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The Best Marathons of 2016


At we have compiled our list of the winners of the Best Marathons of 2016. Our lists are based on runner reviews, social media comments, and various input from the running community for races run in 2016. In the case of the Fastest Marathons and Best Marathon to Qualify for Boston categories, additional statistical data was used to determine the winners. In all of the categories, the races are listed in no particular order.

Several races appear in more than one category. The REVEL Mt. Charleston Marathon shows up three times in our lists (Fastest Marathons, Best Marathons to Qualify for Boston, and Best New Marathons). In addition, the California International Marathon, Big Sur International Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Boston Marathon, Akron Marathon, and Mount Desert Island Marathon all appear in two categories.

Best Marathons of 2016

Best Marathons of 2016

Narrowing down the Best Marathons of 2016 from hundreds of races was very challenging. Unfortunately, we couldn’t include every great race (and there are a lot). Our list is based on reviews from our site as well as from social media and running community comments, and other reviews. The list is in no particular order.

Best Mid-Sized Marathons of 2016

Like with the Best Marathons list, narrowing down the Best Mid-sized Marathons of 2016 was also very challenging. Our list is based on reviews from our site as well as from social media and running community comments, and other reviews. The races on this list range from approximately 500 to 2,000 marathon finishers.

Fastest Marathons

Our Fastest Marathons list is based on our PR Score for each marathon in 2016. The PR Score is calculated using an algorithm based on the course elevation changes, weather during the race, and the race elevation. Read more about our Marathon PR and Course Scores and view the Scores for all marathons in 2016.

Best Marathons to Qualify for Boston

Our Best Marathons to Qualify for Boston list includes races with both a high percentage of runners achieving Boston Qualifying standards for their age group and also having a high number of runners qualifying. In addition, runner reviews and running community comments are also taken into condieration.

View the BQ percentage and number of BQers for all marathons on our Marathon Rankings list or check out all Boston Qualifying races on our BQ calendar.

Most Scenic Marathon

The Most Scenic Marathon is based on runner reviews, course descriptions, and social media and running community comments.

Best Organized Marathon

The Best Organized Marathon is based on runner reviews and social media and running community comments about the race organization.

Best New Marathon

The Best New Marathon is based on runner reviews, course descriptions, social media and running community comments.

Please feel free to post a Review for any marathon you’ve run.
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Marathon March Madness™ is Almost Here!


The 3rd Annual Marathon March Madness™ Tournament starts on March 8th with the voting for the last four marathons to get into the Round of 64.

How it works: Marathon March Madness™ is an NCAA Basketball-style tournament with marathons instead of basketball teams. Each marathon is matched against another marathon each round in a single elimination tournament. Vote for your favorite marathons in each match-up during each round. Each round lasts 3-4 days and will roughly coincide with the same round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Marathons that receive more votes than their opponent move on to the next round until one marathon is crowned the 2017 Marathon March Madness™ Tournament Champion.

Voting Starts HERE on March 8th.

In this year’s edition, the Baystate Marathon looks to defend their title while the 2015 champion, Wineglass Marathon,  the two-time Finalist, Boston Marathon, and 61 other marathons try to knock them off.

This year we have some great Sponsors.  Please be sure to check them all out.

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Alternative Races to the Cancelled Pony Express Marathon


Unfortunately, the 2017 Pony Express Marathon, Half-Marathon and other races scheduled for April 30th have been cancelled.  Here are a few alternative races around the Sacramento area, with registration still open, around the same time that the Pony Express Marathon was to be held.

Check out these and search for other races HERE!

Oakland Running Festival Marathon & Half, Oakland, CA – 4/2
Western Pacific Marathon & Half, Fremont, CA – 4/29
Downtown River Run Marathon & Half, Reno, NV – 4/30
Avenue of the Giants Marathon & Half, Weott, CA – 5/7
San Luis Obispo Marathon & Half, San Luis Obispo, CA – 4/30


Alternatives to the Cancelled Clearwater Marathon


The Clearwater Distance Classic Marathon, Half-Marathon and Ultra have been cancelled for this Sunday.  Here are a few alternative races with registration still open.

Check out these and search for other races HERE!

