A blog by runners. For runners.

10 flat (and fast) marathons


I don’t know about you, but running 26.2 miles is hard for me. If I’m going to run a marathon, I don’t need any extra challenges thrown at me like hills, for instance. This is why I’ve set out to find the fastest marathons out there.

If you want to set a PR, earn your BQ, or just don’t want to worry about a race’s elevation profile, these fast marathons are for you. We also mapped all of them on WalkJogRun, which means you can use the routes for training!

  1. Baystate Marathon, Lowell, Mass., October 20, 2013. There’s a good reason that this marathon’s tagline is “let us help you get your Boston Qualifier” – because so many runners earn BQs here. In 2010, Baystate had the fastest median finish time of all U.S. marathons (3:47:42) and ranked second (only behind the Boston marathon) in percentage of Boston qualifying times. Each year about 1/3 of the field sets a BQ on this flat course. MAP IT.
  2. Berlin Marathon, Berlin, Germany, September 29, 2013 (sold out). Berlin is known as the “fastest marathon in the world”. And with good reason — more than seven world records have been set on this flat, even course. MAP IT.
  3. Chicago Marathon, Chicago, Illinois, October 13, 2013 (sold out). Chicago may be the fastest urban marathon out there. From the race’s website: “The course has produced four world records, several national records, and countless personal bests.” MAP IT.
  4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Arizona, Phoenix, Ariz., January 19, 2014. R‘n’R Arizona is known for its unparalleled entertainment and fast, scenic course. You’ll literally run around the 2700 foot high Camelback Mountain, but not up it. MAP IT.
  5. Walt Disney World Marathon, near Orlando, Fla., January 12, 2014. Disney is known for its character photo opps and top-notch organization. But did you know the happiest place on earth boasts one of the flattest marathons on earth? It’s true: save for a few overpasses, the course is as flat as a (Mickey) pancake.  MAP IT.
  6. Houston Marathon, Houston, Texas, January 19, 2014 (sold out). The 2012 Olympic marathon trials were held in Houston the day before the marathon because the city is known for flat terrain and good weather in January. The course doesn’t have any uphills or downhills, with an elevation variance of only 25 feet from start to finish. MAP IT.
  7. Steamtown Marathon, Scranton, Penn., October 13, 2013 (sold out).  Forget flat – this race is downhill. In fact, it features a net elevation drop of 955 feet! In 2010, more than 1/4 of the field earned a BQ, and Steamtown consistently places in the top ten marathons for its percentage of Boston qualifiers. MAP IT.
  8. Road2Hope Marathon, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, November 2, 2013. Road2Hope is Canada’s top Boston qualifying race – with nearly one 1/3 of the field BQing each year. The first half is pretty flat with most of the 530 feet of elevation lost happening in the second half — offering great relief for tired legs! MAP IT.
  9. St. George Marathon, St. George, Utah, October 5, 2013 (sold out). The St. George marathon boasts a huge net elevation drop of 2500 feet! Beware, though: the course isn’t all downhill. Miles 7-11 are uphill, but after that, it’s all downhill from there. MAP IT.
  10. California International Marathon, Sacramento, Calif., December 8, 2013. CIM is another net downhill marathon with fast finish times. However, note that most elevation is lost during the first half, so the second half may feel a bit harder since it’s not downhill. MAP IT.

What’s your favorite flat marathon?

Written by Jen Matz.