12 Great Races for the First-Time Half Marathoner

12-great-first-time

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1) Charleston Half Marathon • Charleston, SC

The start of the year brings thousands of runners to one of the South’s (and the nation’s) most gorgeous coastal cities for this race, which shows off Charleston’s southern charm by starting off in the famous district called “South of Broad.” Thanks to its location, the race is very flat.

January • Race info & signup »

2) Adam & Eve Half Marathon • Charlottesville, VA

This Valentine’s Day race unfolds through some of Charlottesville’s most beautiful neighborhoods near the University of Virginia campus, and runners are encouraged to wear t-shirts that signal their relationship status: Green means “single and ready to mingle,” while red means you’re in a relationship. A yellow shirt says “it’s complicated.”

February • Race info & signup »

3) Michelob Ultra Miami Beach 13.1 • Miami Beach, FL

A mostly fast and flat — and scenic — run through the streets of Miami awaits the more than 3,000 runners and walkers each year at this race, which offers ample views of the ocean waves crashing against the shore and the art and architecture of the city’s world-famous South Beach.

March • Race info & signup »

4) Towpath Half Marathon • Cuyahoga Heights, OH

This nearly all-flat springtime race takes runners on a tour of the parkland areas just south of Cleveland known as the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation, a park filled with hiking and walking trails, over four miles of canals and plenty of wildlife.

April • Race info & signup »

5) Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon • Weott, CA

The first of two races that unfold among the majestic redwood forests of California’s Humboldt Redwoods State Park, this late spring race was once described by Runner’s World as one of the nation’s most beautiful running routes, and features a 6-hour time limit.

May • Race info & signup »


6) Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon • Simsbury, CT

The double-loop course for this race — which Runner’s World’s Bart Yasso named as one of his favorites a few years back — starts in Simsbury, a rural suburb of the state capital Hartford. From there, it meanders past historic farmhouses, rolling country roads and across the Farmington River.

June • Race info & signup »

7) Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon • Chicago, IL

You’ll run through the Windy City’s downtown streets and across the Chicago River at this race, which also unfolds past the parks along Lake Michigan, taking runners past Soldier Field, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and through Grant Park before finishing in front of the Buckingham Fountain.

July • Race info & signup »

8) Santa Rosa Half Marathon • Santa Rosa, CA

The largest city in Northern California’s wine growing region opens up the paths along its Santa Rosa Creek and Prince Memorial Greenway for this late summer race, with only gentle (and mostly imperceptible) rises and falls in elevation along a mixture of terrains, from gravel and dirt paths to paved paths.

August • Race info & signup »

9) Surftown Half Marathon • Westerly, RI

The race takes runners on an out-and-back 13.1-mile loop that starts in and finishes near Misquamicut State Beach, a half-mile-long beachfront area that’s one of the state’s more popular summertime beach resorts. The race finish lies on Atlantic Avenue, a block from the Sandcastle Beachfront Inn.

September • Race info & signup »

10) Silver Comet Half Marathon • Mableton, GA

Named for the Silver Comet train that ferried passengers back and forth from Atlanta to Anniston, Ala., in the 1940s and 50s, this converted rail trail offers very flat paved terrain and gorgeous fall colors.

October • Race info & signup »

11) Annapolis Running Classic Half Marathon • Annapolis, MD

From the start and finish line at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, runners follow an out-and-back course through the city’s historic downtown and around the campus of St. John’s College, across the bridge that spans the Severn River, and later along the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail.

November • Race info & signup »

12) Rehoboth Beach Half Marathon • Rehoboth Beach, DE

Runners spend a stretch of their time along the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk at this early winter race, which also dips into nearby Cape Henlopen State Park and is known for its friendly, welcoming atmosphere.

December • Race info & signup »

7 comments… add one
  • Patti September 7, 2016, 3:40 pm

    Jeff Galloway’s (creator of Run-walk-run method ) JG13.1 is a good first-timers’ half…set in early December on a Sunday, it runs thru Atlanta’s in-town neighborhoods, finishing in Piedmont Park. Both start and finish are within easy, safe walking distance of rapid transit and nice downtown hotels. Definitely some hills, well-marked and supervised course, great volunteers, supportive pacers even for slower runners, cheerful crowds, and very generous cutoff time to give first time run-walk-run folks time to finish to a cheers and score some post race food. Jeff is at the finish to cheer folks on, even the slower ones. Also a Saturday 5k (Barb’s 5k… his wife) for families. There are good deals on lodging via the JG13.1 website. Perfect December race for enjoying city’s holiday time with your family.

  • Tim May 10, 2016, 7:24 pm

    Running with my son, my first 1/2 this Oct. at Naperville, Il. Is there anyone out there that may have experienced this annual race and could offer an opinion & suggestion(s)?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Tim October 13, 2016, 10:11 am

      I’ve raced Naperville and it’s a great one – especially for a first time. There are hundreds of well-wishers all along the course to offer encouragement. A few hills but nothing too difficult. Great course – great volunteers. Have Fun!!

  • Rita Hervey April 14, 2016, 8:46 pm

    Looking for a half marathon for beginners to be held in November or December in California, Nevada, Texas, and any other states close to Arizona.

    • Aaron August 16, 2016, 6:24 pm

      Long Beach, CA hosts a half marathon in mid-November.

  • Mike February 14, 2016, 11:36 pm

    Just ran the Austin Half Marathon. It’s a great race, with incredible crowd support. Check out my race day review at http://www.era70x.com, our RV and running blog.

  • Josie February 11, 2016, 12:36 pm

    Check out http://www.RunningWithTheBears.Org! Scenic course, no time limit, and 13 Aid Stations all competing to win your vote! Great for first time Half Marathoners. Limited to just 600 runners, with 100% of proceeds to charity. Just 98 spots left for the August 20th, 2016 race.

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