What Were the 25 Largest Marathons in the US in 2023?

Most people know that the New York City Marathon is the biggest race in the country. But have you ever wondered about the rest of the largest marathons in the US?

Each year, thousands upon thousands of athletes participate in races around the country. Some of these marathons are tiny. Others, like New York, are massive.

Recently, I was curious and I went about looking for a list of the ten largest races in the country. To my surprise, I couldn’t find a simple answer.

Sure, there were plenty of articles on the web – but many of them cited all time attendance records, and none offered timely, accurate data about the number of finishers in a given year.

So I went about gathering the data myself, and I used it to put together the visualization you see below. With this in hand, I can now answer the question – what are the 25 largest marathons in the United States in 2023?

The List of the Biggest Marathons

This chart shows the 25 biggest races in the country, ranked by the total number of finishers, from 2023.

Note that the number on this chart only represents the number of finishers in the marathon. In many instances, these races are longer events that also feature half marathons, 10ks, 8ks, and/or 5ks. The entire event may be bigger – and you may sometimes see a larger number associated with a marathon ‘weekend’ – but these numbers are accurate for the actual race.

A view of Central Park and New York City - the finish line of the New York City Marathon.

The Big Three Marathons

For another year, the largest race is the New York City Marathon. In 2023, there were 51,295 finishers. It exceeded 50,000 runners for the first time since COVID, but it didn’t quite return to its 2019 peak (53,520). It retained its title as the biggest marathon in the world for another year. New York City paved the way in the 1970’s for marathons to become mass participation events – and it continues to lead the pack to this day.

The second largest race – the Chicago Marathon – trails New York but sits apart from the rest. This year, there were 48,574 finishers. This is the most it’s ever had. It continues to get closer in size to New York,but it’s still a few thousand short. The modern Chicago Marathon debuted in 1977, and it’s been competition with the New York City Marathon since then.

The third largest race – the Boston Marathon – is the last of the really big races. It’s field of 26,600 may seem small compared to New York and Chicago – but it’s massive compared to the rest of this list. Although Boston is the oldest and most prestigious race on this list, people are often surprised to find out it’s not the biggest (or even close to it). The race dates back to 1897, and it started the marathon tradition in America.

These three races are by far the largest marathons. In fact, the remainder of the list doesn’t even come close to exceeding 20,000 finishers.

Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign - a part of the LA marathon route.

The Other Races with 10,000 Plus Finishers

Following Boston, there’s a handful of races that are still large by any standards – each exceeding 10,000 finishers.

The Los Angeles Marathon is fourth on the list, with 16,973 finishers. It moved up a notch since last year and increased in size by about a third. This is an early spring race (March), and it offers a great opportunity for the rest of the country to escape the cold and enjoy some warm weather. Unlike the previous races on the list, it tends to be laid back – with slower finish times and a greater emphasis on just participating.

The Honolulu Marathon comes in fifth place, with 15,044 finishers. Honolulu is a welcoming marathon – without qualifying times or a lottery, and without a cut-off time. You can take as long as you want to finish without worrying about being rushed off the course. This beautiful destination race was founded in 1973, and it has brought laid back runners to the islands ever since.

Next up is another shift in the list – with the Marine Corps Marathon leapfrogging Disney World. It’s 13,662 finishers is about a 25% increase over 2022. This race is known as “The People’s Marathon” because it has no entry criteria and it offers no prize money. It is open and accessible to everyone, and the course takes you through a beautiful tour of the nation’s monuments.

Following MCM is the Disney World Marathon with 12,690 finishers. Like Honolulu, this is a major destination race where northerners can go to escape the winter. The race is relatively newer (1994), and it consistently draws a large crowd of fans to run through the parks. But be ready to wake up early. This race starts at 5am.

The 10k club grew by one this year – with the Philly Marathon clocking over 11,000 finishers. This is the most finishers the race has seen since 2012. It’s a relatively new race, kicking off in 1994. It quickly grew in size until it’s 2012 peak, but it has languished a bit since then. It’s good to see it rising higher in the top ten this year. It’s an amazing race – with a course that takes you through historic Philly before going out and back along the Schuylkill River.

Large Marathons with 5,000 to 10,000 Runners

Continuing through the list, there are a handful of races in the 5,000 to 10,000 range.

The California International Marathon – or CIM – comes up next on the list with just over 9,000 finishers. This marathon started in 1983, and it has a reputation for being fast and competitive. In 2023, it was again the USATF Marathon Championship race, and it is often targeted by serious runners trying to notch an Olympic Trials qualifying time. In the early 2000’s, the race was a more modest size (~2,000 finishers). Recently, it has experienced consistent growth and it sits solidly in the top 10.

