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Best Marathons By State

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Post  Dave Wolfe on Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:08 pm

After being shut out of the NYC Marathon I think it's time to consider other Marathons farther from home. Will I do 50? Not sure about that but it's in idea. So let's see some recommendations. I do plan on Big Sur Calif. next spring while I visit friends. 48 states to go . . . (and yes I asked on FB and got some great ideas but thought I'd ask here as well).
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Post  Mark B on Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:23 pm

Here are a few suggestions:

Oregon:
Eugene Marathon (late April) http://www.eugenemarathon.com
Portland Marathon (early October) http://portlandmarathon.org

Washington
Vancouver USA Marathon (mid June) http://www.vancouverusamarathon.com
North Olympic Discovery Marathon (early June) http://www.nodm.com

California
California International Marathon (early December, Sacramento area) http://www.runcim.org
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Post  carleenp on Sat Jun 01, 2013 6:02 pm

Michigan: Bayshore (Late May) http://www.bayshoremarathon.org/ (beautiful course)

Nebraska: Sandhills (Mid-June) http://sandhillsmarathon.com/ (very interesting 100 person limit race in the middle of nowhere)
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Post  Diego on Sat Jun 01, 2013 6:57 pm

1) Mount Desert Isle in Acadia Nat'l Park Maine in October is the most scenic marathon I have ever run. Great one to bring the family.

2) Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in November outside Chattanooga, TN but in Georgia is also very scenic, highly rated, and family friendly with bounce houses. I actually won a 2nd place AG award there because it's a small marathon.

3) The Rocket City Marathon(December) in Huntsville, Alabama is the best small marathon(organization, packet pickup, PR course, post race spread, etc.) in the country.

The Wine Glass Marathon in NY(Fall) is considered to be one of the best(fast and scenic).

Having lived in TN, I'd vote for the Flying Monkey Marathon near Nashville as being better than Country Music(the half marathon is king there), Knoxville(hot and hilly), and St. Jude(unless you're raising money and like cambered roads).
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Post  Julie on Sat Jun 01, 2013 7:22 pm

Well, Carlene said Sandhills for NE, but if you like urban, then Lincoln.
KS - Eisenhower.
ND - Fargo
SD - I hear Sioux Falls, I haven't run it, Brookings was OK.
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Post  Julie on Sat Jun 01, 2013 7:23 pm

@Diego wrote:

2) Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon in November outside Chattanooga, TN but in Georgia is also very scenic, highly rated, and family friendly with bounce houses. I actually won a 2nd place AG award there because it's a small marathon.

.

That is on my list, hoping to go after I teach my daughter a little more about the Civil War.
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Post  Jerry on Sat Jun 01, 2013 8:21 pm

There is no best marathon without best runner. We make marathons better. That's why I am going to run Dallas instead of Houston this season and I will make Dallas better. lol!
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Post  carleenp on Sat Jun 01, 2013 8:25 pm

@Julie wrote:Well, Carlene said Sandhills for NE, but if you like urban, then Lincoln.
KS - Eisenhower.
ND - Fargo
SD - I hear Sioux Falls, I haven't run it, Brookings was OK.

I was a bit torn between Lincoln and Sandhills, given that Lincoln is my home town and was my first marathon. But Sandhills is so darn unique that I went with it.

In SD, the Mickelson Trail Marathon is supposed to be an awesome course. I haven't run it, but I have driven alongside parts of the course and it was quite scenic. http://www.deadwoodmickelsontrailmarathon.com/ It is fairly high on my want to do list.
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Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Sat Jun 01, 2013 10:43 pm

Big Sur in CA. Flying Pig in Cincy
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Post  Admin on Sat Jun 01, 2013 11:10 pm

I really need more criteria... there are so many marathons and depending on what you're looking for, they might be good or not good...

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Post  Dave Wolfe on Sun Jun 02, 2013 8:10 am

Thanks everyone! Some great suggestions, and Carleen I was actually looking at Deadwood yesterday and it's on the list.

I guess as usual Matt has a point -- lots of variety races and different types of runners would look for different things. I've done the big-city mega-marathon a number of times and don't really need that again. Distinctly middle of the pack so not looking for fast courses. When I do Florida (Dec?) I'll do Space Coast and not Disney.

