking over Charm City with the Under Armour Baltimore Marathon, a half-marathon, a team relay, a 5K and a kids’ fun run. At this spectator-friendly event, expect a sea of orange Under Armour tech shirts to flow through the Inner Harbor area and into the city streets of Federal Hill and Fells Point before pouring into the finishing area at Camden Yards — home to the Ravens and the Orioles. And if a challenging 26.2 Boston Qualifier isn’t enough for you, try taking on the Maryland Double Dare Challenge by competing in the full or half-marathon in Baltimore and the Frederick Running Festival in May. Registration fee: $90-$110

Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Photo: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

7. Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Location: Chicago, IL
Date: October 13, 2013
Founded in 1977, the Chicago Marathon had 4,200 participants in its first year (not to mention an incredible $5 entry fee). Today, the Windy City welcomes 45,000 runners from all 50 states and more than 100 countries around the world, including many elite runners, to its World Marathon Majors event. This renowned flat and fast course has many turns, cruising through 29 different neighborhoods — from Lakeview East to Little Italy to Bronzeville — with a start and finish in the historic Grant Park. Call us crazy, but we’d like to think that even those elites will indulge in a few deep dish pizzas and Chicago-style hot dogs after the race. Registration fee: $175-$200; sold out

Steamtown Marathon

Photo: runphotos.com

8. Steamtown Marathon
Location: Scranton, PA
Date: October 13, 2013
Yes, this is the same Scranton, PA that was home to Pam, Jim and the rest of The Office for nine seasons. So how is such a small town marathon already sold out, you might ask? Runners flock to the Steamtown Marathon each year precisely for that small town charm and the opportunity to share the course with only 2,000 runners. Oh, and did we mention the net elevation drop of 955 feet? This downhill Boston Qualifier has been consistently ranked as one of the country’s fastest marathons by several running authorities. It’s also gotten rave reviews for its scenic course which includes a 2.2 trail section along the Lackawanna River, its friendly volunteers and crowds, and some hilarious weekly emails from the race director leading up to the race — all of which should help you forget about your screaming quads on those downhills. Registration fee: $85; sold out

Baystate Marathon

Photo: Baystate Marathon

9. Ashworth Awards Baystate Marathon
Location: Lowell, MA
Date: October 20, 2013
The Ashworth Awards Baystate Marathon, located only 30 miles outside of Boston, is clear in its intentions: “For Runners, by Runners: Let us help you get your Boston Qualifier.” After the tragic events at the 2013 Boston Marathon, it’s no surprise this small race is more determined than ever to help its locals make it to the 2014 Boston Marathon’s starting line in Hopkinton next April. With a little more than 1,000 finishers, this race boasts that 25 percent of its runners ran BQs in the past two years. There is also a half-marathon offered the same day. Registration fee: $75-$90

10. Nike Women’s Marathon
Location: San Francisco, CA
Date: October 20, 2013
Ladies: Would you endure 26.2 miles of San Fran hills if a hunky, tuxedo-clad firefighter greeted you at the finish line with a custom-designed Tiffany & Co. necklace? Yes, us too. Celebrate the 10th anniversary of the largest women’s marathon in the world by joining 25,000 other marathoners (and half-marathoners) through the challenging Boston Qualifying course that offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, the Pacific Ocean and plenty of other Bay Area gems. Registration fee: $200

Marine Corps Marathon

Photo: Marine Corps Marathon

11. Marine Corps Marathon
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: October 27, 2013
Often called the “People’s Marathon” because it doesn’t offer any prize money to the top finishers, the Marine Corps Marathon is so popular, it sold out in two hours and 27 minutes this year (faster than most marathon finish times!). This means 30,000 runners will make their way through the nation’s capitol, passing by monumental D.C. sights like the Jefferson Memorial, the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery. But more rewarding than the miles, participants agree, are the Marines along the course who cheer runners on and place the finishing medals around their necks. Registration fee: $99; sold out

12. The ING New York City Marathon
Location: New York, NY
Date: November 3, 2013
Ready for the big stage? The ING New York City Marathon is the world’s largest marathon, featuring 26.2 miles through all five boroughs of the city. With its 2012 cancellation due to Hurricane Sandy, many runners who deferred their entry have had more than a year to mentally and physically prepare for the behemoth event. It’s notoriously difficult to get into the race (though you still can at this time through a charity team). But from hearing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” at the starting line in Staten Island to pushing through the final stretch of the famous finish in Central Park, the marathoners who do get a bib will chase after some of the most iconic 26.2 miles in marathon history. Registration fee: $216-$347, plus an $11 processing fee; sold out

Catalina Eco-Marathon

Photo by Rich Cruse

13. Catalina Island Eco Marathon
Location: Avalon, CA
Date: November 9, 2013
It’s nearly a marathon distance to get to the starting line of the Catalina Island Eco-Marathon (at 26 miles), but according to past participants, the remote (and beautiful) location is part of the appeal. Off the coast of Long Beach, the course on Catalina Island includes 22 miles of difficult trails, dirt roads in three different eco-systems, and one killer hill at mile 19 — the “Catalina Crush” for nearly 300 participants. While you can’t expect to see many spectators, the race does remind you to keep an eye out for buffalo, seals and bald eagles that inhabit the course. There is also a 10K available for runners who’d much rather skip the “Catalina Crush.” Registration fee: $110-$135

Anthem Richmond Marathon

Photo: Sports Backers

14. Anthem Richmond Marathon
Location: Richmond, VA
Date: November 16, 2013
First-time marathoners who feel a bit intimidated by other picks on this list should check out the Anthem Richmond Marathon. It’s not called “America’s Friendliest Marathon” for nothing! There are junk food stations at miles 16 and 22 (Gummi Bears, cookies and soda, anyone?), a few wet washcloth stops, energy-boosting “party zones,” and a post-race pizza and beer party on Brown’s Island. The 36th annual race will loop through historic neighborhoods, along the James River and downhill to the finish line in the heart of the city. It also features a half-marathon, 8K and kids’ run all on the same day. Registration fee: $80-$130

15. Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Date: November 17, 2013
Think you need sexy stilettos for a night out in Las Vegas? Guess again. All you need for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon are your running sneaks (and maybe a headlamp). The race, featuring a flat course that runs straight through the flashy Las Vegas Strip to the tunes of live rock ‘n’ roll bands, starts at 4:30 pm (with a half-marathon and a “half of the half” race earlier in the day). After conquering 26.2 miles of Sin City, marathoners are invited to celebrate at the after-party at LAVO nightclub. And yes, you can still leave those high heels at home. Registration fee: $145-$180

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