The World’s 25 Fastest Marathons 

Last year was a big year for fastest marathons. At the 2023 Chicago Marathon, Kelvin Kiptum amazed the world with his 2:00:35 record-breaking finish time dethroning Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:01:09 Berlin Marathon finish time.

Just a couple of weeks prior, Tigst Assefa broke new ground for marathon runners as well, setting a women’s world record with her 2:11:53 finish at the 2023 Berlin Marathon, ousting Olympic silver medalist Brigid Kosgei’s 2:14:14 finish time at the Chicago Marathon in 2019.

With these incredible victories, both the Berlin Marathon and the Chicago Marathon have gained reputations of having the fastest city marathon finishes in the world. But are courses really that fast or is it just those specific runners? 

Since some races attract so many elite runners, they’re often perceived as very fast marathons and they are in comparison to other courses.

However, a fast elites’ performances can sometimes skew data, making a race course seem “quicker” than it actually is. 

So, we investigated which races are unambiguously and undeniable on the fastest marathon courses. We analyzed information such as course profiles and elevation data to identify the fastest marathons in the US and around the world. 

Whether you’re hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which is becoming increasingly more challenging, or striving to beat your personal marathon record, you’ve come to the right place. 

Make 2024 a big year and sign up for one of the best marathons for running your personal best – whether it’s your first marathon or your one hundredth.

What Are the Fastest Marathons in the USA?

By analyzing races according to their course profiles, total elevation loss, percentage of runners whose times qualified for the Boston Marathon, and course records, we discovered the fastest marathons in the US. 

From hometown races to premiere marathon running events, our list includes a variety of fast races all over the US. Unlike some of the fastest international races, most of these races don’t have a complicated registration process. 

Keep reading to learn about the fastest marathons in America and what makes them so quick. 

Mt Charleston, home of the REVEL Mt. Charleston Marathon, one of the fastest marathons.

REVEL Mt. Charleston Marathon in Las Vegas, NV

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:35:35 and Women’s 2:34:57
  • Net Downhill: 5,247 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 36.7% in 2023
  • Registration:

Coming in at #1 on our list, the REVEL Mt. Charleston Marathon takes runners on a point-to-point downhill descent from the mountains to the city. With an impressive 5,247 feet of elevation loss, this race literally propels runners toward PRs and Boston-Qualifying times. The course’s steady 4% downhill grade is even more satisfying paired with the beautiful desert scenery. 

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Hawaii Bird Conservation Marathon in Hilo, HI

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:33:00 and Women’s 2:50:38
  • Net Downhill: 3,863 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 49.1% in 2023
  • Registration:

The Hawaii Bird Conservation Marathon’s incredible downhill course passes through insanely pretty locations, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and some of the island’s most lush rainforests. The miles fly by here as runners enjoy the scenery and coast along the route’s descending paved roads. Despite being a small race, almost 50% of its 106 finishers qualified for Boston last year.

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REVEL Big Bear Marathon in Redlands, CA

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:09:14 (2022) and Women’s 2:35:25 (2021)
  • Net Downhill: 5,413 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 40.5% in 2023
  • Registration:

The fastest marathon in California. Beginning near the base of Sugarloaf Mountain, runners face rolling hills for the first four miles of this race. However, they are soon rewarded with a huge elevation drop for the final 17 miles of the race. As runners make their way down paved roads through hidden mountain towns, they cruise at a steady 4.7% downhill grade. With a course like this, it’s no wonder why this race holds such fast records for both men and women.

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Light at the End of the Tunnel fastest marathons course.

Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in North Bend, WA

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:28:03 (2023) and Women’s 2:42:46 (2022)
  • Net Downhill: 2,116 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 40.5% in 2023
  • Registration:

Earning its name for good reason, the Light at the End of the Tunnel begins with a 2.4-mile stretch through the pitch-black Snoqualmie Tunnel. Exiting the tunnel, runners continue down picturesque forested slopes. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to gain speed as the elevation drops more than 2,000 feet. 