So thanks for the input, I really appreciate it,
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Post  Julie on Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:18 am

I really prefer the small marathons most of the time, too. That's why I loved Eisenhower in KS. Small but such a nice friendly town and sometimes it's fun just to be alone for a few miles and not see another runner vs having crowds yell at you the whole time (yeah they're being supportive but the quiet focus is really my preference). I usually check with my 50 states friends and also marathonguide.com before signing up.
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Post  Diego on Sun Jun 02, 2013 12:36 pm

In Nevada, consider the E.T. Midnight Marathon in Rachel or Valley of Fire Marathon instead of the Las Vegas Marathon.
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Post  Matt W on Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:36 pm

@Diego wrote:In Nevada, consider the E.T. Midnight Marathon in Rachel or Valley of Fire Marathon instead of the Las Vegas Marathon.

I would second avoiding the Las Vegas Marathon unless you are really into making it a weekend in Vegas with a marathon on the side. The Valley of Fire Marathon is hilly, but beautiful scenery. The Calico races ( E.T., Red Rock, Running with the Devil, etc.) are also challenging, but small and friendly.


As for California, I enjoyed the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon that goes from Ojai to Ventura. It was a little race (1500 or so) that was mostly run on a bike path. It was shaded for the most part and had nice scenery, especially in the first half.

I enjoyed St. George in Utah as well. It was a great medium sized marathon with a mix of quiet stretches and pockets of fan support that gets louder close to the finish. IMO, it has the best post race food zone of any marathon as well.
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Post  mountandog on Sun Jun 02, 2013 8:28 pm

I second Bayshore (Michigan) and Mt Desert Island (Maine)

I have to add Ridge to Bridge in NC. Fast, way downhill, gorgeous mtns, small, run by a river for the last 6 miles. Great, small, scenic race. But you gotta train those quads.
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Post  Michael Enright on Mon Jun 03, 2013 8:59 am

CT = Hartford

VT = Burlington

NH = Clarence Demar

MA - you might try Cape Cod - tough course, with rolling hills in the second half, but really pretty as you head through Woods Hole!
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Post  ounce on Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:35 am

Of the seven marathon locations in Texas I have run, I would recommend Houston because the pre-race and post-race runner's area is inside the huge convention center. The lottery for the January 2014 race begins on this Wednesday, June 5th. The finisher's shirt is part of the race fee.

My second choice would be the Fort Worth Marathon in November (not the February Cowtown Marathon). It's a small race and a lot of it is completely separated from traffic.
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Post  Ben Z on Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:11 pm

My personal favs based on either running it or knowing the course/others who have run it:


  • Wisconsin (where I grew up): anything run in or around Madison. I've only done the Whistlestop Trail Marathon in Ashland, which is nice, and the Green Bay Marathon, which is also nice because you get to run a lap around Lambeau to finish, but the scenery around Madison is second-to-none. I would also consider the Fox Valley Marathon as a back-up.
  • Illinois - I've only run Chicago a few times so I have no other recommendations.
  • Minnesota - I've only run the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon but I hear Grandma's is great. Twin Cities seems to be a popular alternative to Chicago as well.
  • California - California International is a very fast course. But the scenery sucks. RnR San Diego is OK, but they keep changing the course. So instead I would recommend Big Sur (practice running up and down big hills!) or the Napa Valley Marathons.
  • Oregon - Eugene or Portland are pretty nice from what I hear.
  • Massachusetts - Boston, duh.
  • New York - NYCM baby!
  • Michigan - Bayshore is great. Loved that race.
  • Utah - St. George is pretty cool. Running through Red Rocks is nice. Only thing to watch out for is the heat potentially.
  • Arizona - I've only done Tucson and unless chasing a PR is the main goal I would not recommend it. But that's mostly because I don't really like the desert.
  • Ohio - Michelle's not going to like this but I would not recommend the Pig. I thought the bridges were a killer. But I also had a bad experience there as I went out way too fast and it was only my second marathon so it could be a good one I suppose.
  • Texas - Austin. Challenging course and a great place to hang out afterwards for a few days.
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Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Mon Jun 03, 2013 7:16 pm

No issue, Ben, and I live in Cleveland not Cincy - so it is hard to recommend it. It does have fantastic swag though. Another great Ohio marathon is Akron - again, great swag, just big enough and really well done.

