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10 Easiest Marathons and Half Marathons in America

10 Easiest Marathons in America

Marathons and half marathons are the ultimate tests of endurance, and they’re becoming increasingly popular for avid and amateur runners alike. If you’re setting your sights on crossing the finish line of a half or full marathon, trust your preparation to Custom Training Plans. Whether you’re moving up from the 10K or 15K distances or starting from scratch, all marathons and half marathons require careful prep. Our training plans are completely customizable to match your current level of fitness, delivering curated workouts that can help you increase your endurance at a pace that’s right for you.

The very word “marathon” can inspire trepidation in the hearts of runners and non-runners alike, but despite their double-digit mileage, both half marathons and marathons are absolutely within reach. While training for a half or full marathon isn’t a task that’s generally considered “easy”, CTP’s half marathon training plans and marathon training plans can give you the guidance you need. We provide athletes at all levels a safe, professionally developed plan for marathon prep, even if you’re starting with zero experience under your hydration belt. 

No matter what distance you choose, finishing any race is an accomplishment that you should be proud of. Whether you’re new to running 13.1 or 26.2 or you’re looking to set a new PR, why not pick a race that’s tailored for ease? Here are our picks for the 10 most beginner-friendly marathons and half marathons in America.

1. Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Beginner-Friendly Chicago Half Marathon

When: July

Where: Chicago, Illinois

Race Distance: 13.1 miles


While Chicago’s summer weather brings the heat, this edition of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is one for the books — and for beginners. In total, nearly 15,000 people line up for the 5K, 12K, and half marathon races. Preparing for this race with a CTP training plan created specifically for the course and weather of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon can help you conquer all 13.1 miles with ease. 

The course for the Chicago edition of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon follows a primarily flat route that begins in Grant Park. The race weaves through downtown Chicago’s city streets before crossing over the Chicago River. Then, the half marathon course heads out onto the parks along Lake Michigan before taking runners on a tour of landmarks including Soldier Field, the Field Museum, and the Shedd Aquarium before returning to Grant Park for the finish.

One of the most unique things about the Rock ‘n’ Roll series is the music. Along with the energy, support, and cheers of thousands of spectators, the route is lined with bands playing upbeat tunes. Many runners get motivation to keep going to get to the next band, reducing some of the mental grind of a longer race. When you prepare with a Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon training plan from CTP, you can take full advantage of the music and the promise of a great afterparty to carry you toward the finish.

2. Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon

Easiest Marathons: Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon

When: July

Where:  Napa Valley, California

Race Distance: 13.1 miles


If you’re a wine lover, there’s no better half marathon to run than the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon. The field is capped at 4,000 athletes, so it’s a great choice for beginners who are interested in a calmer race-day atmosphere. However, training for the race with a personalized Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon training plan is a must if you want to run your first (or best) race.

While the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon isn’t the flattest of courses, there are only two notable hills on the course — and one of them comes straight off the start when you’re nice and fresh. Then, the course flattens out, sending athletes past the rolling vineyards that line the course

While the size of the field (and the pre- and post-race opportunities to experience the exceptional wines of the region) makes the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon a great race for beginners, taking part in dedicated training is a must. Custom Training Plans offers athletes at any level a Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon training plan that provides your personalized route to the finish.

3. Trinity River Run Half Marathon

When: November

Where:  Dallas, Texas

Race Distance: 13.1 miles


Beat the Texas heat by taking part in the Trinity River Run Half Marathon, held in November of each year. This notoriously flat course takes you on a loop-de-loop along and over the Trinity River. Unlike many races, this half marathon offers a twist: instead of beginning race day at dawn, you won’t be setting off until late afternoon as the sun sets over the Dallas skyline. Many runners find this makes the race easier since it doesn’t require the early morning preparation of other races.

Although the course is flat, using a personalized half marathon training plan is essential to arriving at the finish line injury-free. The first half of the Trinity River Run Half Marathon is run on the asphalt streets of Dallas. You’ll also get to run under and over a number of historic bridges, including the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Most of the second half of the race is run on the Skyline Trail, where gravel trails ease the load on your joints — a nice side benefit for beginners. 

4. Walt Disney World Marathon

When: January

Where: Orlando, Florida

Race Distance: 26.2 miles/13.1 miles


The crown jewel of the runDisney events, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend’s Marathon race is arguably one of the most beginner-friendly marathons around. One of the unique features of the Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon is all of the fun that’s included. In addition to seeing all of Walt Disney World’s theme parks, runners get several chances to get up close and personal with famous Disney characters along the way, distracting them from some of the mental challenges of long races. 

The pancake-flat, looped course takes athletes on a tour of one of the most famous theme parks in the United States. While it offers a generous 16:00/mile pace requirement that offers plenty of leeway for half marathon beginners, it’s still important to prepare for this festive event with a Walt Disney World Marathon training plan or Walt Disney World Half Marathon training plan that’s tailored to your needs so you can enjoy every magical moment.

5. Miami Half Marathon

When: February

Where: Miami, Florida

Race Distance: 26.2 miles/13.1 miles


Getting sand in your toes, surfing, and taking in the sun on the beautiful beaches of Miami is nice, but for runners, the February weather in Miami is also perfect for racing. Whether you’re a beginner arriving from colder climes or you’re a year-round Floridian trying for a new PR, it’s a race you’ll want to prepare for using a Miami Half Marathon training plan custom-tailored to you.

