Runners’ Poll: The 10 Best Half Marathons in the US
All runners look for something a little bit different in a half marathon. Some people seek out fast and flat, while other runners prefer rolling hills. Some athletes love trail running and some prefer staying on a paved trail or road.
If you have raced any number of half marathons, you also know there are small, local races with very little spectator support and huge races with people lining the entire course. Whatever type of half marathon you are looking for, we have some suggestions for you!
So, grab a beverage and check out the suggestions given to us by runners from across the US, and then register for your next adventure.
Top 10 Best Half Marathons in the US
1. Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon – Oregon
You start on the WA side, cross over the river on a historic bridge to Oregon, and run most of the course on an old historic highway that is now a biking/walking trail with views for miles.
If that’s not enough fun, there’s stairs, a salmon fish hatchery, and you finish on an island. Plus, it has a pretty long finish time for us turtles in the back of the pack.
2. Brooklyn Half Marathon – New York
This race is flat, fast and scenic. It ends on the famous Coney Island boardwalk.
3. Covered Bridges Half Marathon – Vermont
One of the most popular small-town half marathons has to be this race held in Woodstock, Vermont.
It is a small race that caps at 2,300 runners and is unique because of the four covered bridges along the way.
4. Glacier Half Marathon – Montana
The course runs along the Eastern border of Glacier National Park. The course has five miles of climb to start out, but then it is smooth, downhill sailing.
Runners enjoy the beautiful views of Glacier National Park, Two Medicine Lake and Glacier Park Lodge.
5. Iron Horse Half Marathon – Washington
A scenic, downhill USATF-certified half marathon, it is a point-to-point half marathon that takes place in Washington State on the Iron Horse Trail (remains of old railroad tracks).
The course is a steady, gentle grade downhill with an elevation loss of about 880 feet.
6. Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon – Illinois
The scenic and challenging new course takes participants past some of the nation’s most significant Abraham Lincoln sites.
The first half of the course is flat, and the second half is rolling with some fairly large hills (at least for Central Illinois!).
7. MISH Waterfront Half Marathon – Michigan
This race takes you along beautiful and scenic Lake Michigan.
8. Mayor’s Half Marathon – Alaska
This race is primarily pedestrian pathways and forested trails and takes runners on a scenic journey of Anchorage.
9. Rolling Hills Half Marathon – Virginia
If you decide to run this race in Lorton, Virginia, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience.
It is a beautiful course with stunning views and rolling hills.
10. Urban Bourbon Half Marathon – Kentucky
Held in Louisville, participants must be at least 21 on race day to participate in this half marathon.
The post-race party has plenty of fun to offer and, of course, features bourbon.
Best Half Marathons in the US for Beginners
There are many different Disney races. Let’s start with those in Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Disney World hosts the Disney Princess Half Marathon, the Wine and Dine, and the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, which has races of all distances ranging from the 5K to the full marathon.
On the opposite coast is Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Although Disneyland took a Run Disney hiatus, racing will return to the West Coast. My personal favorite Disney run was the Disney Tinkerbell Race in Anaheim.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll series of races are also great options for a first half marathon because they feature live music along the course and at the finish line. Although, there are Rock ‘n’ Roll runs all over. Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas, Nevada, is a super popular option.
Where is the Flattest Half Marathon?
There are many races that are reputed to be “fast and flat.” If you are interested in finding a flat course, be certain to check elevation before committing to a race. Two races that are advertised as very flat are:
- Hilton Head, Hilton Head Island – South Carolina
- Shamrock, Virginia Beach – Virginia
The Hilton Head Island Half Marathon in South Carolina has only a few feet of elevation change over the 13.1 miles of the course. This fast course made up of paved roads with just a spattering of bike trails, is easy to maneuver and should give you an impressive time.
Another super flat half marathon has you running along Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach, VA. The Shamrock Half Marathon has almost no elevation gain.
2 Scenic Half Marathons
- Maui Oceanfront Half Marathon: Just like the name implies, this Hawaiian half marathon has beautiful ocean views.
- Kauai Half Marathon: Another race in Hawaii, the stunning views feature lush rain forests, pristine sand beaches, amazing waterfalls, etc.
4 Best National Park Half Marathons
- Grand Teton Half Marathon: Possibly the prettiest course ever….you’ll run a flat, paved road over the Snake River and through scenic pastures. The final miles lead to a stunning reveal of the Grand Teton mountain range and a picture-perfect finish line.
- Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon: The Tennessee fall race takes you through the wooded mountains of one of the most lovely areas in America.
- Rocky Mountain Half Marathon: Located in Estes, Colorado, this course is ranked as very challenging. If you decide to tackle this course, be certain your training plan includes hills and technical trails.
- Zion National Park Half Marathon: Located in Utah, this beautiful race course is technically a road race, but there is no shortage of beautiful views.
3 Favorite City Half Marathons
- Chicago Half Marathon: This race could be in multiple categories. It is a popular “big city” race, but it is also touted as a fast, flat course with excellent spectator support.
- Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon: Run about a month before the Indy 500, the fast and flat race course allows runners to run a lap around the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- New York City Runs Central Park Half Marathon: As you can imagine, any run in NYC will surely have plenty of crowd support. All NYC runs are USATF-certified.
Best Half Marathon for Trail Runners
- Great Turtle Half Marathon: Located on Mackinac Island in Michigan, this popular race is run on the trails of beautiful Mackinac Island.
- Moab Trail Half Marathon: A trail running magazine bucket list race, it is advertised as an “unforgettable voyage through unique lands.” The elevation profile is sure to make some runners nervous, but if you are looking to pack your running shoes and head out on a picturesque adventure, this is the race to try.
- Napa Wine Country Half Marathon: Runners will traverse dirt and sometimes rocky hiking trails, all the while surrounded by majestic redwood, oak, madrone and bay forests.
- Yosemite Half Marathon: Beginners looking for a good half marathon course that has some trails that are not technical might want to peek at this race as a good starting point. It is a mostly downhill course on a mixture of paved and dirt terrain. Runners are encouraged to train, doing a lot of downhills to prepare the quads for this run. It is advertised as a “fast, scenic course through the Sierra National Forest”.
I have run approximately 20 half-marathons and hands down, my favorite was the Mayor’s Half Marathon in Anchorage. The scenic beauty was breathtaking. While I was there, I made sure to experience everything from a glacier tour to hiking on Mount Alyeska to eating a reindeer hotdog.
If you are looking for a bucket list adventure, I recommend this amazing race.
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