Considered to be one of the nation’s fastest courses, this race is definitely worth a shot if you’re hoping to PR. However, if this marathon doesn’t fit into your race schedule, don’t fret. The Tunnel Vision Marathon and Tunnel Light Marathon both follow the same course as this one, and they are also Boston Qualifiers. 

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REVEL Big Cottonwood Marathon in Murray, UT

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:23:04 (2023) and Women’s 2:46:30 (2013)
  • Net Downhill: 5,465 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 21.31% in 2023
  • Registration:

Racing down Big Cottonwood Canyon into the nearby city of Murray, runners experience major downhill slopes with just a few minor uphill climbs mixed in. Given the course’s remarkable elevation loss, this race is incredibly fast for many runners but incredibly challenging for some. Our best advice- train your quads hard for this one because the downhills are no joke. 

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St. George Marathon one of the world's fastest marathons.

St. George Marathon in St. George, UT

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:14:44 (2017) and Women’s 2:32:45 (2021)
  • Net Downhill: 3,057 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 13.81% in 2023
  • Registration:

A popular choice for those looking to run a fast fall marathon, the St. George Marathon follows a primarily downhill route from the Pine Valley Mountains to Worthen Park. This gorgeous desert course is praised for its gentle descents that foster speed without being too hard on the quads. With race day temperatures averaging around 70°F, the weather at this race also supports a fast finish.

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Jack and Jill’s Downhill Marathon in North Bend, WA

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:28:55 (2019) and Women’s 2:43:33 (2019)
  • Net Downhill: 2,116 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 30.56% in 2023
  • Registration:

Beginning at the Snoqualmie Tunnel, racers enjoy a cool, damp start to the Jack and Jill’s Downhill Marathon. Afterward, the picturesque John Wayne Trail awaits. With magical forests, bridges, waterfalls, and mountain views all around, this race receives high marks for being breathtakingly beautiful as well as fast.

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Sundance to Spearfish Marathon in Spearfish, SD

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:32:49 (2022) and Women’s 2:54:32 (2023)
  • Net Downhill: 3,189 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 33.72% in 2023
  • Registration:

Racing between South Dakota and Wyoming, runners get the best of both states at the Sundance to Spearfish Marathon. From Cement Ridge to Spearfish Canyon Falls and then down the Spearfish Canyon Highway, racers enjoy a manageable downhill slope for most of this race. Along the way, there are plenty of stunning views of meadows, valleys, and canyons to enjoy.

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Super Marathon in North Bend, WA

Known for being one of the top Boston Qualifier courses in the country, the Super Marathon is incredibly fast. It goes from being pretty flat to super flat during its first 10 miles, and its remaining miles are all downhill. This makes it easy to pick up speed in the final half and run a negative split, which is a tried-and-true racing strategy for achieving a PR.

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Cascade Express Marathon in North Bend, WA

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:35:04 (2022) and Women’s 2:47:45 (2023)
  • Net Downhill: 1,695 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 18.97% in 2023
  • Registration:

Another fast marathon that passes through the Snoqualmie Tunnel?! We’re beginning to sense a trend here. Also a part of the Run Super Series, the Cascade Express Marathon follows the same course as the Super Marathon. However, the Cascade Express Marathon takes place in September while the Super Marathon is in June. For many runners, the Cascade Express’ cooler average temperature is conducive to a more optimal running experience. 

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Leavenworth, one of the fastest marathons courses.

Leavenworth Marathon in Leavenworth, WA

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:32:11 (2009) and Women’s 2:55:49 (2022)
  • Net Downhill: 1,462 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 10.31% in 2023
  • Registration:

Taking place in Washington’s Bavarian village during the town’s annual Oktoberfest, this race has an electrifying atmosphere. After a quick downhill start down Icicle Canyon for the first 10 miles, runners enjoy a flat, scenic run around Icicle River and the lively town of Leavenworth. For some, the promise of a cold post-race pint at the festival is enough motivation to complete this race quickly.

