The Best Fall Marathons in the United States

So you've already set your goal to run a marathon this fall, but here comes the tough question: Which one should you run? Whether you're looking for a gorgeous location or the biggest race in America, check out this list of top U.S. fall marathons. Any of them will make all those training miles run in heat and humidity of the summer totally worth it. 

St. George Marathon

St. George Marathon

St. George Marathon

When: Early October
Where: St. George, Utah
Why do it: Do you love a net downhill? The St. George Marathon begins in the majestic Pine Valley mountains and descends nearly 2,600 feet through scenic southwest Utah to the beautiful Worthern Park, making for some speedy race times. You won't get bored surrounded by the gorgeous scenery here.

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon

Spencer Platt/Getty

When: Early October
Where: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Why do it: The Twin Cities Marathon has been called the "Most Scenic Urban Marathon in America" and its participants will vouch for that. With a backdrop of spectacular fall foliage, the course takes runners through historic neighborhoods, along the shoreline of six lakes and on the banks of the Mississippi.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon

Steven Dahlman/Getty Images

When: Mid-October
Where: Chicago, Illinois
Why do it: The Chicago Marathon is a flat, fast marathon, so it's great for first-timers and those looking to best their personal record. In addition to its speed, the course offers a scenic tour of the Windy City as it weaves through diverse neighborhoods and dozens of local and historic landmarks. You'll see all that is great about the city of Chicago with crowd support rivaled only by the New York City Marathon.

Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon

City Marathon

Stacey Shackford/Getty Images

When: Mid-October
Where: Detroit, Michigan
Why do it: By running the Detroit Marathon, you'll cross the U.S./Canadian border twice (you must show a passport at race packet pick-up!) The fast, spectator-friendly course takes you through historic neighborhoods and through the Detroit Windsor Tunnel for the only underwater international mile in the world.

First-time marathoners have an added incentive to choose this race: All first-time runners receive a special green bib. Detroit knows and loves its "greenies" and gives them added support to cross the finish line. 

Mount Desert Island Marathon

Marathon Runners
Mount Desert Marathon

When: Mid-October
Where: Bar Harbor, Maine
Why do it: With its breathtaking, incredibly scenic course, traversing mountains and peering over the sea, the Mount Desert Island Marathon has been called the "Big Sur Marathon of the East." Race organizers also call it "America's Best Little Road Race."

It may not be a flat course, but race participants agree that the race's natural beauty and small-town feel are worth the hills. The lobster claw medal is pretty cool, too.

Baltimore Marathon

Marathon start
Getty Images

When: Mid-October
Where: Baltimore, Maryland
Why do it: The Baltimore Marathon course travels through the many diverse neighborhoods including the scenic Inner Harbor waterfront area, historic Federal Hill, and charming Fells Point. It also starts and finishes near both the Orioles' and Ravens' stadiums, so there's plenty of space and restrooms for everyone.

In addition, the marathon boasts its top-notch expo, hometown-brand Under Armour race shirt, and large crowds of supporting spectators. 

Marine Corps Marathon

Marine Corps Marathon
Getty Images North America

When: Late October
Where: Washington, D.C.
Why do it: The Marine Corps Marathon is often called the "People's Marathon" because it doesn't offer a huge purse for top finishers, despite its large size. As a result, it attracts lots of recreational runners who are rewarded with a well-organized race and a scenic course, winding through Arlington, into Georgetown, and along the National Mall.

This fan-favorite race provides amazing crowd support with a backdrop of national monuments.

TCS New York City Marathon

Runners in the NYC Marathon
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When: Early November
Where: New York, New York
Why do it: Everything about the New York City marathon is big. It's the largest marathon in the U.S., in both participants and spectators.

Runners tour the biggest city in the country, traveling over five bridges and through all five boroughs. You'll be distracted from the miles by the smile on your face as millions of spectators yell your name (if it's on your shirt).

Getting in by lottery gets tougher every year, but the race does have some charity partners that also grant numbers in exchange for fundraising.

VCU Health Richmond Marathon

Marathon Runners

Diego Lezama/Getty Images

When: Mid-November
Where: Richmond, Virginia
Why do it: Dubbed "America's Friendliest Marathon" by Runner's World magazine, the VCU Health Richmond Marathon offers many of the benefits of a big city marathon while maintaining a small-town feel. Runners return year after year because of the friendly and courteous volunteers and superb course amenities, such as food stops and wet washcloths. 

Philadelphia Marathon

Philadelphia Marathon

Margie Politzer/Getty Images

When: Late November
Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Why do it: If you're looking for a big city marathon experience, but don't want to deal with huge crowds, the Philadelphia Marathon may be a good option for you.

Philly's course treats you to historical landmarks like the Liberty Bell, and natural beauty along the Schuylkill River. And if you still have some energy left after you cross the finish line, you can do your best "Rocky" imitation by running up the Philadelphia Museum of Art's steps.

Space Coast Marathon

Hero Images/Digital Vision/Getty

When: Early December
Where: Cocoa, Florida
Why do it: Held in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center, the Space Coast Marathon starts in the historic and quaint Cocoa Village and finishes with a lap around the Riverfront Park amphitheater, where family and friends can cheer and watch you cross the finish line.

The course is mostly flat and fast, and the typically cool temperatures (race starts at 6:30 a.m.) are also favorable for runners. Race perks include a space shuttle-themed medal, a finisher's towel (perfect for going to the beach post-race), and a "Back Into Orbit" finishers' party complete with pancakes and eggs or pizza and beer.

A Word From Verywell

While one marathon a year (or every few) may satisfy you, there are plenty of other races run in the winter, spring, and summer months if you just can't wait to do it all over again. Whether your main reason for choosing a marathon is whether or not it's beginner-friendly, fast, or something else entirely, there are many options to choose from.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.