9 Best Spring Marathons in the U.S.

You've already set your goal to run a spring marathon, so now comes the tough question: which one do you pick? For those looking for a unique experience or a scenic destination, check out this list of top U.S. spring marathons.

From spotting wildlife on a trail to running palm-tree-lined courses, any of these 26.2-mile routes will make those months of marathon training in winter weather worth it.

Boston Marathon

Runners near the finish line on Boylston Street during the 120th Boston Marathon on April 18, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts


Mike Lawrie / Staff / Getty Images

Where: Boston, Massachusetts

The granddaddy of marathons, Boston is the world's oldest annual marathon and known as one of the most prestigious road races in the world. While other popular races have lotteries, you need to meet tough qualifying times or participate in one of their charity programs to get a number for Boston.

The point-to-point course starts in the rural town of Hopkinton and finishes on Boylston Street in Copley Square. Although the Boston course is known for its challenging hills, hearing what feels like the entire city cheering for you makes getting to the top of Heartbreak Hill seem achievable.

Big Sur International Marathon

Big Sur International Marathon

Big Sur International Marathon

Where: Big Sur, California

Quite simply, Big Sur is the most scenic marathon in the country, possibly even the world (depending on whom you ask). You'll take in vistas of the Pacific Ocean as you run along Highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel.

The route's rolling hills can be challenging—you might not run a personal record here—but the redwoods and stunning views more than make up for it. Besides the incredible scenery, one of the favorite traditions on the course is the musician playing a grand piano on Bixby Bridge.

Vermont City Marathon

Where: Burlington, Vermont​

With its spectacular views and intimate size, the Vermont City Marathon is the perfect small-city marathon. Against the backdrop of the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain, participants run through the charming city of Burlington.

If you don't want to take on the entire marathon by yourself, you can form a relay team of two to five people. And if the thrill of completing a marathon isn't enough, maybe the free Ben & Jerry's ice cream and massages at the end will push you to the finish line.

St. Jude Rock 'n' Roll Nashville

Competitors run during the St. Jude Rock 'n' Roll Nashville Marathon

Al Bello / Staff / Getty Images

Where: Nashville, Tennessee

With this Nashville marathon, you can take the ultimate tour of Music City and be entertained by live tunes on 28 stages. The route features historic sites like Nashville's world-renowned Music Row and a finish line festival outside the Tennessee Titans' stadium along the Cumberland River.

Country, rock, jazz, blues, and swing bands entertain runners on every mile of the course. For those who want to continue the party into the evening, there's a post-race concert in downtown Nashville that has drawn big-name acts like The Band Perry in past years.

Yuengling Shamrock Marathon

Yuengling Shamrock Marathon

Yuengling Shamrock Marathon

Where: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Designed to coincide with St. Patrick's Day festivities in this Virginia resort town, the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon offers a flat, fast course that includes a stretch along its famous beach boardwalk.

The route also goes past historic landmarks such as the Cape Henry Lighthouse, one of the oldest in the country. The finish line celebration offers plenty of good music, Irish stew, and of course, Yuengling Beer.

San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

start of the San Diego marathon

Kent Horner / Stringer / Getty Images

Where: San Diego, California

If you're looking for a 26.2-mile-long party, join about 27,000 runners and walkers on palm tree-lined streets during the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

More than 40 bands entertain participants along a course that includes highlights like Petco Park, the historic Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, and San Diego Harbor. Adding to the excitement are hundreds of local high school cheerleaders competing in the "Spirit on the Course" competition.

Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

Where: Cincinnati, Ohio

If you've ever said you'd run a marathon "when pigs fly," this is the challenge for you. One of the biggest races in the country, the Flying Pig Marathon always gets high marks from participants as a fun and well-organized race.

The course offers a diverse tour of some of the best neighborhoods in the Cincinnati area as it "flies" through the city and nearby towns like Fairfax and Newport.

Along the way, runners will find more than 25 support stations doling out cookies, cheese, and gels, plus more than 80 live music acts to keep you going. If you're not ready for the full marathon, you can also choose from a half-marathon, 10K, or 5K.

Mayor's Marathon

Where: Anchorage, Alaska

Where else could you see a moose along a marathon course? This race is obviously not for runners who desire the big-city race experience, but if you're looking for something off the beaten path (part of the race runs on trails and bike paths), you can sign up for the Mayor's Marathon.

You'll be rewarded with incredible scenery, including views of the Chugach Mountain Range and Cook Inlet. There's also an option to do the race as a relay with a team of four runners.

Grandma's Marathon

Grandma's Marathon

Grandma's Marathon 

Where: Duluth, Minnesota

If you're looking for a scenic, mid-size marathon (nearly 10,000 participants), Grandma's Marathon is a point-to-point course run along the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior. The 26.2-mile stretch begins on scenic Highway 61, just outside Two Harbors, and finishes in Duluth's Canal Park.

The race's dedicated volunteers, enthusiastic spectators, and live entertainers always garner rave reviews from participants. Marathon weekend also includes other running events including a half marathon, two 5Ks, a 5-miler, the Minnesota Mile, and several "Whipper Snapper" races for kids 14 and under.​

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