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The 15 best half marathons in America

Up for a challenge? Train for America’s best half marathons and find a spirited race that’s worth the sweat.

Photograph: Courtesy Great Turtle Half Marathon

Although the best hiking trails in America and the best extreme outdoor adventures in America usher in the kind of adrenaline we sometimes crave, there is something about training for a race that pushes our limits in unique ways. With countless marathons held throughout the country each year, runners from near and far are invited to get into fantastic shape while pounding the pavement in a group atmosphere and seeing some stellar sights along the way. Whether you’re after fresh terrain, an awesome post-run party or just an excuse to travel the country, here are the best half marathons in America (and we expect you to celebrate post-race at one of the best craft beer breweries in America, of course).

Best half marathons in America

1
The San Francisco Half Marathon, CA

The San Francisco Half Marathon, CA

Next summer marks the 40th year that runners will take on the hilly streets in the City by the Bay. Half marathoners can choose between two courses: The first kicks off near the Ferry Building, following the Embarcadero on a waterfront route to Golden Gate Park, the second moves from the park through the city streets and beneath the Bay Bridge to finish at the 60-foot Cupid's Arrow sculpture. All 27,000 racers converge at the finish line for a post-race festival. July 23, 2017 in San Francisco, CA

2
Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon, NY

Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon, NY

The small, local New York City running club that started this half marathon in 1981 now draws over 27,000 finishers to King's County each year. Brooklynites and visitors see the borough's varied landscape, from the Botanical Garden, through verdant Prospect Park, finishing with a stretch past the amusement park rides at Coney Island and celebrations on the beach's historic boardwalk. May 2017 (date TBA) in Brooklyn, NY

3
Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon, CA

Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon, CA

Beginning on a Napa vineyard, 4,000 runners bolt by winery tasting rooms, production facilities and animal farms as they wind through California wine country. Infamous inclines like "Butt-Burner Hill" give way to a downhill stretch toward Sonoma Plaza, where deserving racers enjoy vino grown along the course, plus food and tunes at the Wine & Music Festival. July 16, 2017 in Napa and Sonoma, CA

4
Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas, NV

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas, NV

About 30,000 runners head to the Vegas Strip for this evening race, offering exclusive views of famous hotels and casinos, the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and the majestic Bellagio Fountains. In true Sin City style, couples can get hitched or renew their vows mid-race, before a post-race bash at the foot of the Mirage volcano. Nov 13, 2016 in Las Vegas, NV

5
Disney Princess Half Marathon, FL

Disney Princess Half Marathon, FL

The magical atmosphere practically carries runners to the finish line at this whimsical run Disney race. More than 37,000 participants from over 26 different countries breeze by resort landmarks like Epcot’s Spaceship Earth and Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom in support of the Children's Miracle Network Hospital. Runners come clad in tutus, crowns and Mickey ears and snap photos with characters on the course. Feb 26, 2017 at Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL

6
Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay, CA

Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay, CA

The Monterey Bay coast is reason enough to travel to Big Sur and this race gives visitors more of a chance to take in the magnificent sights than a road trip would. The popular half marathon directs 8,000 athletes through downtown Monterey, past hotspots like Fisherman’s Wharf, Pacific Grove and the pristine beach. Slow your stride through Lighthouse Tunnel, where racers are treated to a light and music show. Nov 13, 2016 in Monterey, CA

7
Boston’s Run to Remember, MA

Boston’s Run to Remember, MA

If you're not quite ready to take on the legendary Boston Marathon, opt for this Memorial Day weekend race in memory of the city's fallen first responders. The course is rife with incredible historic landmarks—from the Seaport, the crowd of 12,000 moves past the State House, Faneuil Hall, Boston Common and more before crossing the Charles River and, eventually, the finish line. May 28, 2017 in Boston, MA