Miami Marathon & Half – Miami, FL – 1/29
Big Beach Marathon  & Half – Gulf Shores. AL – 1/29
Callaway Gardens Marathon & Half – Pine Mountain, GA – 1/28
Florida Marathon & Half, Melbourne, FL – 2/5
Tallahassee Marathon & Half, Tallahassee, FL – 2/5
Hilton Head Island Marathon & Half, Hilton Head Island, SC – 2/11
26.2 with Donna Marathon & Half, Jacksonville Beach, FL – 2/12
Ft. Lauderdale A1A Marathon & Half, Ft. Lauderdale, FL – 2/19
Five Points of Life Marathon & Half , Gainesville, FL – 2/26


How will the Hot Northeast Weather this Weekend Impact Your Marathon Times?


This Memorial Day weekend will see some very warm temperatures for marathon running.  These less than ideal temperatures will force most runners to slow their paces – especially in the Northeast.

Below we chart out how the expected race time temperatures and humidity levels will affect finish times for the Vermont City and Buffalo Marathons. The algorithms utilized are based on peer reviewed research on the affect of temperature and humidity on marathon finish times. You can find more comparisons by using the Year-By-Year Time Converter on the website.

Vermont City Marathonhot-weather-clip-art-73295
Forecast at Start: 72F with 64% Relative Humidity. Rising to low 80s during the race.

Buffalo Marathon
Forecast at Start: 70F with 80% Relative Humidity. Temperatures expected to rise into the high 70s during the race.

Adjusted Finish Time
Goal Time Vermont City Marathon Buffalo Marathon
3:00 3:08:17  3:07:39
3:30 3:40:56  3:40:06
4:00 4:14:04  4:13:00
4:30 4:47:46  4:46:25

Note: the affects on individuals may vary based on several variables such as size, gender, acclimation to running in warm weather, etc. Always use caution when running in warm weather and listen to your body to reduce heat related illnesses.


Boston Marathon Weather


We’ll update this as the weekend progresses. Last updated Monday, 4:30pm

The times for each Wave at the Halfway and Finish are based on the following finish times:

Wave 1: 3:00
Wave 2: 3:20
Wave 3: 3:50
Wave 4: 4:30

Start in Hopkinton   Temp Humidity Wind
Wave 1 (10:00am) Sunny 67F 28% 6mph from the NNE (Headwind)
Wave 2 (10:25am) Sunny 69F 26% 6mph from the NNE (Headwind)
Wave 3 (10:50am) Sunny 71F 23% 8mph from the NNE (Headwind)
Wave 4 (11:15am) Sunny 69F 25% 10mph from the NNE (Headwind)
Halfway   Temp Humidity Wind
Wave 1 (11:30am) Sunny 68F 22% 7mph from the North (Crosswind)
Wave 2 (12:05pm) Sunny 70F 22% 9mph from the North (Crosswind)
Wave 3 (12:45pm) Sunny 70F 23% 8mph from the ENE (Headwind))
Wave 4 (1:30pm) Sunny 70F 23% 5mph from the SSW (Tailwind)
Finish in Boston   Temp Humidity Wind
Wave 1 (1:00pm) Scattered Clouds 57F 42% 17mph from the ENE (Headwind)
Wave 2 (1:45pm) Mostly Cloudy 53F 55% 14mph from the East (Headwind)
Wave 3 (2:40pm) Mostly Cloudy 52F 57% 10mph from the East (Headwind))
Wave 4 (3:45pm) Scattered Clouds 52F 57% 12mph from the EnE (Headwind)



Boston Marathon Qualifying Options for the Postponed Freakin’ Fast Marathon


The Freakin’ Fast Marathon was postponed until October 17th due to delays in road construction along the course.  Many runners were hoping to use this fast, downhill race as a last chance to achieve Boston Marathon qualifying times before registration for Boston opens next week.  We’ve created a list of marathons tBostonMarathonMedalhat may be options for runner’s seeking BQ’s before registration opens for Boston on Monday, September 14th.

All races during the weekend of September 12-13 are prior to the start of registration for the Boston Marathon and can be used for qualifying.  The first week of registration will likely be open until Saturday, September 19th at 10:00 p.m. ET when registration for runner’s achieving qualifying times by less than five minutes closes.  Therefore, only races held on Saturday, 9/19 fall within the first registration period and races on the 20th can only be used if registration is not filled.

Below are certified marathons in the Mountain or Pacific Regions before or during the Boston Marathon initial registration period. To search all marathons in the United States and Canada use our search tools or view our Boston Marathon Qualifiers calendar and filters.

