10 of the Flattest, Fastest Half Marathons in the Midwest

Runners hit the streets of Indianapolis along the Lawton Loop in October 2012. (Photo by TownePost Network/flickr)

Runners hit the streets of Indianapolis along the Lawton Loop in October 2012. (Photo by TownePost Network/flickr)

1) Fox Valley Half Marathon (St. Charles, Illinois)

The course is not completely pancake flat, but the elevation changes are quite minimal. Runners will enjoy traveling the shady town streets and bike paths along the Fox River. This easy loop course is a favorite for marathoners looking to qualify for Boston and for half marathoners looking to earn a PR.

Next Fox Valley race: September

2) Monster Dash Half Marathon (St. Paul, Minnesota)

Flat might be misleading. This course is downhill! If you are looking for a fast half marathon, look no further than the Monster Dash. While dropping 400 feet in elevation, runners can fly by the on-course entertainment and check out the costumed competition. Participants are encouraged to dress up, race 13.1 miles, and vie for best costume awards.

Next Monster Dash race: October

3) Park To Park Half Marathon (Waterloo, Iowa)

With a net elevation of 0, the Park To Park Half Marathon is the definition of flat and fast. Elite runners are invited to race and course records are a 1:04:11 for men and 1:12:28 for women. The mostly wooded course does not lend itself to spectators, but who has time for crazy signs when you are running so fast!

Next Park to Park race: September

4) White River Half Marathon (Cotter, Arkansas)

Limited to just 700 participants, the White River Half Marathon draws runners looking to run fast. Runners actually lose 210 feet of elevation over the course of 13.1 miles. The majority of the course is flat, but a quick downhill in the first mile gets racers into PR-mode fast.

Next White River race: November

5) Spirit Of Survival Hulkin’ Half Marathon (Lawton, Oklahoma)

With just 138 feet of elevation change, the Hulkin’ Half Marathon is one of Oklahoma’s fastest 13.1 mile races. The out-and-back course is great for runners of all abilities and only a few turns helps keep it incredibly fast. Plus, earn some extra karma points knowing that you are helping benefit local cancer centers in the Lawton, Oklahoma area.

Next Spirit of Survival race: October

6) Mo’ Cowbell Half Marathon (St. Charles, Missouri)

There is a small amount of elevation gain on the final miles of the course, but the first 9 miles are flat, flat, flat! Encouraged by scores of spectators with cowbells, runners will fly through this loop course. An awesome post-race party with food, beer, and live music will encourage runners to dig deep and finish faster.

Next Mo’ Cowbell race: October

7) Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Runners flock to Indianapolis in the fall for a half marathon on a nearly flat course. There are gentle hills throughout the entire 13.1 miles, but hardly noticeable. The loop course travels along the same route as the full until just past mile 7 and then racers begin their journey back towards the start/finish line. $500 is awarded to the fastest male and female finisher.

Next Indianapolis Monumental race: November

8) Glass City Half Marathon (Toledo, Ohio)

With only 112 feet of elevation gain over 13.1 miles, the Glass City Half Marathon is a great race to run fast. Course records are fast — 1:05:49 for men and 1:17:06 for women. The loop course takes runners through beautiful residential neighborhoods and travels along the University Parks bike trail. A finish line in the Glass Bowl Stadium will encourage racers to push the pace all the way to the end.

Next Glass City race: April

9) Omaha Half Marathon (Omaha, Nebraska)

After years of being touted as a “hilly” course, the Omaha Half Marathon was revamped in 2013. Now, there is only 160 feet of ascension and runners will fly through the point-to-point course. With views of lakes, rivers, parks, and the city, this route features a little bit of everything Omaha has to offer. Plus, runners will feel the excitement build as they enter the TD Ameritrade Stadium and see their fast finish on the Jumbotron.

Next Omaha race: September

10) Eisenhower Half Marathon (Abilene, Kansas)

Runners travel a course that contains section of the Chisholm Trail-famous for cattlemen bringing their herds to Abilene in the 1800s. The fast and flat course features a double loop in the middle miles, but runners only ascend a total of 93 feet over the entire race. This small race features lots of great extras like aids stations at every mile and a free breakfast for all runners. Plus, first place finishers can pocket $150.

Next Eisenhower race: April

6 comments… add one
  • Edward Jackson November 15, 2017, 9:25 am

    How about the Smuttynose Half Marathon in Hampton, NH. The majority of the race is on Ocean Boulevard in Hampton. You don’t get much flatter or a lower elevation than running along the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Andrew Marshall December 4, 2015, 1:53 pm

    Ran the Mo’ Cowbell Half Marathon for the first time this past October and I’m happy to report that I got a new PR! It is very flat for the first 9 miles and the only rough patch is around mile 10 when you have a modest hill to climb. However, one you get through that the rest of the race is flat or downhill, sometimes steeply so. Great race organization and support too.

  • Gwen December 4, 2014, 10:06 pm

    Nice list, Carissa!
    If I ever get out West I’ll have to try one of these!

  • Mark Deckard December 4, 2014, 3:55 pm

    Great to see Glass City get a mention, but they changed the course last year and the last 3 miles now have a few small hills. Still fairly flat, but not quite as easy as it used to be.

    The flattest half I’ve run is the Erie Half Marathon at Presque Isle. One loop around the perimeter road at the park, which is on a peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie. Only real elevation change is a small bridge at around 9 miles, about a 10 foot climb with a corresponding descent on the other side.

    • Terrell Johnson December 4, 2014, 3:59 pm

      Thanks, Mark, that’s great feedback. We’ll definitely need to add the Erie Half Marathon at Presque Isle to the list, in fact we should probably do a list of the flattest races in the Great Lakes region as well. Any others you’d add to that list?

      • Mark Deckard December 4, 2014, 4:08 pm

        I’d probably also add the Columbus Marathon and Half, Columbus OH, third Sunday in October every year. The half and the full run together until the 13 mile mark, which is the flatter half of the course. Also a slight downhill finish.

        Oops, failed to take into account that these are just Midwestern. Shouldn’t have brought Erie (Pennsylvania) into this, but it is a stunningly flat course and a very well organized race.

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