I loved the marathon that I ran this weekend in Colorado - Steamboat, and despite the altitude, it was a great run, very beautiful course that was challenging with the hills. It reminded me of Big Sur with its ups and downs, but in the mountains.

I'll second Ridge to Bridge in NC and St. George in Utah.
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Post  Chris M on Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:29 pm

I had to think about marathons I've run:

Virginia - technically, Marine Corps starts and finishes in Virginia, although a lot of it is in DC. It is a GREAT race. I think it should be on every marathoner's bucket list.
DC - Rock n Roll USA. Eh. Doesn't compare to MCM although a lot of the course is along the Mall. I'd skip it unless crossing off DC in addition to the 50 states is on the agenda.
Florida - Disney. I've done their marathon twice. There's as many pros as cons but know that you are running a mega race with all kinds of logistical challenges. I wouldn't race it again but its fun as part of a vacation.
Pennsylvania - I love the very small Bob Potts Marathon in York, PA and I've run it 3 times. Simple out and back on a gravel path with 1% grade up on the way out and 1% grade down on the way back home. Small but really well done and fun.
Massachusetts - Boston, of course, is great and if you don't plan to BQ, there's always the charity entry path. That would be a nice one to finish with?
Arizona - Tuscon is OK. Pretty small and a fast time friendly course. Don't think I'd run it again but a good one to cross off that state.
Illinois - I love the Chicago Marathon. A huge mega event, of course, but as well done as those events can be done in my opinion.
Maryland - I ran the half and not the full at Baltimore. Really hilly but finishing running through Camden Yards and Ravens Stadium is cool.
North Carolina - I did a marathon down there as part of an ironman relay called Beach2Battleship. Running a marathon as part of a relay is nuts. I won't do that again! But imagine actually doing a WHOLE IM!?! Geesh, not for me. But its fun to be there at those events and see what those competitors go through. Its a great event if you are into the IM thing.
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Post  Dave Wolfe on Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:27 pm

Cool, I never imagined I would get so many suggestions. Lots to consider. Looking forward to the lottery for the Flying Monkey (Tenn) and failing that I have a lot of options to start. Thanks.
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Post  Ken Cushing on Wed Jun 26, 2013 1:18 am

Three people have already picked St George for Utah, and I agree.  I've been running it since 1982 and never miss it. It is run the first Saturday in October. 

If your looking for a spring race in Utah, I'd look at Ogden. I run it every year now too.
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Post  Paula Sue on Thu Jun 27, 2013 3:13 pm

Hope you still have your sights on Space Coast in December...I hope to be there as well.  It will be my second FL marathon.  My first was the old Clearwater Beaches which is no more.

OK - Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.  Very moving and a big eye opener.  Will definitely show you where NYC got it's info for the 911 Memorial.

OH - I've run many of the Ohio marathons...always Columbus to get my Boston times.  But it's a toss up between the Flying Pig and the Air Force as to which was my favorite.

KY- Kentucky Derby Marathon...loved running through Churchill Downs.

MD - North Central Trail Marathon...really cool running on a rail to trail conversion, soft surface and beautiful area, small marathon.

LA - New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon...although it is a RNR marathon now, I believe it is the same course and I DO love that course.  Sad what Katrina did to City Park but NOLA owns my heart.

NV - Las Vegas Marathon...it too has become a RNR but it was a thrill running down the strip and through Old Las Vegas.

NY - I know lots of folks love NYC and I haven't gotten to do it yet, but the Niagra Falls Marathon is another great small marathon that starts out in Buffalo and ends up at Niagra Falls.  BEAUTIFUL...runs the whole distance along the river!

PA - We ran the old Pittsburgh Marathon and I think the new Pittsburgh runs the same course...5 bridges but what a beautiful area and finishing in Heinz Stadium.

SC - Kiawah Island Marathon...pretty but a double loop course.  Small marathon and I liked the area.

Others have mentioned Chicago (IL), Boston (MA), Rocket City (AL), Austin (TX), MCM (VA), and I agree with all of those.

We ran the San Francisco Marathon and I loved running over the Golden Gate Bridge, however our daughter has since run the Big Sur and I think it is a must do.

We ran the Huntington Marshal Marathon (WV) and it was pretty non-descript...but another small one.  The Detroit Marathon (MI) is good but I've heard really good things about Bayshore.
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