How To Register For America’s 15 Biggest Marathons

biggest marathons

Runners at the Marine Corps Marathon. (Photo: Cpl. Bryan G. Lett/US Marine Corp)

Still deciding what marathon you want to run in the next 12 months? I am! The 15 biggest marathons in the U.S. are a common place to start.

Over the last few months, I’ve been posting when lotteries and registrations open for many popular races, from large runDisney events to a small 7-miler in Key West, half-marathons in New York to major marathons all over the U.S. It’s always frustrating to discover a race you want to run is already sold-out.

So here’s how and when to register for America’s 15 biggest marathons. Some of them are even among the biggest marathons in the world. And guess what? Most of them sell out before race day.

Half-marathoners, keep in mind that many of these events have 13.1-mile races the same weekend. So if you don’t want to go 26.2, you’ve still got options.

Biggest Marathons in the U.S. in 2013

1. TCS New York City Marathon

New York
50,266 finishers
#1 in the U.S. and #1 in the world
Next race: November 2, 2014
Registration: Lottery closed. Charity entries available.
Half Marathon? No

2. Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Illinois
38,879 finishers
#2 in the U.S. and #2 in the world
Next Race: October 12, 2014
RegistrationLottery and guaranteed registration open until April 7, 2014 at 12 p.m. Central time. Charity entries available
Half Marathon? No

3. Marine Corps Marathon

Washington, D.C.
23,380 finishers
#3 in the U.S. and #8 in the world
Next Race: October 26, 2014
Registration: Lottery closed. Charity entries available. Bib transfers possible starting June 11, 2014.
Half Marathon? No

4. Honolulu Marathon

Hawaii
22,064 finishers
#4 in the U.S. and #9 in the world
Next Race: December 14, 2014
Registration: Opens in late April. Not a lottery and no field cap, so it doesn’t sell out.
Half Marathon? No

5. Walt Disney World Marathon

Florida
20,734 finishers
#5 in the U.S. and #10 in the world
Next Race: January 11, 2015
Registration: Opens April 22, 2014. Not a lottery, but the 2014 race sold out in August in just under four months.
Half Marathon? Yes. Registration opens at the same time as the marathon. Run both and get a special medal for completing Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge.

6. ASICS LA Marathon

California
19,534 finishers
#6 in the U.S. and #11 in the world
Next race: March 15, 2015
Registration: Opens October 1, 2014. Not a lottery, but the 2014 race sold out before the end of February in just under five months.
Half Marathon? No

7. Boston Marathon

Massachusetts
17,600 finishers (not counting the 5,633 runners who didn’t finish because of the bombings)
#7 in the U.S. and #14 in the world
Next Race: April 21, 2014
Registration: Closed. Good luck qualifying and getting a bib for 2015! (I mean that sincerely, not sarcastically.)
Half Marathon? No

8. GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon

Pennsylvania
10,909 finishers
Next race: November 23, 2014
RegistrationOpen now. Not a lottery, but the race typically sells out in October from one month to a few weeks before race day.
Half Marathon? Yes. It also typically sells out a month before race day.

9. Medronic Twin Cities Marathon

Minnesota
8,857 finishers
Next Race: October 5, 2014
Registration: Open now. Not a lottery, but the 2013 race sold out in early July after five months.
Half Marathon? No, but the event hosts a 10-miler with a lottery that opens July 9, 2014.

10. Portland Marathon

Oregon
6,956 finishers
Next Race: October 5, 2014
Registration: Open now and filling quickly per the website.
Half Marathon? Yes. The 2014 Portland Half Marathon is sold-out but charity entries are available.

11. Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon

California
6,542 finishers
Next Race: June 1, 2014
Registration: Open now. Not a lottery, but the race has sold out anywhere from two months to a few days before race day.
Half Marathon? Yes

12. Chevron Houston Marathon

Texas
6,530 finishers
Next Race: January 18, 2015
Registration: Early registration for time qualifiers will open from May 4 to May 29, 2014. Lottery for general entries will open from June 4 to June 19, 2014. Charity entries available starting June 4, 2014.
Half Marathon? Yes. Registration is through the same lottery process as the marathon.

13. California International Marathon

California
6,205 finishers
Next Race: December 7, 2014
Registration: Open now for general entries. Not a lottery, but the 2013 race sold-out in August. Registration for time qualifiers opens October 1, 2014.
Half Marathon? No, but the Relay Challenge lets runners tackle the marathon in teams of two, three or four.

