When it comes to spring marathons, the iconic Boston Marathon is always the pinnacle event of the season. But it’s not the only time runners around the country will lace up to cover 26.2 miles by foot and inspire along the way. These top 15 U.S. spring marathons (listed by date, from mid-March to early June, 2017) are all perfect opportunities for runners to prove there’s no such thing as a spring break.
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1. Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon
Location: New Orleans, LA
Date: Sunday March 4, 2018
Keep the Mardi Gras spirit going at the flat and fast Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon. It’s a big (and somewhat easy) tour through the Big Easy — with the party vibes of the French Quarter, the history of Treme and the natural beauty of City Park setting the tone. Like the many other Rock ‘n’ Roll events, expect a highly-organized race with lots of serious and just-for-fun racers. The only question is — will you stop for beignets from Cafe Du Monde before, during or after the run? There’s also a half-marathon, 10K and 5K taking place the same weekend.
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2. Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Date: Sunday, March 18, 2018
Join more than 24,000 runners at the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon, one of the largest marathons in the country. The point-to-point, net downhill course starts at Dodger Stadium (the oldest ballpark in the MLB) for a tour across La La Land, and finishes steps from the Santa Monica Pier. Along the way, keep an eye out for star sightings through the city’s vibrant neighborhoods including Echo Park, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and more. Fans of this marathon say it’s the awesome crowd support “from the stadium to the sea” that will make you feel like the real celebrity.
3. Yuengling Shamrock Marathon
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Date: Sunday, March 18, 2018
It might not be ideal beach weather, but the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon has welcomed a wee clan of more than 4,000 marathoners to its fast, flat resort town every St. Patrick’s Day weekend since 1973. The BQ (Boston Qualifying) course will take you past historic hotspots like Cape Henry Lighthouse and along the famous beach boardwalk. More than 22,000 other runners and walkers join in the rest of the weekend festivities — a half-marathon, marathon relay, 8K and “Leprechaun Dash.” Celebrate with a jig and a swig at the post-race party with live music, Irish stew and — what else? — ice cold Yuengling.
4. Boston Marathon
Location: Hopkinton, MA
Date: Monday, April 16, 2018
The Boston Marathon is the big leagues. It’s a pilgrimage for runners and often a lifelong quest to even qualify — because you’ve got to be wicked fast. Even after the bombing in 2013, Marathon Monday (which falls on Patriots’ Day each year), continues to feel like a city-wide party. Now celebrating 122 years, it’s the world’s oldest annually contested marathon. The 30,000 runners will once again head out to the starting line in Hopkinton, conquer the challenging Heartbreak Hill and finally, cross the iconic finish line on Boylston Street.
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5. Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon
Location: Roanoke, VA
Date: Saturday, April 21, 2018
Like rolling hills? You better if you want to run the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon — hailed as “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” and featured on many race bucket lists. A group of 750 runners will face 7,430 feet of total elevation change over the course (more than any other road marathon in the country), with three huge climbs and descents. So how do runners endure the killer ups and downs? Because they know the most breathtaking views of the region’s mountains and valleys are (of course) best seen from the top. There’s also a half-marathon or 10K option available the same day.
6. Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon
Location: Louisville, KY
Date: Saturday, April 28, 2018
And they’re off — the 3,000 runners at the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon that is! Once they’re out of the gates, marathoners will take on the BQ course that includes a hilly section through Iroquois Park around mile 12 and a quick trot through the infield of the historic Churchill Downs. Spectators, we suggest you grab a mint julep and place your bets before the finishers come down the final stretch into downtown Louisville. The largest day of road racing in Kentucky history, this weekend also includes a half-marathon and team relay marathon.
7. Big Sur International Marathon
Location: Carmel, CA
Date: Sunday, April 29, 2018
It’s no surprise to see Big Sur International Marathon, the largest rural marathon in the world, on this list. It’s been popular for more than 30 years, thanks to a stunning point-to-point course that runs along scenic Highway 1. It touches seven state parks, crosses the iconic Bixby Bridge and features 13 significant hills in the back half. Perhaps the 4,500 runners are too distracted by the sweeping Pacific Ocean views and Redwood forests to notice? With additional race distances suited for everyone (from the 3K kids run to a 21-miler) and plenty to do around the Monterey Bay area, we’ll add this at the top of our spring getaway list, too.
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8. Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon
Location: Monmouth, NJ
Date: Sunday, April 29, 2018
If you’re looking for a fast, flat, beginner-friendly and BQ-friendly race, then, “baby, you were born to run” the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon. Not without a few sharp turns, this course takes you through a stunning stretch of the Jersey Shore. The race starts at Monmouth Park Racetrack and meanders through some small town neighborhoods before heading south. At the turnaround point, near mile 19 in Asbury Park, you’ll have the Atlantic Ocean views to take your mind off of hitting any walls. The crowds come out to cheer you on in the final stretch — along the boardwalk in Long Branch. The weekend’s events also include a half-marathon, relay and 5K.
