These Half Marathons Need to be on Your Bucket List
Whether it's coastal, mountain, desert or city, here are the top half marathon races by climate and geography type. Take you pick and get training.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
If you’re going to sign up for a race, the race should be two things: fun and in a beautiful place.
Turn your goal half marathon race into a “racecation” by running along the coast, through the mountains, or to the tune of thousands of spectators cheering you on in a major city. Whatever your run fancy is, we’ve got you covered for your most interesting half marathon location yet.
Here are our top half marathon race picks from the team at Women’s Running.
The Hapalua – Hawai’i’s Half Marathon
“Hapalua” means “half” in Hawaiian, and this sister race to the Honolulu Marathon happens in mid-April. The race begins in Waikiki and stays close to the coast the entire race, looping up onto the island a bit before guiding runners to a beachfront finish. There is no cutoff time and all finishers receive a medal, shaved ice and famous Hawaiian malasadas at the finish line.
The San Diego Half Marathon takes place in late March and gives runners a chance to spend multiple miles running right along the Pacific Ocean in sublime springtime weather. The race is capped at 5,000 participants so you are sure to feel in good company without being overwhelmed.
You can see the ocean for the entire duration of the Miami Half Marathon. Athletes start at the FTX Arena in Miami and run across to Miami Beach and back across to Coconut Grove before finishing close to the start of the race. Half marathon athletes share the course with Miami Marathon athletes. The entire course is flat and fast and kicks off in late January.
Ready to test your fitness at more than a mile above sea level? The Rocky Mountain Half Marathon takes place in late July in the town of Estes Park,Colorado, adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park. Situated at 7,500 feet, the challenging course has a total of 788 feet of gain and stunning views.
The thin mountain air in Park City, Utah can provide a natural adrenaline high for some – and an extra aerobic challenge for others. Nestled in the Wasatch Range at about 7,000 feet above sea level, the Park City Half Marathon follows the Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail, which promises gorgeous views for the late June race date.
The Burlington, Vermont-based half marathon is “super flat and fast with no notable hills” according to the race website. The early April race’s course is point-to-point with views including that of the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain. Runners can opt for a two-person relay with the exchange point at any mile-marker in the race, too.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll series of races bring the fun of a concert to the adrenaline rush of running a race. For those looking to kick off their race seasons early while the desert is “cool,” the mid-January Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona half marathon is a great option. Half marathon athletes share the course with marathon athletes and wind their way through downtown Tempe with an almost net-zero elevation gain.
Not only does the Joshua Tree half marathon take place in the legendary Mojave Desert, it also takes place at night. The 6 p.m. race start in early November requires athletes to wear a headlamp and be prepared to handle a variety of temperatures (deserts can get frigid at night). The race is on a sandy loop just outside Joshua Tree National Park.
Looking for a course where things go downhill from mile one, literally? The Santa Fe Half Marathon starts at 7,332 feet above sea level and gently winds down to the finish at 6,032 feet. Prepare your quads for a race that can be brutal and beautiful in its own way. The Santa Fe Half Marathon is a point-to-point race in early October that starts in Fort Marcy and ends at the Buffalo Thunder Casino.
Held in mid-March, the NYC Half Marathon does not guarantee race entries for all who want one (similar to the full New York City Marathon in the fall). Athletes do have the opportunity to fundraise as charity athletes for a guaranteed slot. The race begins in Brooklyn and takes runners into Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge. Runners then move from the Lower East Side up to the finish line in Central Park.
Austin as a city has exploded in popularity in the past few years. Its amazing food, vibrant music scene, and unique culture make it a fantastic destination for vacationers and athletes alike. The Austin Half Marathon takes place in mid-February and starts at the iconic Austin Motel before heading to the west side of the city and wrapping around to finish at the Texas state capitol building.
The San Francisco Half Marathon actually offers two different half marathons on the same day in late July. The first race often starts in the fog as runners follow the Embarcadero along the San Francisco Bay and reach the rolling hills and lush greenery of The Presidio before heading to the finish in Golden Gate Park. The second San Francisco Half Marathon begins in The Presidio, cuts through Golden Gate Park, and finishes where the first half marathon started on the Embarcadero.
Banff, Canada, is famous for its fluorescent blue glacial lakes and jaw-dropping mountains all located within Banff National Park. The mid-June half marathon takes runners through the most quintessential parts of Banff with the race starting along the rushing Bow River before making their way to the stunning Bow Valley Parkway and winding back to Bear Street in downtown Banff. This route is not for the faint of heart though, with many rolling hills and a series of punchy climbs in the middle of the course.
While the World Marathon Majors Tokyo Marathon is generally the race that comes to mind in this area of the world, the Tokyo Half Marathon in late October promises the same thrill of running through one of the most electric cities in the world. The race starts at the Japan National Stadium and its turnaround point is the famous Nihonbashi Bridge near the Imperial Palace. Runners finish back at the Japan National Stadium.
Head “down under” for a half marathon a world away. The relatively flat course takes runners on a tour of the marquee sights of Australia’s most renowned city — including a jaunt over the Sydney Harbour Bridge — before finishing in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House.