Florida Marathon: Expect extensive quality time with the Atlantic Ocean and its Indian River Lagoon: 18 miles of this double-loop marathon course and nine of the single-loop half are completely waterfront. As a marathoner, you’ll tackle four large bridge crossings, visiting a beachside barrier island twice. Keep your eyes peeled along the way for Floridian wildlife, like pelicans, porpoises, jumping fish, and the sometimes-sighted manatee.
Mississippi River Marathon: This extremely flat, point-to-point course charts marathoners through two states, starting with a six-mile sunrise stretch alongside Arkansas’s cypress tree-lined Lake Chicot, the largest natural oxbow lake in North America. The final seven-mile stretch cuts through Greenville’s historic neighborhoods (where residents are known for their especially enthusiastic cheering).
Maine Coast Marathon: The point-to-point marathon spans three coastal towns—Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Biddeford—offering rocky Atlantic coastline views and up-close glimpses of 19th century sea captains’ homes and moored lobster boats throughout. Another mile marker highlight: snacks. In lieu of traditional gels, the course is lined with taste-bud-friendly food, like peanut butter-filled pretzels at mile 10, watermelon chunks at mile 23.1, and—when you need them most—M&Ms at mile 25.6.
Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon and Half Marathon: Held during summer solstice (read: more than 19 hours of sunlight), the race series coincides with the Solstice Festival & Hero Games, a citywide celebration bringing together artists, musicians, and performers. Luckily, the races won’t beat you up too much: The marathon is a gently rolling to extended downhill course. Nestled among the scenery are Alaskan animals, like eagles, moose, and the occasional non-aggressive black bear.
San Francisco Marathon: Commit to the marathon and you’ll hit up SF’s hotspots in one fell swoop. The looped course winds along the Embarcadero (a historic waterfront roadway), through Chrissy Field, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Golden Gate Park and Haight-Ashbury (a neighborhood dubbed the “birthplace of hippie subculture”), and around AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play ball.
Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon: Cows, cornfields, and crystal-clear lake views: This race celebrates the natural beauty of the Midwest. You’ll be able to see Lake Michigan for about half of the race, including an up-close-and-personal look from mile 24 right along to the finish at Veterans Park. Stick around for the postrace lakefront party and refuel with locally-made refreshments, including soft pretzels, handmade organic chocolate, and Milwaukee Ale House brews.
Lake Tahoe Marathon Series: This four-day weekend extravaganza offers more than 20 running, paddling, and swimming events, including three marathons and three halfs over three days and two states, plus the Midnight Express Ultra, a 72-mile lap around the entire lake. Participants in Sunday’s premier event, the Lakeside Marathon, start in Homewood, California before dipping onto a winding wooded trail. Beware the “Hill from Hell” from miles 8 to 9.5 (it’s an unforgiving 520-foot incline).
Portland Marathon: This fast marathon course starts and finishes in downtown Portland, weaving through Chinatown, passing historic monuments and tree-lined streets before crossing the Gothic-style St. John Bridge, and traveling alongside the Willamette River for almost 20 total waterfront miles. Also memorable is the finisher swag: a Western Red Cedar tree seedling, a rose (Portland’s moniker is “Rose City”), a collectible two-sided coin, a pendant (a miniature replica of the medal), and more.
Niagara Falls International Marathon: In case simply watching the most powerful waterfalls in North America doesn’t leave you breathless, try watching them as you complete a marathon. A telltale mist will begin rising around mile 23.7—as you draw closer, you’ll hear the roar of water pouring over Horseshoe Falls along with the cheering crowds at the finish line.
Seattle Marathon: The moderately hilly route passes Kurt Cobain’s former residence, crosses the I-90 bridge (the second largest floating bridge in the world), loops around Seward Park, and passes through the diverse International District (one block from the Seattle Seahawks’ Century Link Field) and the Washington Park Arboretum. If it’s a cloud-free day, you’ll get a full view of Mount Rainer, usually coated in snow.