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Tucson Marathon in Tucson, AZ

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:30:09 (2023) and Women’s 2:51:49 (2023)
  • Net Downhill: 2,205 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 15.16% in 2023
  • Registration:

Taking place in early December, the Tucson Marathon’s race day weather is ideal for optimal running performance. Paired with a net downhill route, this road race is one of the US’s fastest winter racing events. Given its beautiful weather and incredible course, we can see how Casey Neistat recently ran his first sub-3-hour marathon at this race. 

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Mesa Marathon one of the world's fastest marathons.

Mesa Marathon in Mesa, AZ

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:12:47 (2023) and Women’s 2:33:35 (2022)
  • Net Downhill: 1,154 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 22.22% in 2023
  • Registration:

You might be surprised to see a desert race on this list, but we promise the Mesa Marathon deserves a spot here. As the race begins at sunrise, runners enjoy Mesa’s comfortably cool February weather. Descending downhill for the first four miles, racers can bank up some time at the start. While there are a couple of uphill bursts in the middle, there’s plenty of time to pick up the pace during the final 15 downhill miles of this race.

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Ventura Marathon in Ventura, CA

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:21:42 (2023) and Women’s 2:51:11 (2022)
  • Net Downhill: 1,378 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 24.80% in 2023
  • Registration:

According to the Ventura Marathon’s slogan, this race has “just the right amount of downhill.” As runners follow paved paths on the Ojai Valley Trail and the Ventura River Trail, they steadily descend over 1,000 feet from start to finish. Given the gentle downhill nature of this course, many runners achieve new PRs and even qualify for Boston at this race.

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Sun Marathon in Santa Clara, UT

A low-key winter race, the Sun Marathon is another excellent option for Boston hopefuls. Its gentle downhill course with beautiful mountain views is to thank for many fast finishes. There are a couple of minor hills throughout the course, but they’re nothing compared to Boston’s Heartbreak Hill!

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Rogue Marathon in Medford, OR

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:29:32 (2021) and Women’s 2:53:33 (2022)
  • Net Downhill: 1,442 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 24.17% in 2023
  • Registration:

The Rogue Marathon is both fast and friendly, attracting a small group of dedicated runners. Without big crowds and congested course segments, racers are able to single-mindedly keep their eyes on the prize at this race. After a scenic start near Emigrant Lake, runners wind down country roads and descend the Bear Creek Path. Gradually dropping almost 1,500 feet in elevation along the way, this fast course is great for both beginners and experienced runners. 

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Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:16:41 (2010) and Women’s 2:39:47 (2014)
  • Net Downhill: 1,496 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 18.22% in 2023
  • Registration:

If you’re looking for a fast East Coast race, look no further. A Pennsylvania tradition for 27 years and counting, this race is beloved for its generous downhills in the first half and the motivating crowd support from start to finish. Runners who are strategic and save up their energy at the beginning are often rewarded with PRs after conquering a few hills near the finish line.

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Buckeye Marathon in Buckeye, AZ

The Buckeye Marathon offers the best of both worlds with its small-town race vibes and speedy course. Although the first few miles feature a couple of climbs, it’s smooth sailing for the rest of the race. Running mostly along a desert highway, runners enjoy lovely views of the White Tank Mountains for almost the entire 26.2 miles.

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Greenbrier River Trail Marathon in Cass, WV

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:42:28 (2023) and Women’s 3:20:00 (2023)
  • Net Downhill: 363 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 5.52% in 2023
  • Registration:

Whether you’re an experienced trail runner or not, there’s major potential for speed at the Greenbrier River Trail Marathon. This race also scores high in the scenery category. The average downhill grade of 1% along this route makes this one of the fastest trail marathons, and the breathtaking fall colors along the trail make it one of the most beautiful. 