8
Charlotte Covered Bridge Half Marathon, VT

Charlotte Covered Bridge Half Marathon, VT

Nothing beats the beauty of New England in autumn, and this scenic, countryside course lets visitors take in the best of Vermont's landscape. Beginning at popular Shelburne Beach, athletes run along the waters of Lake Champlain and beneath the historic Holmes Creek Covered Bridge, built in the 1800s. Beyond the lake, the Adirondack Mountains serve as a serene backdrop to the flat course, which finishes with an awards ceremony, raffle and beach barbecue. September 10, 2016 in Shelburne, VT

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Phil Roeder

9
Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll, GA

Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll, GA

Be one of the whopping 14,000 runners who soak up the Southern charm of Savannah on a running tour through its historic downtown district. Begin in front of the city's distinguished, gold-domed City Hall and listen for live music as you move through town. Spanish moss–covered trees line the neighborhood streets, leading the way to quaint Forsyth Park, where Old Crow Medicine Show will put on a concert at the finish line. Nov 5, 2016 in Savannah, GA

10
Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon, ME

Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon, ME

Five thousand runners will take on one of Maine's most beautiful maritime courses, starting at Portland's Ocean Gateway Terminal. Scan the ocean for ferries, sailboats and lobster boats on Casco Bay as you dart along the Eastern Promenade, then get a drink of water from Habitat for Humanity volunteers and a boost of energy from the cheering crowds at party zones along the way. July 8, 2017 (tentative) in Portland, ME

11
Chicago Half Marathon, IL

Chicago Half Marathon, IL

It's tough to beat the lake views in this mid-western metropolis, especially when Lake Shore Drive, a normally traffic-ridden stretch along the water, is clear of cars to make way for the 14,000 runners. For it's 20th year, the course starts in Jackson Park, then snakes through Hyde Park and University of Chicago campus. Racers are rewarded with a panorama of Lake Michigan and a look at the skyline before reaching the golden Statue of the Republic. Sept 25, 2016 in Chicago, IL

12
Marine Corps Historic Half, VA

Marine Corps Historic Half, VA

Join the ranks of 10,000 running, including members of the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy on a historic course through Fredericksburg, a city in the Commonwealth of Virginia, south of D.C. The patriotic event sends runners along the Rappahannock River and through battle sites from the Civil War, right in the footsteps of presidents and generals of the past. May 21, 2017 in Fredericksburg, VA

13
Great Turtle Trail Half Marathon, MI

Great Turtle Trail Half Marathon, MI

Car-free, 3.8-square-mile Mackinac Island makes a unique setting for this annual race, now in it's 21st year. As the bustling tourist destination winds down for the season, over 3,000 runners take off from Mission Point Resort and past picturesque Arch Rock on the Lake Huron shoreline before traversing the island’s trails and hills. Peep Fort Mackinac, gorgeous mansions and the impressive Mackinac Bridge before the finish. October 22, 2016 on Mackinac Island, MI

14
Ice Age Trail Run Half Marathon, WI

Ice Age Trail Run Half Marathon, WI

Those who bore quickly with all-road races will dig the varied terrain in this Wisconsin trail run through the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest. Geological remnants left by glaciers during the last Ice Age make it possible to experience hardwood forest, pine plantations and open meadows along the same 13.1-mile stretch. The wide trails challenge participants with a combination of flat ground and twisting hills. May 13, 2017 in La Grange, WI

15
Jazz Half Marathon, LA

Jazz Half Marathon, LA

New Orleans is a blast to visit around Halloween and this festive, annual race is even more reason to make it happen. Live bands on course and a feast of Louisiana eats at the finish line keep up the runners' high. They stride past the Mercedes Benz Superdome and spookily decorated mansions in the Garden District, then beneath the canopy of oak trees in Audubon Park before the finish-line bash in Lafayette Square. Oct 29, 2016 in New Orleans, LA

Comments

3 comments
Salem S
Salem S

You didn't include ANY of the national park halfs?

marcia d
marcia d

Wow, thanks for adding some great additions to my bucket list! Off to buy new running shoes now!

Kevin L
Kevin L

Great piece! One edit is the state code for RnR Las Vegas is NE instead of NV!