14. San Francisco Marathon

California
5,827 finishers
Next Race: July 27, 2014
Registration: Open now. Not a lottery, and doesn’t typically sell out.
Half Marathon? Yes, two of them! Runners can register to run the first or second half of the marathon. The first half typically sells out.

15. St. George Marathon

Utah
5,819 finishers
Next Race: October 4, 2014
Registration: Lottery and guaranteed registration open until May 5, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. Mountain time. Charity entries available.
Half Marathon? No

Statistics are pulled from the 2014 Running USA Annual Marathon Report.

Karla Bruning

About 

Karla Bruning is a regular contributor to SHAPE.com, the host of NYRR's On The Run web + TV show, and a race announcer at events like the TCS New York City Marathon. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now she freelances as a running reporter. She's run 7 marathons, 20 halves, 6 triathlons, sings in an '80s cover band, spoils her dog + travels compulsively.

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04

04 2014

15 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    Useful info! I registered for Marine Corps 2013, which was the last year they had a mass registration. It was the most frustrating thing ever, and everyone trying to register all at once crashed the website! I kept trying for a solid hour and was lucky enough to get an entry. What was even luckier was that my brother got in as well, just a few minutes before it was completely sold out! Glad they have a lottery system, now.
    Jojo @ RunFastEatLots recently posted..Random Stuff from this WeekMy Profile

  2. 3

    So privileged to be selected via the lottery for #1!! Firsts all around. Would like WDW in Jan too!

    • Karla Bruning
      4

      Congrats Heather! Lucky you! I hope you enjoy the race. It’s my absolute fave. I’ve run it 3 times (never through the lottery…once for charity and twice through their 9+1 program for local runners). Now I cover it with “On The Run.” It’s my favorite week of the year!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..How To Register For America’s 15 Biggest MarathonsMy Profile

  3. 5

    So many races, so little time! Oh yeah, and so little money:(
    I’m trying to decide right now if I should try the Ottawa Marathon in 7 weeks. I had planned on doing the half, but having just done a 30k race there is part of me thinking I’m half done the training anyways, maybe I should go for it and complete marathon #2.
    BTW, if any American runners are interested in doing a Canadian Race, I can’t recommend Ottawa Race Weekend enough. And here’s the best part, even though it is a sold out race, they have created a “Bib Market” right on the race website. People who want to sell there bibs can list them there, people who want to buy simply register as normal and pay a small transfer fee. How civilized is that?
    Kristi recently posted..Around the Bay Race RecapMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      6

      That is downright civil! I love that! Marine Corps has a bib transfer program too. It’s so kind. I wish more races did it. I hear you on Ottawa Marathon. Why not see how you feel in another week or so? It is “just” another 10K :)
      Karla Bruning recently posted..How To Register For America’s 15 Biggest MarathonsMy Profile

  4. 7

    Awesome post! Saving for future reference!! In 2015 I plan on doing the Disney World Marathon and Big Sur International Marathon… probably will stick with 13.1 distance for the rest of the year after that. :0)

  5. Amy #
    9

    Thanks for another great and informative post, Karla! :)
    Amy recently posted..Race NostalgiaMy Profile

  6. 11

    Karla,

    GREAT post. Training for a marathon took a lot out of me but I know at some point I will want to run one again. I think Philly, Chicago, and Marine Corps are on my bucket list.

    Since I’m such a slow runner and I recover fairly quickly (I felt fine 3 days after INGNYCM) I might try to do a “fall double” at some point (perhaps in ’15 or ’16) so I can take advantage of marathon fitness and run two — e.g. either MCM or Chicago in October and then Philly in November.

    Have you ever run two marathons relatively close together?
    Arun recently posted..Race Report: Cold Feat 10KMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning
      12

      The closest together I’ve done two marathons is 8 weeks. I ran Philly in November 2012 and Walt Disney World in January 2013. I ran Philly for a PR and Disney for fun. That said, I did minimal training between the two with my longest run around 14 miles. The second one felt hard. But I think if you train for it, unlike me, it’s totally doable.
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: 2014 Run for the Parks 4-Mile RunMy Profile

  7. 14

    I have one of these on my list but I have a hard time committing to something 8 months away!
    Meranda@fairytalesandfitness recently posted..How to Determine the Right Running Shoe For You!My Profile


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