Running a marathon is about more than just crossing the finish line. Training for a 26.2-mile run can help increase your endurance, strengthen your heart, and build muscle. The training process can also reduce stress by producing endorphins. The experience of training and completing a marathon simply can’t be beat: not only will you get in great shape, but it can also be an opportunity to support a charity, get out of your comfort zone, make friends, and inspire your own friends and family to quite literally follow in your footsteps.
If you’re looking to start running marathons, the first step is to target a race, so you have something to work towards. Here are the 10 biggest marathons in the U.S. right now; hopefully you’ll be able to find one that works for you.
TCS New York City Marathon
New York City, NY
November 1, 2015
The world’s largest marathon, the TCS New York City Marathon had over 50,000 finishers in 2013. Coursing through New York City’s five boroughs, it has been run every year since 1970, with the exception of 2012 due to extreme weather events. Charity entries are available, and there’s a half marathon as well! The New York Maraton does have a “lottery” for entry, however. That means that registering only enters you into a lottery; only some of those names get picked and have the opportunity to officially sign up for the race.
Bank of America Chicago Marathon
October 11, 2015
Held every year in the Windy City, the Chicago Marathon is one of the six World Marathon Majors, this year’s rendition being the 38th anniversary of the race. It is limited to 45,000 runners, and like the New York City Marathon, participants are chosen through a lottery, so we recommend having a backup if this is your first choice. (They are known to make exceptions for charity representatives and elite runners, however.) Also note that only those who finish under 6.5 hours will be officially timed. The marathon course is a loop, starting and finishing at Grant Park, winding through 29 of the city’s vibrant neighborhoods. Like the New York City Marathon, the Chicago Marathon has lottery entry.
Marine Corps Marathon
October 25, 2015
Established in 1976 to promote physical fitness and showcase the organizational skills of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC is America’s fourth largest marathon, boasting over 30,000 runners from all 50 states and over 50 countries. Affectionately known as “The People’s Marathon,” it is open to all runners ages 14 and up and is the largest marathon that does not offer prize money.
December 13, 2015
Known for its exotic location, and popular among first-time marathoners from Asian countries, the Honolulu Marathon had over 22,000 finishers in 2013. The course is considered moderately difficult due to humid tropical weather that can get as warm as 80°F, as well as a fair amount of hills.
Walt Disney World Marathon
January 8, 2016
Each January tens of thousands of runners descend on the world-famous theme park for a series of races, culminating in a marathon at the end of the weekend. The course takes runners through all four Walt Disney World theme parks, with the finish line at Epcot Center. The variety of races leading up to the marathon make it the perfect opportunity to bring friends or loved ones who still want to run, but can’t complete a marathon…yet!
ASICS LA Marathon
Los Angeles, California
March 15, 2015
Since its inception 29 years ago, the LA Marathon has grown to include nearly 20,000 runners annually on its “Stadium to Sea” course. Participants also get a fairly comprehensive tour of Los Angeles, hitting nearly every major landmark in the city. Inspired by the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, the race has also been acclaimed due to participation from the Students Run L.A. organization, which encourages thousands of students to enroll in a six-month training program that promotes physical fitness.
April 20, 2015
Organized by the Boston Athletic Association, the annual Boston Marathon is always held on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday of April. The Boston Marathon is known for being the world’s oldest annual marathon, founded in 1897, and attracts over 500,000 spectators and 30,000 runners annually. The course draws both amateur and professional runners from all over the world, as participants brave hilly New England roads and potentially nasty weather.