Some runners set out just to finish a full marathon as a bucket list goal.
But we figure if you are going to put yourself through all the training to get to that point, why not run a fun marathon?! Pick one that will bring you extra memories, or plan it around a vacation destination with your friends or family.
With that in mind, we put this list together of not to miss marathons throughout the United States – the 10 best marathons to put on your bucket list!
1. Big Sur International Marathon
Location: Carmel, California
Big Sur International Marathon is a beautiful scenic point-to-point race that runs along CA Highway 1 every April. It starts at Big Sur and finishes in Carmel. The views just can’t be beat along this route. You will take in the ocean waves, mountains and rolling fields, huge redwood trees, and you will cross the legendary Bixby Bridge about halfway.
Due to the fact that this is along a highway, there are only about 6 hours given to complete the course, and then it is open to traffic again. This is a USATF certified course and a Boston qualifier. The course is mostly level with a few smaller hills and one larger hill that gains about 600 feet in elevation.
You will find Big Sur International Marathon to be in a great location to plan around a fun trip of vacation. Carmel, California is just two hours south of San Francisco, which has so much to see and do! Check out Golden Gate Bridge, take a ferry to Alcatraz Island, taste fine chocolate a Ghirardelli Square, or explore the famous Fisherman’s Warf and shopping center.
More Information: Big Sur International Marathon
2. Go! St. Louis Marathon
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Held every year in March, the Go! St. Louis Marathon is a very fun and lively marathon that you don’t want to miss. The race weekend draws a big family crowd, as they host not only a full marathon, but a half marathon, 10k, 5k, and children’s fun run all on the same weekend. An event for everyone in the family!
After the Go! St. Louis Marathon, there’s a variety of food and drink available to the finishers, made in the local St. Louis theme. Plus, there will be photo opportunities, massage available, and all runners get entrance into the Go! St. Louis Health and Fitness Expo that weekend. The course is USATF certified and a Boston qualifier.
Do not forget to enjoy your local attractions, especially the Gateway Arch, which is on of the most unique monuments built in the nation. You can ride inside the arch to the top and check out the view for miles. Many family attractions await, including the zoo, Six flags, and maybe even a St. Louis Cardinal game.
More Information: Go! St. Louis Marathon
3. Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon
Location: Rehoboth, Delaware
Along the Atlantic coast, you’ll get to enjoy the beach and the boardwalk on this very pretty marathon route. Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon runs annually in December, so you can expect winter temperatures in the 30s and 40s. The race is relatively flat the entire way, which is also great for first-time runners or those seeking a new personal record.
The scenery along the way of this Boston qualifying marathon is quite beautiful, with periodic ocean views, wetlands, forests, and some sections through neighborhoods. The biggest thing the Rehoboth Marathon is known for is their huge post-race party with music and dancing, unlimited food and 3 beers all included with registration.
When you take your trip to Rehoboth, Delaware, you will want to plan on a few activities in town. You’ll be able to enjoy the seaside and boardwalk before or after the race without the huge summer crowds. There is a lot of unique restaurants, eclectic shops, and fun site seeing in the area.
More Information: Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon
4. Flying Pig Marathon
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
If you are looking for a really fun and energetic marathon, you will definitely want to enter the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, and enjoy the party all weekend long. This early May marathon is a pig-themed race, from the starting racers in a “pig pen” coral to the finish line “finish swine”, and pig theme finishers medal and swag.
In case you wonder where the theme came from, it’s because in the 1800s Cincinnati was referred to as “Porkopolis” due to all the stockyards and meat factories in the area. The race honors their history. This course is USATC certified and a Boston qualifier. It has both hills and flat sections, so prepare for both.
Cincinnati is a huge metropolitan city, with all kinds of things to do and see. They have a great zoo and botanical garden, plus some nice museums and historical sites, to include the National Underground Railroad. You and your family will find plenty to do in this city.
More Information: Flying Pig Marathon
5. Honolulu Marathon
Location: Honolulu, HI
Of all the marathons, this Honolulu Marathon probably takes top of the list as far as the scenery, which is absolutely breathtaking. Although it is held in December each year, you will never have to worry about the weather because it averages 82 degrees that month. This course is also certified and a Boston qualifier.
The Honolulu Marathon is the 4th largest marathon in the U.S., and one nice perk is there is no time limit to finish so everyone 7 years old and older can enter this race. The race is mostly flat but includes a couple hills that don’t go much higher than 100 feet in elevation.
The course goes through downtown Honolulu and Waikiki while heading towards Kahala and Hawaii Kai, then back again to Honolulu, passing Diamond Head twice. You will see so many amazing features in and around the Honolulu area, it will be like experiencing a vacation all by itself during the marathon.
