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 2015! (Note: The below races are listed by date, starting with September.)
1. U.S. Air Force Marathon
Location: Dayton, OH
Date: September 19, 2015
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 day, 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. 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-$115.
2. Jackson Hole Marathon
Location: Jackson Hole, WY
Date: September 5, 2015
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. The Jackson Hole Marathon is small (with only 234 finishers in 2014), but there is also a half-marathon and marathon relay along the course on the same day. Registration fee: $75-$100
3. Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
Location: Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN
Date: October 4, 2015
When it comes to big city races, you might as well double down. At the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, the “most beautiful urban marathon in America,” runners get two cities for the price of one! This year’s participants will make their way from the Minnesota Vikings Stadium 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: $120-$150.
4. Portland Marathon
Location: Portland, OR
Date: October 4, 2015
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, and features a half-marathon option if 13.1 miles is more your speed. Registration fee: $135
5. Wineglass Marathon
Location: Corning, NY
Date: October 4, 2015
Just try to guess what’s waiting at the finish line for the winos (ahem, runners), who take on the Wineglass Marathon. In its 34th year, this Boston Qualifier is growing at a rapid pace and expects 2,800 participants this fall (and another 3,000 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: $80-$135.
6. The Under Armour Baltimore Marathon
Location: Baltimore, MD
Date: October 17, 2015
The third weekend 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: $95-$140.
7. Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Location: Chicago, IL
Date: October 11, 2015
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: $185 – $210.
8. Steamtown Marathon
Location: Scranton, PA
Date: October 11, 2015
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 3,000 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.
9. Ashworth Awards Baystate Marathon
Location: Lowell, MA
Date: October 18, 2015
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.” With a little more than 1,000 finishers, this race boasts that up to 25 percent of its runners ran BQs in the past few 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: 2015 dates coming soon.
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 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: To be determined.
11. Marine Corps Marathon
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: October 25, 2015
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 once sold out in two hours and 27 minutes last year (faster than most marathon finish times!) and recently switched to a lottery entry system. During this year’s 40th annual race, thousands of 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: $125.
12. The TCS New York City Marathon
Location: New York, NY
Date: November 1, 2015
Ready for the big stage? The TCS New York City Marathon is the world’s largest marathon, featuring 26.2 miles through all five boroughs of the city. It’s notoriously difficult to get into the race (though you can sign up more easily 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.
13. Catalina Island Eco Marathon
Location: Avalon, CA
Date: November 21, 2015
The remote (and beautiful) location of this marathon is part of its 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 the few hundred 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
14. Anthem Richmond Marathon
Location: Richmond, VA
Date: November 14, 2015
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 38th 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: $85-$135
15. Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Date: November 15, 2015
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 an after-party. And yes, you can still leave those high heels at home. Registration fee: To be determined.
Originally posted August 12, 2013. Updated February 21, 2015.