Running Through the Best U.S. Marathons

Next Monday, April 20, thousands of screaming BC students clad in bright tank tops will line the sidewalks of Commonwealth Avenue to watch the Boston Marathon. Marathon Monday is one of Boston College’s most hallowed holidays, and for good reason. Given the raucous celebration on campus and number of college students across Boston who cheer on runners, it is hard to deny that the Boston Marathon is anything but the best. But there are other marathons in the U.S. that offer some great celebrations too. These marathons are all consistently ranked as some of the best in the U.S., each for their own unique reason.

Honolulu. This December marathon in Hawaii allows its runners to enjoy white sand beaches,

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

stunning views and warm temperatures. If you’re looking for a destination marathon, this is the place to go. Unlike most marathons, the Hawaii Marathon does not have a time limit so anyone can participate, running or walking. Although many runners will be drawn by the tropical setting, the after party on Waikiki Beach, with drinks and live music for the accomplished runners, is one of the Honolulu Marathon’s best perks.

Chicago. This marathon course offers the greatest chance of hitting your personal record. The Chicago Marathon has one of the flattest courses, which means it’s also one of the fastest and most evenly-paced. It’s a loop course that starts right in Chicago’s Grant Park, so its runners don’t have to exhaust themselves by bussing an hour away to the starting line, another advantage when trying to hit your best time. As one of the six World Marathon Majors, the “Big Six,” the Chicago Marathon has huge crowds and heavy competition.

New York City. The New York City Marathon is as big, loud and international as the city itself. Almost 50,000 runners race the course that winds through all five boroughs from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side. 12,000 of the runners are international and two million people turn out to cheer them on. The New York City Marathon, another Big Six marathon, is only going to get bigger, thanks to its sponsor ING increasing the prize money to one of the largest packages among marathons.

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Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Salt Lake City. Resting at an altitude of 4,500 feet, the Salt Lake City Marathon is a struggle, especially since running 26.2 miles already shortens your breath. However, the enthusiastic cheerers make up for the lack of oxygen. The city makes the race special thanks to their fun and celebratory attitude toward the challenging marathon.

Big Sur. This scenic marathon offers a stunning tour of the Northern California coastline. Runner’s World recently listed Big Sur as one of the world’s best destination marathons. Runners enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean as they run over bridges and past lighthouses. The steep hills are painful, but the view is well worth it.

Washington, D.C. Many marathons and their runners raise money for charity. When you want to qualify to run a marathon, it usually requires months of training to hit the required entry time. The Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. has a more charitable approach for its qualifiers by merging their qualification requirement with charity. Raising money through one of their chosen charities earns you a runner’s bib.

Photo courtesy of Flickr / Joseph Gruber

Photo courtesy of Flickr / Joseph Gruber

Los Angeles. L.A. treats its marathon runners like movie stars, but you’d expect nothing less in Hollywood. Runners’ first names are printed in big letters on their personalized bibs so the crowds will be cheering for them by name. The “stadium to sea” marathon starts at Dodger Stadium and finishes at Santa Monica, passing L.A.’s famous landmarks along the way, including a view of the Hollywood sign from Sunset Boulevard.

Boston. Saving the (arguably) best for last, the legendary Boston Marathon is the oldest continuous marathon in the country, taking place every year since 1897. The world-renowned marathon is another Big Six race and is one of the most competitive marathons to qualify for. The hills, especially Heartbreak Hill, are steep but the 500,000 cheering spectators and the resilient spirit of Beantown are what make this historic course so memorable. The Boston Marathon is on every runner’s list, including many BC students.

Next Monday is an opportunity to watch one of the best marathons run past our own St. Ignatius. Maybe it will inspire you to try one of the many great marathons the U.S. has to offer. Whether you’re running or cheering, have a safe and fun Marathon Monday!

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