13 Fastest Marathons in the U.S. to Race in 2023

Some people choose marathons for the scenery, while others want a marathon with a flat and fast course. In particular, those who are trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon (BQ) seek out fast marathon courses.

If you're one of those people who wants to set a marathon personal record (PR) or run a fast time for your first marathon, these U.S. marathons are known for being fast.

Man running a marathon

Getty Images / Mikhail Druzhinin / EyeEm

Mesa Marathon

When: February 4, 2023

Where: Mesa, Arizona

Why run it: The Sprouts Mesa Marathon (sometimes called the Phoenix Marathon) is a fast net downhill point-to-point course which drops nearly 1000 feet from start to finish. The last 10K of the race is almost completely downhill. The course and favorable running weather make this a favorite race among those seeking a PR or BQ.

A1A Marathon

When: February 19, 2023

Where: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Why run it: If you want a fast course but don't like downhill running, the flat and scenic A1A Marathon might be the one for you. You'll feel the ocean breezes and see the palm trees as you run along one of the most famous roads in America. The race features plenty of on-course entertainment, a beach-themed finisher medal, and a post-race beach party with food, beverages, beer, and live music.

Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

When: May 21, 2023

Where: Cleveland, Ohio

Why run it: The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon course is relatively flat, and it's not boring. The marathon route goes past the Cleveland Browns Stadium, Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, and Lake Erie. The race is held in mid-May, so you won't have to worry about running in the sweltering heat.

Mountains 2 Beach Marathon

When: May 21, 2023

Where: Ventura, California

Why run it: The Mountains 2 Beach Marathon is one of the fastest marathon courses in the United States. This point-to-point race winds through the Ventura River Valley as it makes its way to the beautiful beaches of Ventura.

Runners will love that 18 of the first 20 miles have a net downhill of over 700 feet, which is prime to make you faster but not hurt the knees. After a 6-mile pancake-flat tour of Ventura, runners and their families are treated to a finish line party only steps away from the surf and the shops and restaurants of historic downtown Ventura.

Newport Marathon

When: June 3, 2023

Where: Newport, Oregon

Why run it: The Newport Marathon starts about 60 feet above sea level and has few gently rolling hills through a residential neighborhood. The steepest hill you'll encounter is 40 feet at mile four.

The flat marathon route hugs the Yaquina Bay for much of the race, providing you with stunning views of the water. Make sure you register early—the Newport Marathon limits the number of entries to keep the race more intimate and fun.

Grandma's Marathon

When: June 17, 2023

Where: Duluth, Minnesota

Why run itGrandma's Marathon is ideal for first-time participants as the terrain is relatively flat with some gently rolling hills and a larger incline just before mile 22. The race is in June, but because it's in Minnesota, the weather is usually cool.

St. George Marathon

When: October 7, 2023

Where: St. George, Utah

Why run it: A popular choice for those seeking a fast fall marathon, the St. George Marathon is a net downhill, point-to-point course that starts about a mile up in the Pine Valley Mountains and descends 2600 feet to the finish. Although the course drops nearly a half-mile in elevation from start to finish, it does have a few uphills along the course.

Wineglass Marathon

When: October 1, 2023

Where: Corning, New York

Why run it: Held in beautiful upstate New York, the Wineglass Marathon yields one of the highest percentages of runners qualifying for the Boston Marathon. The course is flat, except for a few small hills, and provides gorgeous views of the fall foliage. The race starts at about 1050 feet above sea level, finishing 26.2 miles later at an elevation of roughly 940 feet.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon

When: October 8, 2023

Where: Chicago, Illinois

Why run it: The Chicago Marathon is a flat, fast marathon, so it's a great one to do if you've never run a marathon or you're trying to run your fastest time ever. The course offers a scenic tour of Chicago as it weaves through numerous diverse neighborhoods and local and historical landmarks. You'll see all that is great about the city of Chicago while being supported by tons of screaming fans.

Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon

When: October 8, 2023

Where: Albany, New York

Why run itRunning Times magazine calls the Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon one of the fastest marathon routes in the country. The course generally follows the Mohawk River, including 13 miles of paved bike trails, then proceeds to the Hudson River, utilizing 5 miles of bike trails. There is a net elevation loss of 370 feet—there's just one uphill between miles 12 and 13.

The race is limited to 800 participants, which helps runners avoid getting slowed down by crowds. So sign up early if you're hoping to run this race.

Baystate Marathon

When: October 15, 2023

Where: Lowell, Massachusetts​

Why run it: Organizers of the Baystate Marathon like to say that "the bridge to Boston runs through Lowell." About one-third of the race participants run a Boston Marathon qualifying time.

Much of the course runs along the beautiful Merrimack River. The marathon is held in mid-October of each year when running temperatures are ideal. It's limited to 2,000 runners and sells out quickly, so be sure to sign up early.

Philadelphia Marathon

When: November 19, 2023

Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania​

Why run it: If you're looking for a fast big-city marathon experience but don't want to deal with the crowds, the Philadelphia Marathon may be a good option for you. The mostly flat course and almost guaranteed late November cool temperatures make a good combination for fast race times.

California International Marathon

When: December 4, 2022

Where: Sacramento, California

Why run it: The California International Marathon is hailed as "The Fastest Course in the West." The course starts at 366 feet above sea level and finishes at the State Capitol at an elevation of 26 feet.

This marathon is held in early December of each year, when average daytime temperatures are in the mid-50s—allowing for comfortable running conditions. The race is only open to 7,000 runners, so make sure to register before it fills up.

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