The Best Half Marathons in the US

The Best Half Marathons in the US

The half marathon is the most popular road race distance in the US. Runners come to the 13.1 distance looking to challenge themselves to cover the distance or push themselves for a PR. If you are looking for a positive first race experience or want to earn a PR, you may want to consider registering for one of these best half marathons in the US. 

This list features some of the best half marathons in the US, divided by region. I compiled this list based on years of coaching. These half marathons are races where my athletes have earned PRs or reported enjoyable race experiences. A majority of these races features fast routes (flat, net downhill, or small rolling hills), cool to mild weather, and well-organized course support. 

(Information is accurate for 2023; races are always subject to change. Field sizes are for half marathon only and do not include participants in other race distances.) 

Best Half Marathons in New England

Hartford Half Marathon: 

The Hartford Half Marathon is part of a larger race series, including a marathon, relay, and 5K. This course features rolling hills (relatively mild hills for New England with 318 feet total gain) in crisp New England fall weather. 

  • Date: mid-October
  • Field size (2022): 3175 participants
  • Course profile: Rolling hills
Providence Half Marathon

The Providence Half Marathon is part of the Providence Marathon race. The race goes along a local bike path and finishes downtown, where runners can enjoy a post-race festival. Although the course website advertises the race as flat, it does feature rolling hills that may feel challenging if you train on only flat terrain. 

  • Date: first weekend of May
  • Field size (2022): 3175 participants
  • Course profile: Rolling hills 
Boston Half Marathon

If you want to run through the streets of Boston – without qualifying standards or having to cover 26.2 miles – then the B.A.A Half Marathon is the race for you! The popular race starts and finishes in Franklin Park and follows an out-and-back course toward Fenway Park. You will get to enjoy crisp, New England fall weather! 

  • Date: second weekend of November
  • Field size (limit): 9000 participants 
  • Course profile: Rolling hills 

Best Half Marathons in the Mid-Atlantic

United New York City Half Marathon

The United Half Marathon in March is one of the biggest races in New York City – and for good reason. This mid-March race boasts a fast course – and a fast field. Due to its popularity, the United NYC Half Marathon has a lottery entry. 

  • Date: mid-March
  • Field size: ~24,700 participants
  • Course profile: rolling hills
Philly Half Marathon

The Philly Half Marathon is part of a larger race weekend, including a BQ-friendly marathon and 8K. The race attracts thousands of runners with its historically scenic route, fast times, and cold fall weather. An added benefit: the later fall date means that most of your half marathon training occurs during pleasant fall weather, not hot summer months. 

  • Date: Sunday before Thanksgiving
  • Field size (2022): ~10,100 participants
  • Course profile: Flat first half, some hills in second half

Best Half Marathons in the US Southest

Richmond Half Marathon

The Richmond Half Marathon is part of the Richmond Marathon weekend – promoted as “America’s Friendliest Marathon.” The weather is typically mild fall weather, although some years may be more humid than others. 

Similar to the Richmond Marathon, the Richmond Half Marathon features a downhill finish in the final ½ mile. The course is relatively flat, with some false-flat stretches (total elevation gain of ~209 feet.) 

  • Date: Second week in November
  • Field size (2022): ~6500 participants
  • Course profile: Flat/gentle inclines
Asheville Half Marathon

The Asheville Half Marathon (part of the Asheville Marathon) is a net downhill race, with 400 feet of elevation loss and only 200 feet of elevation gain. Most of the downhill occurs in the early miles of the race, so you need to account for that in your pacing strategy. The weather can be on the cooler end (I heard athletes in 2023 complain it was cold!). 

It is worth noting that, while a fast course, some segments may contain gravel. The race also includes some out-and-backs along the point-to-point course. Award winners receive customized gifts, such as pint glasses!

  • Date: mid-March
  • Field size (2022): ~1390 participants
  • Course profile: Flat first half, some hills in second half

Best Half Marathons in the Midwest

Go! St. Louis Half Marathon

This point-to-point course features gently rolling hills, with an overall net downhill. The race starts in St. Louis’ beautiful Forest Park and finishes in downtown St. Louis. While St. Louis weather can be unpredictable, the race typically occurs before the weather is too hot or humid. 

