Top 10 Marathons for First Timers to Run


If you’re a beginner looking to take on the challenge of running a marathon, congratulations on embarking on this rewarding journey! Choosing the right marathon for your first race is crucial to ensure an enjoyable and successful experience. As experts in fitness and recovery, we have compiled a list of the top 10 marathons that are perfect for first-time runners like yourself.

In this piece, we will explore the best marathons for beginners that offer scenic routes, supportive environments, and an unforgettable experience. From iconic races in bustling cities to picturesque routes in breathtaking landscapes, these marathons cater to runners of all levels, providing the perfect opportunity for first-timers to lace up their shoes and cross the finish line with pride. 


Key Considerations When Choosing Your First Marathon

When you're gearing up to run your first marathon, there are various factors to take into account to ensure you have a successful and enjoyable experience. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind before choosing the perfect marathon for beginners:

Distance: Opt for a beginner-friendly marathon that offers a reasonable distance to start with. Most first-time marathon runners find a standard 26.2-mile course challenging but manageable.

Terrain: Consider the terrain of the marathon route. For beginners, flat courses are often easier to tackle than hilly or rugged landscapes. Look for races with smooth, well-paved roads to make your first race more comfortable.

Crowd Size: Choosing a marathon with a moderate crowd size can enhance your experience. Large races may provide more energy and support but could also feel overwhelming for beginners. On the other hand, smaller races offer a more intimate setting, which some first-time runners may prefer.

Weather Conditions: Be mindful of the weather conditions during the marathon season. Opt for races held in favorable weather conditions that align with your training preferences. Extreme temperatures or unpredictable weather may impact your performance and overall experience.

Support and Amenities: Look for marathons that offer adequate support stations, hydration points, and medical aid along the course. Access to amenities like post-race recovery services can also enhance your recovery process after completing your first marathon.

The Top 10 Marathons for First Timers

TCS New York City Marathon

The TCS New York City Marathon is not only one of the largest marathons in the world but also beginner-friendly. The iconic course takes you through all five boroughs of NYC, showcasing the city's diverse neighborhoods and enthusiastic spectators.

  • Weather: Typically held in early November, New York City Marathon weather can vary from chilly to mild temperatures.
  • Elevation: The course has some rolling hills but is largely flat, offering a moderate challenge for beginners.
  • Qualification Considerations: No qualification needed, making it a great choice for first-time marathoners.

More information and registration can be found on the New York City Marathon’s official website.


Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Known for its flat and fast course, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is a favorite among first-time marathoners. The scenic route passes through iconic landmarks like Grant Park, Lake Michigan, and the Magnificent Mile.

  • Weather: Held in early October, Chicago Marathon weather tends to be cool and crisp.
  • Elevation: The course is known for its flat and fast routes, ideal for beginners aiming for a personal best.
  • Qualification Considerations: No qualifying time required, making it beginner-friendly.

More information and registration can be found on the Chicago Marathon’s official website.


Walt Disney World Marathon

For a magical first marathon experience, look no further than the Walt Disney World Marathon. Run through Disney theme parks, meet beloved characters along the way, and soak in the enchanting atmosphere that makes this race truly unforgettable.

  • Weather: Held in January, runners can expect mild to cool temperatures in the magic kingdom.
  • Elevation: The course is relatively flat, with entertainment throughout making it a fun and beginner-friendly marathon.
  • Qualification Considerations: No qualification needed, perfect for a memorable first marathon experience.

More information and registration can be found on the Walt Disney World Marathon’s official website.


Marine Corps Marathon

The Marine Corps Marathon, also known as the "People's Marathon," is a wonderful choice for beginners. With its patriotic spirit, incredible crowd support, and scenic course through Washington D.C., this marathon is bound to leave you inspired.

  • Weather: Held in October, the MCM offers cool and comfortable running conditions.
  • Elevation: A hilly course but with excellent crowd support and scenic views, ideal for beginners looking for a challenge.
  • Qualification Considerations: No qualification time needed, welcoming first-time marathoners.

More information and registration can be found on the Marine Corps Marathon’s official website.


Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon

Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon is a thrilling race that combines music, entertainment, and a scenic course to create a memorable experience for beginners. Enjoy live bands along the route, enthusiastic crowds, and the vibrant energy of San Diego as you tackle this exciting marathon.

  • Weather: Typically held in early June, San Diego Marathon weather is usually pleasant and mild.
  • Elevation: A mostly flat course with entertainment along the route, making it an enjoyable marathon for beginners.
  • Qualification Considerations: No qualifying standards, suitable for first-time runners seeking a festive atmosphere.

More information and registration can be found on the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon’s official website.


London Marathon

Rounding out our list is the iconic London Marathon, known for its electric atmosphere and historic course that passes by famous landmarks like the Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace. Join the ranks of first-timers and seasoned veterans in this world-renowned event.

  • Weather: Taking place in late April, London Marathon weather can range from cool to mild temperatures.
  • Elevation: The course has a few gentle inclines and declines, providing a good balance for beginner marathoners.
  • Qualification Considerations: Requires a ballot entry or charity place, offering a prestigious but attainable goal for first-timers.

More information and registration can be found on the London Marathon’s official website.


Paris Marathon

Immerse yourself in the romance and charm of Paris by running the Paris Marathon. This historic race passes by iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysées, providing a memorable experience for beginner marathoners.

