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. Where will these aspiring marathoners, who sweat it out during the hot and humid months, run the 26.2-mile distance in the fall? Look no further than our list of the country’s 15 best fall marathons. Many of these popular races fill up fast, so mark your calendars early! (Note: The below races are listed by date, starting in September.)
15 Fall Marathons for Your Best Race Yet
Location: Dayton, OH
Date: Saturday, September 15, 2018
Marathoners will hopefully feel light on their feet (and a bit of patriotic pride) at the Air Force Marathon. They’ll fly through a mostly flat 26.2-mile certified loop of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, starting and finishing at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Awesome jet flyovers kick off the day and enthusiastic volunteers line the course, as runners — military personnel and civilians alike — race past historical aviation sites like the Wright Brothers Memorial Monument. The race weekend also includes half-marathon, 10K and 5K events.
Location: Corning, NY
Date: Sunday, September 30, 2018
Just try to guess what’s waiting at the finish line for the runners, who take on the Wineglass Marathon. For more than 35 years, this Boston Qualifier has grown at a rapid rate, selling out with 2,700 participants in 2017. Maybe it’s the flat and fast point-to-point course from Bath to Corning, NY. Maybe it’s the picturesque autumn colors. Or maybe it’s that wine country of the Finger Lakes region is right at your fingertips post-race. The weekend’s events also include a half-marathon, 8K and 5K.
Location: St. George, UT
Date: Saturday, October 6, 2018
Scenic. Fast. Fun. Those are three words that come to mind when we think about the St. George Marathon. Nearly 8,000 runners sign up for the early morning wake-up call that will take them through the red rock canyons to the starting line at 5,240 feet above sea level. But don’t worry — there are plenty of toasty bonfires to keep you warm while catching the sunrise over the Pine Valley mountains. The certified course is net downhill, so it can be super speedy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Watch out for the killer Veyo Hill around mile 7.
Location: Chicago, IL
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018
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 the World Marathon Majors event. The renowned flat and fast course has many turns, and cruises through 29 different neighborhoods with a start and finish in the historic Grant Park. Call us crazy, but we like to think that even the elites indulge in deep dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs after the race.
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018
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! More than 9,800 participants make their way from the U.S. Bank 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 10-mile, 10K and 5K races.
Location: Portland, OR
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018
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 as a fun, friendly and well-organized race. This fast BQ-certified course starts and ends in downtown Portland, crosses the St. John Bridge, and features 31 turns with great views of the city. There are plenty of serious runners in the field, but the race is also known for being especially walker-friendly. There’s also a half-marathon the same weekend if 13.1 miles is more your speed.
Location: Scranton, PA
Date: Sunday, October 7, 2018
Yes, this is the same Scranton, PA that was home to Pam, Jim and the rest of The Office for nine seasons. Runners flock to the Steamtown Marathon 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? On average, around 25 percent of finishers qualify for the Boston Marathon. It’s also gotten rave reviews for its scenic course (with a 2.2-mile trail section), friendly volunteers and crowds, and some hilarious weekly emails from the race director leading up to the race — which can all help you forget about your screaming quads on the downhills.
Location: Baltimore, MD
Date: Saturday, October 20, 2018
The third weekend in October is a full-on running festival taking over Charm City. In addition to the Baltimore Marathon, there’s a half-marathon, team relay, 5K, .05K and quirky challenges like the “BaltiMORON-a-thon” for those crazy enough to run a half and 5K the same day. At the spectator-friendly 26.2 event, expect a sea of runners to fill the city neighborhoods of Federal Hill and Fells Point before flowing into a new finish line area, right in Inner Harbor — where the crab cakes and Natty Boh await!
Location: Lowell, MA
Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018
The Ashworth Awards Baystate Marathon, located only 30 miles outside of Boston, is clear in its intentions. “For runners, by runners,” it wants to help you qualify for the Boston Marathon. Its no-nonsense approach to the race is what’s most appealing to the more than 1,000 finishers. And the double loop course is fast AF — 30 percent of the field earned a BQ in 2017! There is also a flat, fast half-marathon offered the same day.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: Sunday, October 28, 2018
Often called the “People’s Marathon,” the Marine Corps Marathon doesn’t offer any prize money to the top finishers. And it’s so popular, it now uses a lottery entry system every March. For more than 40 years, thousands of runners have taken on this unique tour of 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.
Location: New York, NY
Date: Sunday, November 4, 2018
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 Big Apple. It’s notoriously difficult to get into the race via lottery (though you can sign up more easily through a charity team or with a qualified time). 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 miles in marathon history.
Location: Richmond, VA
Date: Saturday, November 10, 2018
First-time marathoners who may feel intimidated by some of the big city races 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, a few wet washcloth stops, energy-boosting “party zones,” and a post-race pizza and beer party on Brown’s Island. The 41th annual race loops 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.
RELATED: 13 Race Day Tips for Newbie Runners
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Date: Sunday, November 11, 2018
Think you need sexy stilettos for a night out in Las Vegas? Guess again. All you need for the nighttime Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon are your sneakers (and maybe a headlamp). The flat course runs straight through the flashy Las Vegas Strip to the tunes of live bands. 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. There’s also a half-marathon, 10K, 5K and even a “run through wedding” event over the weekend.
Location: Sacramento, CA
Date: Sunday, December 2, 2018
For 35 years, the California International Marathon has offered a little something for everyone. The self-proclaimed “fastest course in the West” is a favorite among first timers, as well as those seeking a marathon PR or BQ time. The gentle rolling hills, very few turns, near-perfect running weather and beautiful fall foliage don’t hurt either. More than 9,000 runners will take on 26.2 point-to-point, feel-good miles through the City of Trees, but there is also a four-person relay and a 2.62-mile fun run the same day.
Location: Honolulu, HI
Date: Sunday, December 9, 2018
How does an early December escape to paradise sound? The only catch is you have to start running the Honolulu Marathon at 5 a.m.! Don’t worry, fireworks and a gorgeous sunrise will help light the way. The mostly flat race starts in downtown Honolulu, passes through Waikiki and goes up and around Diamond Head. Say aloha to the most amazing mountain and ocean views, and generally a rainbow or two. At the beachfront finish line, you’ll be rewarded with a medal, a lei of shells, and “malasada” (Hawaiian fried dough). The race is one of the largest in the county — with no time limit or cap on participants — and there’s also a 10K and mile event the same weekend.
Originally posted August 12, 2013. Updated January 8, 2018.