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9. Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Date: Sunday, May 6, 2018
It started out as an idea scribbled on a bar napkin by some local runners in 1999. Today the annual Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon has reached new heights as part of one of the largest running events in the country. Nearly 5,000 marathoners will cover the beautiful BQ course which “flies” through the “Queen City” and over the bridges of the Ohio River — all with 150,000 enthusiastic spectators rooting them on. And what other race can claim a bacon stop at mile 15? The weekend also includes a half, relay, 10K, the Flying Piglet kids fun run and more.
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10. KeyBank Vermont City Marathon
Location: Burlington, VT
Date: Sunday, May 27, 2018
If you’re going to run 26.2 miles through Ben & Jerry’s country, you deserve extra scoops at the end of the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. And that’s not the only treat for the 3,600 marathons who take on the BQ course. The charming streets of downtown Burlington, sparkling waters of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack and Green Mountains set the scene. Shaped like a clover leaf, the race is very spectator-friendly. And runners, you’ll be thankful for them, especially during the epic climb at mile 15, casually referred to the “Assault on Battery.” There’s also a relay option available, if you want to split the distance (and share that ice cream).
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11. Newport Marathon
Location: Newport, OR
Date: Saturday, June 2, 2018
Whether you want to run your first marathon or earn a BQ, you can do it at the Newport Marathon in the heart of Oregon’s central coast. According to race officials, almost half of all 1,000 participants earn personal records (PRs) at the non-profit race. There’s only one catch: You better like oysters, because you’ll be encouraged to slurp ‘em down at miles 11 and 19 of the flat. You’ll also trek through some of the most picturesque neighborhoods and fishing villages along the bay, with only a few gentle rolling hills and one short steep hill (mile 4!) along the way. Then it’s flat to the finish, where runners earn the unique recycled glass medal.
12. Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon
Location: Deadwood, SD
Date: Sunday, June 3, 2018
The Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon has been called the “best kept secret in marathoning.” Well, we can’t wait to tell you about the invigorating point-to-point BQ course of the largest trail marathon in the country. The first 1.5 road miles start in the old mining town of Rochford and lead 500 marathoners to the start of the Mickelson Trail, through the land of the Lakota Sioux. Here they’ll cover a mix of small climbs and flat ground in the first half and a huge stretch of downhill (especially mile 19 to 20) before coming to the end of the trail. It’s not necessarily a fast course, but if you want the thrill of trail running (meadows, forests, babbling brooks and lots of mud) in a marathon setting, this race is for you.
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13. Steamboat Marathon
Location: Steamboat Springs, CO
Date: Sunday, June 3, 2018
For more than 35 years, the Steamboat Marathon’s warm hospitality has welcomed 500 marathoners to experience a beautiful BQ course along the Elk River. The net downhill course, with majestic views of the snowcapped Rockies, isn’t for everyone though. With rolling hills, steep descents and a five-hour time limit, it’s a tough one for walkers or those who aren’t used to altitude. But there’s also a half-marathon and 10K available. Everyone can soak up their accomplishments post-race with a dip in one of the area’s historic hot springs.
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14. Grandma’s Marathon
Location: Duluth, MN
Date: Saturday, June 16, 2018
How can you say anything bad about Grandma’s? It’s a small town race, with big-time popularity. Since 1977, this annual race has drawn 9,000 marathons to the North Shore of Minnesota. From super organization, to the vast views of Lake Superior along Old Highway 61 (and 32 rivers, creeks and stream crossings along the way), to the enthusiastic crowd support, it’s easy to see why. The point-to-point, waterfront course is pretty flat — just a few gentle hills and one bigger one at mile 22 — so it’s a great choice for beginners, PR-seekers or those who crave a quick swim after the finish line. The weekend’s events also include a half-marathon and 5K.
15. Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon
Location: Anchorage, AK
Date: Saturday, June 23, 2018
With all the extra daylight to spare around the summer solstice, why wouldn’t you run a full marathon in Alaska? For many past participants, the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon is a destination that’s well worth the trip. The certified course is a mix of bike trails, rocky gravel and paved roads that keep you and about 1,000 other runners guessing. Take in the natural beauty (and maybe a moose sighting or two!) as you meet people from all over the world — all coming together to spend the longest day of the year doing what they love best.
On the selection process: We spent a lot of time reading online participant reviews and soliciting input from our own editorial team, as well as running contacts from around the country. When it came down to the tough choices, we went with picks based on positive reviews, reputation, popularity and the unique value they offer to the runner. We create these lists to not only feature some of the always-popular, bucket list races, but to shine a light on some newer, smaller or challenging races that offer the participant something off the beaten path.
Originally published February 2014. Updated January 2018.
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