  • Weather: Held in early April, Paris Marathon weather is typically cool and comfortable for running.
  • Elevation: The course includes some moderate hills but mainly flat sections, suitable for beginners.
  • Qualification Considerations: No qualification needed, making it an excellent choice for beginners to experience a marathon in the City of Light.

More information and registration can be found on the Paris Marathon’s official website.


Honolulu Marathon

Experience the aloha spirit and breathtaking views of Hawaii by participating in the Honolulu Marathon. This scenic race takes you through the beautiful streets of Honolulu, offering a tropical backdrop for your first marathon journey.

  • Weather: Taking place in December, Honolulu Marathon weather offers warm and tropical conditions.
  • Elevation: A mostly flat course with stunning ocean views, perfect for beginners seeking a scenic marathon.
  • Qualification Considerations: No qualification standards, providing a relaxed and picturesque first-time marathon experience.

More information and registration can be found on the Honolulu Marathon’s official website.


Tokyo Marathon

The Tokyo Marathon blends traditional Japanese culture with a modern urban landscape, making it an ideal choice for first-time marathoners seeking a unique experience. Enjoy the scenic course and the incredible support of Tokyo's friendly residents.

  • Weather: Held in late February, Tokyo Marathon weather can range from cool to chilly temperatures.
  • Elevation: The course has a few inclines and declines throughout the city, offering a unique cultural experience for first-time marathoners.
  • Qualification Considerations: Requires a lottery entry or charity place, but no qualifying time, making it an attractive option for beginners exploring international marathons.

More information and registration can be found on the Tokyo Marathon’s official website.


Big Sur International Marathon

For a picturesque and challenging course, consider the Big Sur International Marathon. Run along the stunning California coastline, tackle hills that offer breathtaking views, and immerse yourself in the beauty of this iconic race

  • Weather: Held in late April, Big Sur Marathon weather can be unpredictable with fog and cool temperatures along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway.
  • Elevation: Known for its challenging course with rolling hills and stunning coastal vistas, suited for runners seeking a rewarding but difficult marathon.
  • Qualification Considerations: No qualifying standards, but due to the course difficulty, it is recommended for runners with some experience in half marathons or hilly terrains.

More information and registration can be found on the Big Sur International Marathon’s official website.

Each of these marathons offers a distinct experience, from scenic routes to challenging terrains, providing first-time runners with a variety of options to embark on their marathon journey. Whether you're aiming for a local race or considering an international adventure, choosing a marathon that aligns with your goals, preferences, and level of experience can make the journey even more rewarding.


How To Prepare For Your First Marathon

Preparing for your first marathon is an exciting journey that requires both physical and mental preparation. Here are some tips to help you get ready for the challenge ahead:

  • Build Up Mileage Gradually: It's important to increase your mileage slowly to avoid injuries. Gradually increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week to give your body time to adapt.
  • Incorporate Cross-Training: In addition to running, include cross-training activities such as cycling, swimming, or yoga to strengthen different muscle groups and prevent overuse injuries.
  • Focus on Proper Nutrition: Fuel your body with the right nutrients to support your training. A balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, along with plenty of water, will help optimize your performance.
  • Get Adequate Rest: Rest is just as important as training. Make sure to get enough sleep to allow your body to recover and repair itself after challenging workouts.
  • Practice Mental Toughness: Running a marathon is not just physical – it's mental too. Practice visualization techniques, positive affirmations, and mental toughness exercises to prepare your mind for the race.
  • Invest in Proper Gear: Get fitted for a good pair of running shoes that suit your foot type and running style. Comfortable clothing, moisture-wicking socks, and gear for different weather conditions will also make your training and race day more enjoyable.

Picking Your Marathon

Choosing the right marathon as a first-timer can be a thrilling yet daunting experience. With the top 10 marathons for beginners highlighted in this article, you can feel confident in embarking on your marathon journey. Whether you prefer picturesque scenery, vibrant crowds, or beginner-friendly courses, there is a marathon on this list to suit your preferences and goals.

So lace up your running shoes, choose a marathon from our list, and start your journey towards becoming a marathon finisher. Embrace the challenges, relish the victories, and enjoy every step of the way towards achieving your marathon goals. Remember, the first marathon is just the beginning of a lifelong love affair with running and pushing your limits.

Frequently Asked Questions on Marathons for First-Timers

What makes a marathon good for first-timers? 

A good marathon for first-timers has a supportive atmosphere, a flat course, ample aid stations, and generous time limits to reduce pressure.


How do I choose the right marathon for my first race? 

Consider location, course elevation, weather conditions, and event size when choosing your first marathon to ensure a positive and manageable experience.


Why is a flat course recommended for first-time marathon runners? 

A flat course is recommended for first-time marathon runners because it's easier on the body, reducing the risk of injury and enabling a steadier pace throughout the race.


How far in advance should I start training for my first marathon?

Begin training for your first marathon about 18 to 20 weeks in advance to gradually build up mileage, stamina, and mental resilience for the race.


What kind of training plan is best for a first-time marathon runner?

Look for a training plan that includes gradual mileage increases, rest days, cross-training, various types of runs, strength training, and stretching routines to enhance performance and prevent injury for your first marathon.


DISCLAIMER: Firefly Recovery is an FDA approved athletic recovery device and is not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure disease. Firefly Recovery is not able to provide medical advice or guidance.

April 23, 2024