In the Miami Half Marathon, you’ll race alongside those running the Full Marathon, with your finish line being Bayfront Park, giving you the energy of a big field for the start and a finish with less pressure. If you’re new to running, you’ll like the course. It’s a single loop race route with mostly flat terrain — the only elevation changes are going up and over the bridges connecting the San Marino and Riyo Alto islands to the mainland. In fact, the course is so flat, those running the marathon distance often target the Miami Marathon for their Boston qualifying time. Using a customized Miami Marathon training plan can help everyone from beginners who want to finish for the first time to advanced runners looking for their BQ.

6. Little Rock Marathon

When: March

Where: Little Rock, Arkansas

Race Distance: 26.2 miles/13.1 miles


Two races that are perfect for beginners, the Little Rock Marathon and Half Marathon offer a flat course that takes runners past some of Little Rock’s most famous landmarks, including the Governor’s Mansion, the Arkansas State Capitol, and the River Market District. It’s a beginner-friendly race — in fact, it’s known as “Arkansas’ Race for Every Pace”. Both runners and walkers are welcome, and with its eight-hour time limit, nearly anyone can cross the finish line.

Preparing for the race by following a customized marathon training plan or half marathon training plan is a great idea, especially for beginners. After all, you’ll want to be prepared to enjoy all the course has to offer. Extremely friendly to spectators, the course features all sorts of southern hospitality, including the pre-finish line photos “Lipstick Stop” and the Couch Potato Mile that’ll keep you motivated all the way to the finish.

7. Vermont City Marathon

When: May

Where: Burlington, Vermont

Race Distance: 26.2 miles


If you’ve got your entire family cheering you on for your first marathon and you want to ensure you’ll see them, the Vermont City Marathon is for you. The clover-shaped course loops back to the same area multiple times throughout the race. In fact, if you plan it right, you can have your entire entourage cheering you on as many as 10 times throughout your marathon experience, keeping your spirits high and providing motivation to keep going. You can show your supporters your best performance by preparing thoughtfully and thoroughly by following a customized marathon training plan from Custom Training Plans.

The course presents just a couple of hills, but for the most part, the Vermont City Marathon is run on relatively beginner-friendly terrain. The course gives runners a break just when they need it the most, too: the last four miles are a gentle downhill, guiding you to the finish line where thousands of cheering spectators await.

8. Hilton Head Island Half Marathon

When: February

Where: Hilton Head, South Carolina

Race Distance: 26.2 miles/13.1 miles


The Hilton Head Island Marathon and Half Marathon are two of the nation’s finest races for beginners. This race features a relatively small field (think 1,000, not 10,000), providing a less chaotic race-day scene. The Hilton Head Island Marathon and Half Marathon also feature a very flat course. Because the race is run at sea level, the elevation changes very few times throughout the duration of the races. Runners face only two minor inclines, both occurring as they cross over the Broad Creek Bridge.

Both races begin at Jarvis Creek Park, and the course is largely made up of paved roads and bike trails. The Hilton Head Island is a Boston Marathon Qualifying race, and the flat, fast course run in near-perfect racing weather provides runners with a great shot at a BQ — an inspiring sight for new runners to witness. If you’ve chosen one of these races as your first, prep with a personalized marathon training plan or half marathon training plan. Who knows? Someday that athlete shooting for that BQ may be you!

9. The Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon

When: June

Where: Portland, Maine

Race Distance: 13.1 miles


Refreshments, entertainment, historic war sites, and a scenic half marathon course all await you at the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, Maine. Run at the start of June, when the temperatures are perfect for racing, this USATF-certified half marathon is great for beginners. 

The otherwise-flat course does feature two hills, so it’s important to include hill work in your half marathon training plan. The starting line overlooks Casco Bay and loops around Back Cove on the Back Cove Trail, a much-loved local trail. 

As the route winds toward the finish past Civil War-era forts, athletes will enjoy gorgeous views of Maine’s historical lighthouses as well. The beautiful scenery helps to power you toward the finish line, where you’ll enjoy a block party with thousands of your new friends. If you want to enjoy the sights and stories of classic New England, this is the race for you.

10. Marine Corps Marathon

When: October

Where: Washington, D.C.

Race Distance: 26.2 miles


There’s nothing like running a full marathon along with thousands of other first-timers. In fact, more than one-third of runners make their racing debut with this event. The Marine Corps Marathon is known as the “Marathon of the Monuments,” offering athletes a running tour of the best-known sites in Washington, D.C. 

The Marine Corps Marathon course takes athletes on a flat, looped course that starts and ends in Arlington National Cemetery, crossing the Potomac River and passing the National Mall, Crystal City, the Pentagon, and more. More than 150,000 spectators line the route to cheer on the athletes, including many servicemen and women in uniform. The course also includes the Blue Mile, a segment that honors fallen Marines. Their portraits line the sides of the road for a full mile, providing inspiration and motivation to all. 

When you’re running to honor those who have served our country, you’ll definitely want to put in your best performance. CTP’s got a customized Marine Corps Marathon training plan that’s geared for beginners, even if you’re coming straight from the couch.

Let’s Get Ready to Run

No matter what the difficulty of the marathon or half marathon you’re training for, using a training program that’s customized to the race and to your needs can get you prepared to take the starting line. Racing long distances successfully doesn’t happen overnight. At Custom Training Plans, we understand the process. We provide runners, from beginners to veterans, with tailor-made plans created just for them — and for the challenges of the course too. 

If you are a beginner using a personalized half marathon training plan to prepare for your first distance race or a runner who needs a customized marathon training plan to help you use a fast course to shoot for a BQ, why not try one of these 10 races? Racing in another city (or even your own) is a fun and fitness-friendly way to soak up the local vibes on the run. Whether you love the festive crowds lining the route, the unique historic monuments of each city, or the pristine beauty of nature, one of these 10 spectacular races are sure to make you smile.