If you are a beginner, it can be less intimidating to take on a small marathon, particularly in your local area.
Marathons with a smaller field size typically have easier logistics to navigate in terms of how to get to the marathon course, and the overall race atmosphere is usually less intense.
Even more, experienced marathoners often appreciate small-town marathon races because the thinner crowds along the race course can help you have plenty of room to run a fast time without navigating around your fellow runners.
With that said, there is also something to be said about the benefits of running a big marathon.
The biggest marathons in the US are always extremely well organized, and with so many runners on the racecourse and a strong elite field, if you participate in one of the largest marathons in the US, you are almost guaranteed to have plenty of people around your pace to run with.
But, what are the biggest marathons in the USA?
Although the field size and number of finishers in marathons vary every year, we have created a list of some of the largest marathons in the US.
The 11 Biggest Marathons In The US
The biggest marathons in the US tend to have excellent support along the course, with plenty of water and medical tents if necessary.
Some runners also love the pride and notoriety that can come from running one of the biggest marathons in the US.
It’s always nice to get a good ego boost when friends, coworkers, and family members in your life seem extra jazzed about the marathon that you are running, and recognizable marathons by non-runners tend to be the most popular marathons in the US with the largest field size.
Here are some of the biggest marathons in the US:
The New York City Marathon had a whopping 47,743 finishers in 2022 and is the world’s largest marathon.
The iconic New York City Marathon course meanders through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx, ending back in Manhattan in the famous Central Park.
The course is rolling and traverses city streets and bridges, lined nearly the entire way by enthusiastic spectators.
It’s an amazing way to get a true slice of New York City’s energy, culture, and history.
The Chicago Marathon had 39,420 finishers in 2022.
It is one of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors, and in terms of the three World Marathon Majors in the US (alongside the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon), the Chicago Marathon has the fastest course.
There is always a really strong elite field, which makes it an exciting marathon to watch.
#3: Boston Marathon
Not only is the Boston Marathon one of the largest marathons in the US, but it is also one of the most popular and famous marathons around the world. The Boston Marathon had 24,607 finishers in 2022.
The Boston Marathon is the oldest continually running marathon in the world, having been held every year since 1897.
The point-to-point Boston marathon course starts in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and finishes on Boylston Street at Copley Square in Boston.
Runners have to qualify for the Boston Marathon, or they can participate by fundraising for a charity, but the allure and prestige of needing to qualify makes the Boston Marathon a bucket list marathon for many runners.
The Boston Marathon course is surprisingly difficult for such a major city marathon. It starts on a downhill for almost the first 10k of the race, which is deceptively difficult.
Your quads can get extremely fatigued from 6 miles of downhill running.
This can come back to bite you in the later part of the race, as there is a series of significant hills around the 15-mile mark, including the infamous Heartbreak Hill.
The Marine Corps Marathon is one of the most popular marathons in the United States and also one of the largest in terms of field size.
Although the number of finishers has dropped in the past several years, in 2018, there were 21,405 finishers.
Held in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, the Marine Corps Marathon always sells out in record time. This fan-favorite marathon has been dubbed “The People’s Marathon” and is popular for runners looking to finish their first marathon as well as experienced runners alike.
It is also particularly popular among veterans of the armed services and other first responders and heroes.
The course is relatively flat and fast and takes runners past some of the capital’s iconic landmarks.
Some of those landmarks include the Arlington National Cemetery, Georgetown University, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Memorial, FDR Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Korean War Memorial, WW2 Memorial, DC War Memorial, Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Museums, and the Pentagon.
The course also spends a lot of time along the serene Potomac River.
Plus, there is a generous 7-hour time limit, allowing even slower runners to be able to enter and finish the marathon.
It’s probably not too surprising that one of the most popular marathons in the US takes place in arguably one of the most beautiful states: Hawaii.
The Honolulu Marathon is one of the largest marathons in the US. It makes a great destination race because almost every runner can get on board with touring the amazing scenery, trails, beaches, rainforest, and ecosystems in the island state.
There is also no cut-off time, allowing slow runners, walkers, and first-time marathoners to have confidence in their ability to finish the race no matter how long it takes them.
The Honolulu Marathon generally draws about 20,000 finishers, though some years have seen even more runners and walkers cross the finish line.
It’s pretty easy to convince the family to get on board with your marathon race if you’re heading off to the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida.
Said to be the “Happiest Place on Earth,” it’s probably not surprising that a marathon at the Disney World theme parks is one of the largest marathons in the United States.
There are nearly 15,000 marathon finishers every year, many of which might even be decked out in costumes of their favorite Disney characters.
If you want to see Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Elsa, and Minnie Mouse running a marathon (and cheering for you on the sidelines!), you can’t beat the Walt Disney World Marathon.
The Los Angeles Marathon is a huge marathon held in the second-largest city in the state of California. There are typically about 14,000-15,000 finishers each year.
Because the race course is very close to Hollywood, there are often exciting celebrity sightings, which can be fun if you are into pop culture, movie stars, and trying to spot A-list celebrities among a massive field of marathon runners.
Many runners also aspire to run the Los Angeles Marathon because it could be a great destination race. The city has awesome restaurants and lots of entertainment options, and there are various national parks and other intriguing tourist destinations within driving distance of the city.
The Philadelphia Marathon usually draws nearly 10,000 runners. This late November race is relatively flat and fast and often draws runners who don’t make it into the New York City Marathon.
It starts right near the Philadelphia Art Museum with the famous steps seen in Rocky. You are guaranteed to hear “Eye of the Tiger” blaring through the loudspeakers before the race begins.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons and half marathons are among the most popular road races in the US.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Nashville, and Salt Lake City Marathons are especially popular and always a favorite of runners, making them among the biggest marathons in the USA.
Honorable Mentions (#10 and #11): Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and the Portland Marathon
Both of these popular marathons tend to have upwards of 8,000-10,000 finishers per year, making them up there in terms of the largest marathons in the US while still having a “small city” feel.
What are your preferences when it comes to running marathons?
Do you like running small marathons, or do you feel most excited by running one of the largest marathons in the US?
What about running one of the most beautiful marathons in the world? If you are into scenic routes, check out our guide to some of the most beautiful marathons to put on your bucket list.