Western U.S. Boston Marathon Certified Marathons (9-12 – 9/20)

Salmon Marathon
Salmon, ID
September 12th

Big Cottonwood Marathon
Cottonwood, UT
September 12th

Bozeman Marathon
Bozeman, MT
September 13th

Skagit Flats Marathon
Burlington, WA
September 13th

Top of Utah Marathon
Logan, UT
September 19th

Rogue Run Marathon
Medford, OR
September 20th ** After the first week of registration ends

Montana Marathon
Billings, MT
September 20th ** After the first week of registration ends

Freakin' Fast Marathon Elevation Chart
Freakin’ Fast Marathon Course Elevation Chart. The course on October, 17th may be slightly different, but will still have a 4,000′ elevation drop. We will revise the chart and marathon data once the course is determined.

The silver lining is that with the Freakin’ Fast marathon pushed back a month, the temperatures are likely to be cooler which may lead to faster times on this fast course.

2016 Boston Marathon Registration Dates & Guidelines 

  • On Monday, September 14 at 10:00 a.m. ET, eligible runners who have met the qualifying standard for their age and gender by 20 minutes or more may register.
  • On Wednesday, September 16 at 10:00 a.m. ET, if space remains, registration will open for those who have met their qualifying standard by 10 minutes or more.
  • If space remains, registration will open on Friday, September 18 at 10:00 a.m. ET for those who have met their qualifying standard by five minutes or more.
  • Registration will close on Saturday, September 19 at 10:00 p.m. ET.
  • If space remains after the first week of registration (Monday, September 14 through Saturday, September 19), then registration will re-open for all qualifiers from Monday, September 21 at 10:00 a.m. ET through Wednesday, September 23 at 5:00 p.m. ET.

Marathon Pacing Strategies


On race day, running the correct pace during a marathon is the single most important factor in achieving your goal time.  Surprisingly, many marathoners line up at the start on race day without a solid race pace plan or fail to stick to their plan. The difference between hitting your goal or hitting the wall is often very small.  Why put in months of dedicated training only to waste it by not planning your marathon pacing strategy.

Developing a good marathon pacing strategy is often difficult for both new and experienced marathoners.  In this article, we’ll discuss marathon pacing strategies advocated by experts as well as provide solutions for you to stay on pace on race day.

Start Strategy

Many runners ruin their chances to achieve their goal time in the first few miles of the race. It’s very easy to let the excitement of the race dictate your pace. You’re rested, your legs feel fresh, and race pace at this point seems veRunning in the early-morning sunshinery easy.  However, you need to resist the urge to go out too fast. It may seem that other runners are flying by you. Don’t chase them. If you stick to your pacing plan, you’ll end up passing many of them later in the race as they struggle towards the finish in the last few miles.

One of the keys to hitting your goal time is managing your energy expenditure.  Going out faster than goal pace in the first few miles will burn carbohydrates at a faster rate – carbohydrates that will be needed more the last few miles of the race.  You will want to go out at your goal marathon pace or slightly slower in order to conserve carbohydrate utilization.  

If your first couple of miles are slower than planned due to the mass starts at large races, don’t attempt to make up this lost time in the first few miles.  Rather, spread out the time over the entire length of the course.  If you find yourself 30 seconds behind pace after the first mile, you can make up the time by running only about one second per mile faster than the rest of the race.  This is a much better strategy than running 10-15 seconds per mile faster for the next two to three miles to make up the time.


Pacing Strategies

Most running experts and coaches advocate an even or close to even pacing strategy.  Keith and Kevin Hanson, founders of the elite Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project and co-authors of Hansons Marathon Method, recommend running the second half slightly faster than the first half.  They assert that going out slow will almost never be detrimental to maintaining your goal pace in the latter miles of the marathon, but going too fast the first half likely will.  In addition, Timothy Noakes (Lore of Running) and Matt Fitzgerald (The Runner’s Edge) also recommend a slightly negative split.  Fitzgerald suggests running the first half 2 to 4 seconds per mile slower than than the second.  That would equate to someone of a goal of four hours to run the first half thirty seconds to a minute faster than the last thirteen miles.

Elite Athlete Marathon Pacing

The recommendation of running a close to even pace is also supported by the pacing strategies of elite marathoners. Each time the men’s World Record in the marathon has been broken in recent years (as well as with the current women’s record), the runner ran relatively even first and second half splits.