  • Date: First weekend of April
  • Field size: ~2900 finishers
  • Course profile: Net downhill
Carmel Half Marathon

The Carmel Half Marathon (along with the Carmel 26.2) rewards dedicated winter training with a fast course in cool weather. The course is mostly flat, with just the slightest of false flats throughout. The race also features on-course entertainment from local musicians. 

  • Date: First weekend of April
  • Field size: ~1400 finishers
  • Course profile: Flat
Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon

If you want a flat and fast course in crisp fall weather, look no further than the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. This mid-size race boasts smooth logistics, spectator support, and crisp Indiana fall weather. If an athlete is open to traveling for a fall half marathon, the Indy Monumental is always at the top of my recommendations. 

  • Date: Last weekend of October
  • Field size: ~5900 finishers
  • Course profile: Flat

Best Half Marathons in the Mountain States

Colorado Half Marathon

The Colorado Half starts at 5300 feet elevation and finishes at just under 5000 feet. You get a fast course (for being at high altitude) with mountain scenery throughout the first half. The final stretch before downtown Fort Collins is along a bike path, which offers smooth surfaces underfoot after starting on mountain roads. 

Despite the fact that the course leads you down the Poudre Canyon, the course is not only downhill. You do encounter a couple of minor hills, including a short incline near the finish. The race promotes cupless racing, but it does provide aid stations along the course if finishers prefer to use on-course hydration. The post-race festival includes beer from the local Odell Brewing Company. 

  • Date: First weekend of May
  • Field size: ~1050 finishers
  • Course profile: Net downhill
Missoula Half Marathon

Unlike many half marathons in the Mountain states, the Missoula Half starts and finishes at a manageable altitude (3000 ft, low enough that most runners will not experience adverse effects). The point-to-point course takes you through the Montana countryside and finishes in the college town of Missoula. The course is walker-friendly.

  • Date: Final weekend in June
  • Field size: ~2000 finishers
  • Course profile: Mostly flat

Best Half Marathons in the US Southwest

Chevron Houston Half Marathon

There is a reason why American records in the half marathon are consistently set at the Houston Half! This early January race (and its accompanying marathon) offer all you need for a half marathon PR: cool weather, a flat course, and spectator support. 

  • Date: mid-January
  • Field size (2022): ~13,300 participants
  • Course profile: Flat
Mesa Half Marathon

Previously called the Phoenix Half Marathon, the Mesa Half Marathon is a rare February opportunity for racing. The half marathon course features a mild downhill gradient throughout the race, totalling ~200 feet net downhill. This race is friendly to runners coming from sea level, as it starts at only 1250 feet altitude. 

  • Date: Second weekend of February
  • Field size: ~2780 finishers
  • Course profile: Net downhill

Best Half Marathons on the West Coast

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon

The Lake Sammamish Half is one of the flattest half marathons you will find – especially considering its location in Washington state. This environmentally-friendly race follows along the smooth and flat Lake Sammamish path (currently half paved, half gravel, but will be fully paved in the future).  The race is cupless and offers small, reusable cups to participants. The race is inclusive, with a non-binary category and a walker-friendly 4.5-hour course cutoff. 

  • Date: First weekend of March
  • Field size: ~1400 finishers
  • Course profile: Flat
Eugene Half Marathon

The largest race weekend in the Pacific Northwest includes the Eugene Half Marathon. The course remains open for 3.5 hours, allowing runners of a range of abilities to have the chance to finish on the track at the iconic Hayward Field. While the PNW can experience rainy weather, the weather is generally cool. 

  • Date: Final weekend of April
  • Field size: ~3100 finishers
  • Course profile: Flat

Of course, this list is not definitive! There are hundreds of half marathons across the country that are well-organized and PR-worthy.

More resources for racing a half marathon:

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3 Responses

  1. I thought that you might include the La Jolla Half Marathon in the list for the west coast. I have done it three times – one of the most scenic races although with challenging hills.

  2. The Iron Horse in Washington State is one of the best in my opinion, due to being mostly a gentle downhill grade (point to point) and scenic views.

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