The next race is Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. With just over 7,000 finishers – and with the cancellation this year of the Twin Cities Marathon – Grandma’s rounds out the top 10. Unlike rest of the big races, this run takes runners outside the big city. The race course travels along the coast of Lake Superior, and it ends in the small-ish city of Duluth. It’s a ‘world class event with small town charm.’

The Houston Marathon once again has just over 6,000 finishers and it sits right outside the top 10 list. This January race is another favorite of serious runners, since it offers a flat course and typically good weather. This race was founded in 1972, which is the third oldest event (behind Boston and New York) on the list so far.

The Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota typically has between 5,000 and 10,000 finishers. But it was cancelled due to extreme heat this year – so it is absent from the list. I’m just giving it an honorable mention here.

The San Francisco Marathon - one of the largest in the US - crosses the Golden Gate Bridge.

Large Marathons with Less Than 5,000 Runners

The rest of the list is short of 5,000 runners, but they all have at least 2,000 runners.

First up is the San Francisco Marathon, with just under 5,000 finishers. It’s a rare summer marathon taking place in July. Since its in northern California, you can likely expect decent weather, though. No doubt the course running across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge is another one of its selling points.

Next up is the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon comes next with about 4,500 finishers. It rocketed up the list since last year, and it’s back to its pre-COVID glory. If you’re on a 50 state marathon quest, this race is special. It will help you check off both Ohio and Kentucky.

Following Cincy is the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – or Indy Monumental. Compared to the rest of the list, it is a very new race. It launched in 2008. But it has grown significantly from the original 1,100 finishers. In recent years, its size has hovered around 4,000 to 5,000 finishers.

The Richmond Marathon in Virginia comes next. It’s another fast course that people often choose when they’re looking to qualify for Boston. It’s in late November, and making it a late fall alternative to Philly if you don’t want to brave the cold weather.

After that is the St. George Marathon in Utah. This is a net downhill marathon through the Pine Valley Mountains, and it’s known for being both scenic and fast. It’s another great choice for runners looking to that little bit they need for a Boston Qualifying time – aided by the 2,500 feet in elevation loss. This year, there were just under 4,000 finishers.

Big Sur in California also sports about 3,500 finishers. This race, along Scenic Highway 1, is often considered one of the most scenic races in the country. There are some serious rolling hills, and it’s a tough course. Pick this one because you want to enjoy the amazing view – not because you’re chasing a PR.

The Dallas Marathon is one of the smaller Texas races, with just under 3,500 finishers. The races dates back to 1971, making it one of the oldest races on the list. It edged out Austin this year.

The Austin Marathon trails right behind Dallas with a little over 3,000 races. It’s a February race, so it’s another option if you’re looking for a warm-weather winter race. February isn’t generally a popular month for marathons.

The Detroit Free Press Marathon had just over 3,000 finishers this year – ranking it #20 after just missing the list last year. This unique race is actually international – you run across the border into Canada for the first few miles before finishing back in Michigan.

The Columbus Marathon is the other Ohio race on the list. Although it had just over 3,000 finishers in 2022, the race has had up over 5,000 finishers in some previous years. Buckeye fans will be excited about the opportunity to run through the Horseshoe.

The Pittsburgh Marathon is the smaller of the two Pennsylvania marathons on the list. This race started in the 1980’s, and since then it has served as both the Olympic Trials and US National Marathon Championship race. It went through a rough patch, though, and after it lost its sponsor the race was not held from 2004 to 2008. It returned in 2009, and the race has had as many as 5,000 finishers in some years.

The Miami Marathon is the smaller of the two Florida races on the list. It doesn’t have the same appeal as Disney, so it probably doesn’t draw as many out of state runners. Even in late January, the weather tends to be on the warm side. As a northerner, that just doesn’t appeal to me.

The Long Beach Marathon is yet another California race on the list. It’s been around for close to 40 years, and in the past it would have ranked higher on this list. But in recent years, it hasn’t reached the 2,000 finisher mark. There was a surge in participation this year, and it hasn’t had this many finishers since 2014.

Rounding out the list is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon. It’s the only Rock ‘n’ Roll Race on the list, but at it’s peak this series would have had several races listed here.

Which Marathon Do You Want to Run?

This list includes a lot of races that are on my bucket list.

I’ve done Philly, and it was a great experience. I’m registered to run Chicago this October, and I hope to run New York City and Boston in the next few years.

I love DC, so I’ve always wanted to run the Marine Corps Marathon. Beyond that, Twin Cities and Columbus are on my to do list because I have family in those cities, and I’d love to enjoy the views of Big Sur.

What about you – which of these races is on your bucket list? There are a lot of great choices, spread around the country and at many different times of year. Whether you’re looking to run fast or take it slow, one of these races is perfect for you.

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