There are hundreds of summer marathons across the USA, with a ton of choice when it comes to locations, course types, and atmosphere. However, if you’re building a bucket list of races to run, here are 5 of the most popular summer marathons across the USA.
If you’re competitive or love to test yourself, all the following provide a unique challenge.
1. Boston Marathon: Best for the iconic surroundings and race
Date and location: April; Boston,
The Boston Marathon is one of the best marathons in the US, and the world. It’s also iconic, usually held on Patriot’s Day each April. The race was famous before that incident and continues to be just as popular now, making it a marathon to try whenever you can.
The race begins in Hopkinton and winds its way along Main Street along Route 135. You’ll see plenty of local landmarks, stores, and history along this street route until you reach the end at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square.
The Boston Marathon is as much about the event as it is about the race. You’ll be concentrating on preparation and then recovery but there’s much more going on.
There’s food, drink, entertainment, a post-race party, the Boston Marathon Expo, and Fan Fest to name but a few.
If you’re in New England in April, we cannot recommend the Boston Marathon strongly enough. If not for the race itself then the event as a whole.
2. Bank of American Chicago Marathon: Best for being a flat race
Date and location: October; Chicago, Illinois
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is another iconic American race. It’s a flat course and is ideal for setting personal bests, which is why we recommend it. It’s not quite summer, but it’s too good to ignore.
It’s a loop course, starting and finishing in Grant Park in the center of Chicago. The route takes you through many iconic neighborhoods, north along LaSalle, up to Sheridan, and back down to Monroe before looping west and south to 35th Street before making its way back up to Grant Park. It’s flat, predictable, and a great race to assess your condition as well as push for that PR.
3. Missoula Marathon: Best in the mountains
Date and location: June; Missoula, Montana
The Missoula Marathon has been voted the best marathon in the US a few times, and it’s easy to see why. The course takes in some of the loveliest scenery in the region and starts early so you’ll get to see the sunrise over the mountains.
You start in Frenchtown before running over the tarmac through trees and green areas until you reach Downtown Missoula. There you’ll run through the historic areas until the end in the heart of downtown.
It’s a well-managed marathon with plenty of aid stations, volunteers, and locals to cheer you on. It’s not the most challenging terrain, but if you get to see that sunrise, that is worth the trip on its own.
4. San Francisco Marathon: Best for seeing the sights
Date and location: July; San Francisco, California
The San Francisco Marathon is held each July and is like a whistle-stop tour of the city and everything it has to offer. If you want to see San Fran from a unique perspective, this is the marathon for you.
The San Francisco Marathon starts at the Embarcadero at Mission and finishes at the Embarcadero at Folsom so it’s a large loop.
The route takes in the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf, Marina Green, Crissy Field and Sausalito, Presidio, Golden Gate Park, and some of the hills around the city.
It’s a large loop of the city with a there and back section over the Golden Gate Bridge and back. You won’t be tackling any of the tougher hills but there are definitely hills involved as you can’t go many places in SF without them.
If you’re in California during summer and want to see San Francisco without the traffic, the marathon is where you’ll do it. Closed roads, the bridge to yourself, and thousands of people lining the streets. What’s not to like?
5. Pikes Peak Marathon: Best for those who want a genuine challenge
Date and location: August; Manitou Springs, Colorado
If there’s one thing to know about Pikes Peak, it’s probably the hill climb. That’s a tough challenge and competitors usually have horsepower to help. You won’t if you enter the Pikes Peak Marathon.
The Pikes Peak Marathon is a step up from your usual. Entry is limited to experienced runners only, who have completed at least a half marathon in under 2:25 already. It’s that tough.
The challenge is worth it though. You start in Manitou Springs and will eventually follow the hill climb route up the peak. Once you have climbed the 7,815 feet to the peak, you turn around at the top and run all the way down again.
While not the most scenic or visually stimulating marathon, it’s the ultimate physical challenge. And along with the accomplishment you’ll earn some serious bragging rights.
Have you run any of these? Have any other iconic marathons to add? Tell us your story below.