Marathon Running: Remembering the Most Memorable Races

I still remember the feel of a marathon start line. Runners all over the place: some chatting, others stretching, yet more on their warm up runs. Race directors and timers making final preparations. Lines at packet pickup and, of course, the porta potties. Eye of the Tiger or Born to Run playing over the speakers (or a little too loudly on someone’s headphones).

It’s all just a memory now. A year after coronavirus shut racing down, and with no end in sight, “virtual” racing is all we runners have. Feeling nostalgic, I decided to catalog the most memorable marathons I have run in the U.S. thus far. Hopefully this is a cheerful distraction to your day, and might even give you some ideas for your next (post-coronavirus) marathon!


Every marathoner remembers their first marathon. Mine was the 2009 Fox Cities Marathon in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Appleton is only a half-hour drive from Green Bay, and this race coincides with the start of NFL season, so you can catch a Packers game while you’re at it!

Most Scenic

View of Lake Coeur d'Alene in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho showing blue water, green trees, and blue skies
View of Lake Coeur d’Alene during the CDA Marathon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

I never would have thought a race in Idaho would take the top spot in this category, but it has! The CDA Marathon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho is absolutely beautiful. You run along the picturesque Lake Coeur d’Alene the whole time.

Plus, if you’re into golf, the world’s only floating green is on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Yes, a floating island golf green! Oh, and it moves! Each day it changes location, teeing up a par 3 hole anywhere from 90 yards to 220 yards. Even if you’re not into golf you have to check it out!


Wooden bridge crossing a stream on Squak Mountain in Issaquah, Washington
Scenic views help ease the pain during the challenging Squak Mountain marathon in Issaquah, Washington.

Oh do I remember this one: Squak Mountain in Issaquah, Washington. Any time the word “mountain” is in the race name, you’re in for some fun! I particularly recall the “Pain Ahead” sign placed at the start line.

It’s an extremely challenging trail run. Right out of the gate, the course climbs up to the summit – 3.5 miles and 2,000 ft of elevation later. Then you go back down. And do that over and over again.

They’ve since changed the marathon option to a 50k, so if you’re searching for a tough ultramarathon or just want to see how much pain you can take, consider this race!


Looking for a good Boston qualifier? The Brookings Marathon in Brookings, South Dakota is for you! It stays under 85 ft of elevation and never changes more than 40 ft over a single mile. Pancake flat!


Runners on a road during a marathon
Runners during the Go! St. Louis marathon in St. Louis, Missouri.

Even though it was only April, a heat wave spiked temperatures to 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the 2011 Go! St. Louis marathon in St. Louis, Missouri. Race officials terminated the race midway due to safety concerns for the runners.


On the other end of temperature extremes, it was 28 degrees Fahrenheit at the start of the 2015 Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Below freezing, plus a stiff wind, certainly made for a frigid race day.

If you’re a fan of NBA trivia, this was Kevin Durant’s last year playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder (Oklahoma City is only about an hour away from Tulsa).

Best Food

Shrimp on a white plate on a red dining table
Shrimp platter from Wintzell’s Oyster House in Mobile, Alabama.

You just can’t beat Gulf Coast seafood, and I thoroughly enjoyed the local cuisine when I ran the ServisFirst Bank Mobile Marathon in Mobile, Alabama. So much so that I took this picture of delicious shrimp I devoured at Wintzell’s Oyster House to remember the occasion! Might not have been the best pre-race meal, but my taste buds thought it was worth it!


Every runner’s marathon PR is deeply ingrained and happily celebrated. Mine was at the 2011 Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona marathon in Phoenix, Arizona. That was almost exactly a decade ago, and I haven’t come close since. Yay for ageing!

Coincidentally, noted American runner Josh Cox set a PR that day too. He won the marathon in 2:17, then ran another 5 miles on the Arizona State University track to set the American 50k record in 2:43:45 (missing the world record by just 7 seconds!).


Runners approaching the iconic finish line of the Boston marathon
Runners approaching the finish line of the 2007 Boston Marathon.

The best fan cheering and support undoubtedly comes during the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts. I’ve run all three major marathons in the U.S. – Boston, Chicago, and New York City – and only Boston has the loudest and most dedicated fans throughout the entire race!

Most Special

Sunrise illuminating runners at the start line of the Rock 'N' Roll Nashville marathon in Nashville, Tennessee
Start line of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Nashville marathon in Nashville, Tennessee.

My wife is amazing in every way possible. She’s a runner too, and we ran the Rock ‘N’ Roll Nashville marathon in Nashville, Tennessee together – her first marathon. That was long before we were engaged, married, or had three children. And I know we’ll still be running together far into old age!

Are you a runner or marathoner? Have you run any of these marathons too? What have been your most memorable races? Let me know in the comments below!

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