Athlete 1st Half 2nd Half + / – seconds
Dennis Kimetto (2014) 1:01:45 1:01:12 – 33
Wilson Kipsang (2013) 1:01:32 1:01:51 +18
Patrick Makau (2011) 1:01:44 1:01:54 +10
Haile Gebrselassie (2008) 1:02:05 1:01:54 -11
Haile Gebrselassie (2007) 1:02:29 1:02:17 -12
Paula Radcliffe (2003) 1:08:02 1:07:23 -39

Comparison of first and second half marathon splits of recent men’s and women’s marathon world records.

Positive Split Strategy

Pete Pfitzinger, two-time Olympic Marathoner and author of the popular book, Advanced Marathoning, advocates a slight positive split strategy.  He states that in order to run even splits (assuming a completely flat course) you would need to “increase your oxygen consumption and lactate level as your fatigue level increases” during the second half of the marathon.  In other words, your effort level will need to increase in order to maintain the same pace throughout the marathon.  

Rather than run even splits, Pfitzinger recommends running the first half of the race between 2 to 3 percent faster than the second half in order to account for the natural slowing. He maintains that if you were able to negative split the marathon (run the second half faster than the first), you likely ran slower than your optimal pace during the first half of the race and could have finished in a faster time.

Pacing Marathons with Hills

Although each time the men’s world record in the marathon has been broken in recent years the runner has run relatively even splits, each oPacing Strategies for Marathons with Hilsf these record races have been run at the Berlin Marathon, a very flat course (elevation chart).  In addition, Paula Radcliffe’s record was also run on a flat course at the London Marathon.  Even pac
ing on flat courses like
Berlin and London results in a relatively even rate of energy expenditure throughout most of the race.  However, even pacing is a less effective pacing strategy on courses where maintaining an even pace requires changes in your rate of energy expenditure.

Hills, of course, are the primary reason for these changes in energy expenditure.  When you’re running uphill you have to expend more energy to hold the same pace you were holding on flat terrain.  And when you’re running downhill you can go faster while expending less energy than you would on flat terrain.  Therefore, the pacing strategy for the hilly San Francisco Marathon would be markedly different than the strategy for the flat Chicago Marathon.

During the marathon you should try to keep your energy expenditure relatively even to minimize carbohydrate depletion.  Therefore, you need to slow down when running uphill and speed up when running downhill. The best way to achieve an even energy expenditure is to develop a race pace plan that is based on the uphill and downhills of the specific course.

Fortunately, we’ve done this for you with our Marathon Pace Bands. We’ve analyzed the course terrain for over 400 marathon and half marathons (more are added daily) and creaMarathon Pace Bandted pacing strategies based on each specific course.  The algorithm used to develop the race-specific paces are derived from peer reviewed research, advice from running experts, and analysis of the actual race
paces from runners who have successfully met their time goals.  In addition to the course-specific pacing strategies, you can modify the start and pacing strategies or create your own paces.  

As four-time Boston and New York City Marathon winner aptly stated, “the marathon can humble you.”  However, by developing a solid race pacing strategy, you will have a better chance at achieving your goal and humbling the marathon.


The Hardest Marathons in the United States

Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon
The challenging Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon in Roanoke, Virginia is one of the most difficult marathon courses in the United States

For most marathoners the quest is to set Personal Records (PRs) or qualify for the Boston Marathon. Often these journeys include finding the fastest marathon courses with the most favorable running weather.  For some runners, however, the goal is to challenge themselves on the most difficult marathon courses. These runners seek out the hardest courses in terms of elevation change, warm, humid weather, or run at a consistently high altitude.

We’ve listed the four most challenging marathons in the United States and Canada based on the race’s Personal Record (PR) Score*, elevation change, median finish times, and the lowest percentage of finishers running Boston Marathon qualifying times.

All races on the list are certified by The USATF and are Boston Marathon qualifiers.

Race Personal Record Score Percentage of Boston Marathon qualifiers Median Finish Times High/Low Elevation Difference
Black Mountain Marathon 90.85 0% 5:40:08 (2015) 2,879’
Blue Ridge Parkway Marathon 92.61 1.7% 5:11:45 (2015) 1,230’
Red Rock Canyon Marathon 90.81 3.9% 4:37:28 (2015) 1,107’
Kauai Marathon 89.12 3.1% 5:02:37 (2015) 803’

* PR Score utilizes the course profile, elevation, and typical race day weather to create a score that can be compared to other marathons to determine at which race you could expect to run faster. The higher the score, the faster the race.  Read more on our FAQ page.