Here Are The 8 Best Marathons For Beginners In The US

Running your first marathon can be as daunting as it is exciting. 

Even if you have been running for a while, bumping up from the half marathon to the marathon represents doubling your furthest race distance.

Also, the logistics become significantly more challenging in terms of not only the time, energy, and endurance involved in training to run your first marathon but also the logistics of race day, such as fueling and choosing the best beginner-friendly marathon course.

So, what are the best marathons in the US for beginners? What factors go into determining the “best first marathon“? What are the easiest marathons in the US that would be great for a beginner?

In this article, we will discuss factors to consider when choosing the best marathons for beginners and then provide a list of some of the easiest marathons in the US and best marathons in the US for beginners.

We will cover: 

  • Can Beginners Run a Marathon?
  • How to Choose the Best US Marathon for Beginners
  • Here Are The 8 Best Marathons For Beginners In The US

Let’s dive in! 

An aerial view of people running a marathon.

Can Beginners Run a Marathon?

One of the best things about the sport of running is how diverse it is both in terms of the demographics of runners themselves as well as the various ways to participate in the sport of running.

You can be a runner and never enter a single race of any type, or you can be a runner who almost always has at least one race on the calendar that you are training for, and, of course, you can fall somewhere in the middle, occasionally taking on a race or aspire to run a race even if you have not yet done so.

Plenty of beginners take up the sport of running to lose weight or to be more active and get in shape but never intend on racing.

Others start running because they want to run a race. For example, you might be inspired to join in on a local couch to 5K training program that your gym is holding with the culmination of participating in a local 5K race.

Although most beginners who want to run a race first set their sights on a shorter race, such as a 5k or 10k, some beginners want to jump immediately into the marathon.

People running over a bridge in a marathon.

Although most experienced running coaches highly recommend spending at least six months to a year building up to run your first marathon and tackling some shorter races along the way, beginners can absolutely run a marathon if they put in the time to train and don’t rush things.

There are even couch-to-marathon training programs to try that will progress you to the full 26.2-mile distance for your first marathon.

That said, most people who are looking for the best first marathons in the US to run are newer runners who have experience running shorter races but want to progress to the marathon.

Again, ideally, runners have been training consistently for at least six months to a year (the longer, the better) before trying to run their first marathon.

This training time is necessary for your body to adapt to the stress of running and for you to learn to pace, balance training, recover from workouts, and build the necessary endurance to run 26.2 miles.

A shot of people's sneakers in a running race.

How to Choose the Best US Marathon for Beginners

Even if you pick one of the “easiest marathons in the US” as a choice for the best first marathon to run as a beginner, your body still has to be able to handle 26.2 miles (42.16 kilometers).

A marathon is always the same distance, so even if technically your first marathon it’s considered one of the “easiest marathons in the US,” it is still going to be a challenging physical and mental endeavor of endurance, strength, fitness, and months of training culminating together to make your goal happen.

That said, the best marathons for beginners do tend to be “easy” marathon courses.

Here are some qualities that we considered when choosing the best marathons for beginners in the US:

  • Flat, paved course
  • No significant altitude
  • Generous cut-off times for slower runners or those using the run/walk method
  • No need to qualify for the race; anyone can enter
  • A welcoming atmosphere for runners of all levels rather than highly competitive and serious
  • Slower pace teams offered or larger packs of slower finish times even if it is one of the easiest marathon courses in the US
  • Plenty of course support, including water, fuel stations, medical support, spectators, and resources
  • Simple logistics to navigate on race day (plenty of close accommodations, well-organized, perhaps a loop course rather than point-to-point to avoid shuttles)

According to the factors mentioned above, we have compiled our very own list of the best marathons for beginners in the US. Let’s take a look:

A shot of people's sneakers in a running race.

Here Are The 8 Best Marathons For Beginners In The US

#1: Honolulu Marathon, Honolulu, HI

With no cutoff time, the Honolulu Marathon is one of the top marathons in the USA for beginners. You can walk, run, walk/run, or slowly jog your way through while enjoying the beauty of Oahu.

