Walt Disney World Marathon: Tour all four of Walt Disney World’s theme parks, plus ESPN Wide World of Sports, as you run this flat, looped course. The race has a generous 16-minute-per-mile pace requirement, plus several opportunities to meet Mickey and friends stationed about every half-mile along the way.
Little Rock Marathon: Not only is the Little Rock Marathon finisher’s medal one of the biggest in the country—last year’s behemoth had a 8.5-inch diameter and weighed 3.3-pounds—but the race hosts one of the friendliest finish lines around for back-of-the-pack runners. The course features an eight-hour time limit, but lets runners move to the sidewalk and finish with a medal even if they can’t meet the cutoff.
Flying Pig Marathon: Proud of their city’s pork industry heritage, Cincinnati residents go whole-hog on both pig puns and runner support. The race may be smaller than some big-city marathons, but 150,000 raucous spectators provide plenty of urban atmosphere—a major plus when debuting at the distance. Beware: The first five miles of the looped course include some hills, including a 300-foot ascent near mile six.
Colfax Marathon: The star of Denver’s signature marathon isn’t the altitude, medal, or crowd support. It’s the course itself: a creative tour of the city’s highlights including two detours through Mile High Stadium—home of the Denver Broncos—a trip through a working firehouse, a loop around Sloan Lake, and a finish inside City Park next to the Denver Zoo.
Vermont City Marathon: Have an entourage clamoring to see your first marathon finish? This race is perfect for when you want to bring the whole crew along. The clover-shaped course includes several out-and-back and looped sections that pass the same area. Without moving, your support crew can see you four times. And when family and friends aren’t providing doses of motivation, the scenery and residents of Burlington fill in.
Chicago Marathon: The country’s second largest marathon is almost completely flat, providing a comprehensive tour of 29 Chicago neighborhoods. More than 1.7 million Windy City residents offer support along the way, and unlike the New York City Marathon’s spectator-less bridges, hardly any section of Chicago’s course comes without a band, cheerleaders, or shouts from rowdy Midwesterners.
Victoria Marathon: It’s hard to decide which is better: the temperate weather (which usually hovers around 50 degrees on race day ) or the welcoming running culture of this Canadian island city—a 90-minute ferry ride west of Vancouver. The out-and-back course (with a loop through downtown ) traverses gentle rolling hills that never exceed 84 feet above sea level.
Monument / Landmark in Arlington, VA, United States
Marine Corps Marathon: As a marathon newbie, you’ll hardly be alone in the starting corral: Roughly 8,000 runners each year make their 26.2 debut on this looped course, which starts and finishes near the Arlington National Cemetery. Two nights before the race, organizers host a pep rally featuring race-day advice and pins for first time marathoners. Uniformed Marines stand watch with water and shout “OORAHs.”
Capitol Building in Indianapolis, IN, United States
Indianapolis Monumental Marathon: On flat roads that tour through central and northern Indianapolis, race organizers have designed a course to show off the city’s most scenic buildings. Just a half-mile after the start, runners pass Lucas Oil Stadium. They’ll continue through a roundabout called Monument Circle, then head north, passing landmarks like Butler University, Broad Ripple Village, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The race finishes in front of the state’s capitol building.
Philadelphia Marathon: The course provides two race experiences in one: the first half, urban, the second, scenic. You’ll start by winding through Philly’s historic streets. After crossing in front of the Art Museum—famous for Rocky’s ascent up the steps—the spectators thin out to make way for scenic views of boathouses and stone bridges along the Schuylkill River.