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Setting off at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

California, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Washington, D.C.

5 Spectacular U.S. Marathons in Beautiful Settings

By: Dimity McDowell

1 of 1
  • States:
    California
    Colorado
    Hawaii
    Minnesota
    Washington, D.C.

Taking on a marathon of 42.2 kilometers is a physical feat that takes hours to complete.

It’s helpful to have a beautiful setting to distract you while running. Such landscapes are also lovely for spectators, who might want to have a picnic while they watch the runners go for their goal. The following five races in the USA are known for their spectacular scenery. While your legs go the distance, your eyes and mind will be happily entertained.

Big Sur Marathon

Big Sur, California – April

As Big Sur Marathon runners travel from Big Sur to Carmel, California, on legendary State Route 1, just south of San Francisco, picture-perfect scenes – redwood forests, emerald green fields, the Pacific Ocean – roll by, all to a soundtrack of crashing surf, and barking sea lions. Most runners stop for a picture at the Bixby Bridge, about halfway through the race around kilometer 21, where a pianist serenades runners. Smart racers save some room for fresh local strawberries at the aid station about 4 kilometers from the end.

Bird's-eye view of the Bixby Bridge and Highway 1 in Big Sur

Bird's-eye view of the Bixby Bridge and Highway 1 in Big Sur
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Steamboat Marathon

Steamboat Springs, Colorado – June

Starting at 2,477 meters above sea level in northwest Colorado (250 kilometers from Denver), the Steamboat Marathon flaunts the state’s lush spring. Heading down to a finish line at 2,050 meters, the route traverses groves of budding aspen trees and verdant fields with grazing cattle next to the rushing Elk River, filled to capacity from recent snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains. Spectators are few in the first 35 kilometers, but chances are runners won’t miss them.

Old Town Hot Springs recreation center near the finish line in Steamboat Springs

Old Town Hot Springs recreation center near the finish line in Steamboat Springs
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Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon

Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota – October

Despite being an urban race, the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon showcases some of the finest natural highlights Minnesota and the Midwest have to offer. The tree-lined course winds around four city lakes in Minneapolis-St. Paul, known as the Twin Cities, and both sides of the mighty Mississippi River. The October race date means fall foliage is in its prime; the feet of runners will likely crunch orange, red and yellow leaves as they head toward the finish at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul.

Running along the Mississippi River in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon

Running along the Mississippi River in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
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Marine Corps Marathon

Washington, D.C. – October

Organized by the U.S. Marines, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., hits nearly every must-see site in the U.S. capital – from Arlington National Cemetery to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial to narrow Georgetown streets lined with restaurants and boutiques. The kilometers along the Potomac River are more tranquil, but also more emotional; the "wear blue: run to remember" portion is a tribute to fallen American soldiers.

Marine Corps Marathon passing Smithsonian Castle building in Washington, D.C.

Marine Corps Marathon passing Smithsonian Castle building in Washington, D.C.
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Honolulu Marathon

Honolulu, Hawaii – December

Fireworks kick off this race on the Hawaiian island of Oahu that begins at 5 a.m. to minimize the tropical heat and humidity. As the sun rises, the Honolulu Marathon’s field of about 30,000 runners follows a route through Honolulu that is filled with palm trees and views of the Pacific Ocean. The course includes iconic Hawaiian sites like the Iolani Palace and a statue of surfer Duke Kahanamoku; a moderate climb up to Diamond Head, an extinct volcanic crater; and mansions in Kahala Beach. Rainbows are often overhead, and shell leis are given to all participants at the finish line.

Running in costume at the Honolulu Marathon

Running in costume at the Honolulu Marathon
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