Although the course itself isn’t the easiest marathon course in the US, the laid-back atmosphere and lack of cut-off time mean that anyone can finish if they stick with it.

In fact, this beginner marathon sees roughly 20,000 finishers every year, who get to enjoy sweeping ocean views and a run past landmarks such as the Iolani Palace, King Kamehameha Statue, Diamond Head, and Kalakaua Avenue.

#2: Walt Disney World Marathon, Orlando, FL

The Walt Disney World Marathon is one of the most popular marathons for beginners. 

The course is super flat, and there is a very generous seven-hour cutoff time. This means you can take your time and use the run/walk method or slow jog to get through. 

Plus, tons of runners dress in costumes of their favorite Disney characters, so there’s a fun atmosphere as you run through all four Walt Disney World parks: Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and then back to Epcot for the finish.

People running over a bridge in a marathon.

#3: San Francisco Marathon, San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco Marathon is a large marathon held in California that is beginner-friendly because it has a smaller field size and a great, supportive atmosphere.

Despite being a moderate-sized marathon, the San Francisco Marathon manages to retain a small-town feel in many ways.

It’s also notably smaller than major city marathons, with closer to 6,000 finishers each year, yet big enough that runners of all levels will have others around their pace to run with.

The marathon course is very scenic, meandering past many of the famous notable landmarks in San Francisco, including the Wharves and Cobb Hill.

Runners also get to cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

The course is a bit hilly—so it’s not necessarily the easiest marathon in the US—yet because it is so beautiful, the 26.2 miles seem to fly by.

As one of the largest urban marathons in the US, the weekend of the San Francisco Marathon has an array of other distances within the festival, including a half marathon, 10k, 5k, and even an ultramarathon, so everyone in the family can find a race to enter, even if they aren’t up for their own first marathon quite yet.

A blur of people running.

#4: Baystate Marathon, Lowell, MA

The Baystate Marathon is one of the best marathons for beginners because it is relatively flat and has a double-loop design, which helps make pacing easier and may not feel as daunting—once you do the loop once, you just have one more go around, and you already know you can do it! 

This fast marathon is a popular marathon for beginners and typically sees at least 25 percent of the field running qualifying times for the Boston Marathon.

But if you’re slower, don’t worry! The cutoff time is six hours.

#5: Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon, Allentown, PA

The Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon is one of the easiest US marathons.  

The weather is almost always optimal for running a marathon, and the super-fast course is a scenic, point-to-point route with a net downhill of 240 feet. 

This fast marathon course was actually designed by Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer at Runner’s World, and evidence that this is one of the easiest marathons in the US for beginners is the fact that the average finish time is 3:49:56.

This is significantly faster than the average marathon finish time across all ages and genders worldwide.

A shot of people's sneakers in a running race.

#6: Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Chicago, IL

If you want one of the easiest marathons in the US in terms of a flat, fast course while still participating in a huge, prestigious big-city marathon, the Chicago Marathon is the best beginner-friendly major marathon.

The looped course, ideal running temperatures, and fun atmosphere are just bonuses for any runner looking for one of the best first marathons if you want to jump into a Marathon Major.

#7: Mountains2Beach Marathon

With a net downhill of 700 feet, the Mountains2Beach Marathon is one of the easiest marathons in the US and one of the best first marathons for runners who want a scenic, fast course.

There are more than 10 miles of gradual downhill as runners begin in the hills at Ojai, California, and end near the surf at Ventura Promenade.

#8: Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, Indianapolis, IN

The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon is one of the best marathons for beginners, as the course is super flat and fast and takes place during cool fall weather. 

There’s a large enough field that you’ll have fellow racers to work with as you run past fun landmarks in Indianapolis, including Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana State Capitol, Monument Circle, and Butler University.

After you have chosen the easiest US marathon that appeals to you on this best marathons for beginners list, check out some of our free beginner-friendly marathon training plans here to get you ready for race day.

A shot of people's sneakers in a running race.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

5 thoughts on “Here Are The 8 Best Marathons For Beginners In The US”

  1. Good list, I will have to check on some of these in addition to San Fran, which was already on my list. I do want to say that run walk method can be done with a respectable time and does not mean someone is “slow”.

    Reply

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