Besides the fact that the race will be beautiful, the location of Honolulu will be an amazing destination for your race. Don’t forget to check out Hanauma Bay, Pearl Harbor, and the Dole Plantation for some fresh pineapple. This marathon destination would leave you with memories for many years to come.
More Information: Honolulu Marathon
6. Louisiana Marathon
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Held in January each year, with temperatures averaging 50-60 degrees, the Louisiana Marathon is a great race to check out. This race is great for breaking personal records or for those new to marathons as the course is extremely flat and fast. There are several different race distances to choose from that weekend.
The course runs through various neighborhoods and you’ll see some nice parks and cool historical architecture. This marathon is boasted about with their post-race event called the FinishFest, which is open to runners and the public and is full of music, activities, and mouth-watering Louisiana style food – think of it as a Cajun fest.
There is a ton of history, landmarks and culture to see in Baton Rouge. Plus, New Orleans is only about an hour away, you could explore two great Louisiana cities on one trip for your marathon. This is a USATF certified and Boston qualifying course.
More Information: Louisiana Marathon
7. Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Date: Late November/Early December
One of the oldest marathons in the United States, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon started in 1967 and is still going as a fabulous destination marathon. Typically held in November or December, this is the only event that can actually shut down the famous Las Vegas Strip while the race is on.
Due to the temperatures in Las Vegas, this race starts around sunset, just as all the city lights up for the nightlife, they are famous for. The course is fast and flat, but with so much to see along the way, the miles will fly by even faster. There are pre and post parties as well for registrants. Of course, this race is USATF certified and a Boston qualifier.
In the city that never sleeps, you know there’s an unlimited number of things to see and do in Las Vegas. You could never get bored in this city, from all the entertaining shows, music, casinos, and so many unique things just to see in the design of the casinos, a fun trip for your marathon for sure.
More Information: Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon
8. Marine Corps Marathon
Location: Washington D.C.
There is not a better place to go to see the most American historical sites than in Washington D.C., where you can also participate in the Marine Corps Marathon. Also known as the “Peoples Marathon” and “Marathon of the Monuments”, this October race takes you around all the major monuments through the D.C. area.
A unique part about this marathon is that there are no monetary prizes for the fastest runners, the focus is on recognizing the strength and energy of all those who finish the race. U.S. Marines will be running in the race and cheering from the sidelines as well, which adds to the patriotic feel of this race. There’s also a health and fitness expo that weekend.
You will have about 8 hours to finish this race, and it is certified and a Boston qualified course. Last but not least, along the run you will have seen the memorials as you run by, but make sure you take some extra time to visit and explore these great monuments that pay tribute to our nation.
More Information: Marine Corps Marathon
9. Myrtle Beach Marathon
Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Held annually on the first Saturday of March, the Myrtle Beach Marathon is a great vacation destination. The marathon was listed in the top ten winter marathons by USA Today. This is a fun family opportunity as they have the full marathon, half marathon, 5K and kids runs, plus two post-race celebrations.
This race is very flat, which makes it easier to reach your personal record in this race. It’s more of a loop race, one direction running along the beach with beautiful ocean views and the other direction through the scenic downtown Myrtle Beach. This course is also certified and a Boston marathon qualifier.
After or before the race, take in all the ocean scenery you can in Myrtle Beach. Walk the boardwalk, which always has activities going on. Temperatures are in the comfortable 60s and 70s. Enjoy beautiful golf courses, beachside restaurants and shops, or even deep-sea fishing. You won’t be disappointed to make this a family trip for all, in combination with your marathon.
More Information: Myrtle Beach Marathon
10. Pikes Peak Marathon
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
The Pikes Peak Marathon is not for the casual runner, this course is actually really challenging and because of that, you have to first complete a qualifying race before you can enter this race. There are a few race options that can be used for qualifying though, so if you are a runner you should not have a problem.
This is primarily the reason for the pre-qualification requirement is because it’s on a trail that vehicles can’t easily access along the way, so no way to help someone in an emergency situation. You are also going to be dealing with high altitudes, which can make things a lot more difficult if you haven’t trained for it. If you do not live at altitude, plan to add 30 min to your finish time.
The elevation gain on this course is about 7,800 feet, which is very difficult without training. You do have the descent to look forward to, but it is not as easy going downhill as it sounds. Downhill can be very challenging on the knees, the trail in both directions can be gravely and narrow, which is a challenge.
Accomplishing this marathon would add something unique to your bucket list. However, on top of that, this area of Colorado is absolutely gorgeous, with stunning mountain views. This race is held in August, which makes the temperatures very warm. You will be able to enjoy many outdoor activities here, like hiking, camping, and some amazing white-water rafting.
More Information: Pikes Peak Marathon