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WhistleStop Marathon in Ashland, WI

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:28:41 (2007) and Women’s 2:47:19 (2012)
  • Net Downhill: 755 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 14.10% in 2023
  • Registration:

There’s something about running next to water that’s so inspiring, and the WhistleStop Marathon is a testament to that. While running beside the Iron River to the south shore of Lake Superior, runners are surrounded by incredible scenery. The gentle downhill of this course makes the miles sail by and helps many runners achieve their fastest marathon times yet.

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What Are the Fastest Marathons Internationally? 

On an international level, there are a handful of races that stand out for their incredible course records and insanely flat courses. It should come as no surprise that a few of these world-renowned races are Abbott World Marathon Majors

Since many of these races draw huge applicant pools and some of the world’s top runners, qualifying for them can be a challenge in and of itself. However, these races are iconic for a reason, and their fast courses might just be your best chance for a personal record. Without further ado, here are the fastest marathons internationally. 

Berlin Marathon in Berlin, Germany

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:01:09 (2022) and Women’s 2:11:53 (2023)
  • Net Downhill: 260 feet
  • Boston-Qualifying Percent: 18% in 2023
  • Registration:

With the women’s world record being broken here last year by Tigst Assefa, Berlin has been in the spotlight recently. This is nothing new, however, as the Berlin Marathon has been the place athletes go to chase world records for years. From 2003 to 2022 alone, the men’s world record was broken here eight times! But what makes Berlin so fast? On top of the inspiringly competitive atmosphere of the race, Berlin also has a super flat course, perfect race day weather, and high-quality pacers.  

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London Marathon in London, England

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:01:25 (2023) and Women’s 2:15:25 (2003)
  • Net Downhill: 531 feet
  • Registration:

Another arena for the elites, the London Marathon has also gained a global reputation for its fast course. Current world record holder Kelvin Kiptum is no stranger to this race, and he even holds the current course record here. During this citywide tour, runners enjoy fairly flat paved roads and amazing support from the massive crowds. With 48,000 finishers last year, this is one of the biggest in the world and also one of the fastest marathons.

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Valencia Marathon in Valencia, Spain

With one of the highest percentages of Boston-Qualifying times and an impressive average finish time of 3:28, Valencia is clearly fast. Although the race has a slight elevation gain, it’s almost unnoticeable as this city course feels completely flat. Racing around the city’s top attractions in the comfortable winter weather, runners are treated to ideal running conditions. 

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Dubai Marathon in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

While the Dubai Marathon doesn’t attract quite the pro field as the other international marathons on our list, it shouldn’t be overlooked. Featuring an incredibly flat loop course, runners follow a long, straight path for the majority of the race. With no hills and very few turns on this course, there’s a great opportunity for a fast finish at the Dubai Marathon.

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Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo, Japan

  • Course Record: Men’s 2:02:40 (2022) and Women’s 2:16:02 (2022)
  • Net Downhill: 322 feet
  • Registration:

Last but not least, we have the Tokyo Marathon. Although this race receives more than 300,000 applications each year, only about 38,000 racers are accepted. That being said, securing a spot for the Tokyo Marathon is no easy feat. But, if you are one of the lucky lottery winners, you’ll have the privilege of experiencing Tokyo’s highly sought-after flat course. This urban race is truly invigorating, and Tokyo is the perfect venue to chase a personal record at. 

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Honorable Mentions

The Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY. Don’t expect to run your personal best at the New York City Marathon, this will end up being the flattest New York course for a PR. The course is flat with the exception of a few small hills, great foliage, and swag.

Palm Beaches Marathon in West Palm Beach, FL. With an exceptionally flat course (88 feet of elevation gain and loss over the entire 26.2 miles). If you’re in Florida, ditch Miami and head to West Palm for this warm weather winter marathon. 

Mountains 2 Beach Marathon in Ventura, CA. If you’re not into the steep downhill of Big Bear in Redlands, Mountains 2 Beach might be for you. A whopping 28% of runners qualify for the Boston Marathon with a 1260 foot elevation loss over the fast marathon course.

Training to Run The Fastest Marathons

We hope that this list helps you select a fast marathon for your next race. However, a high-quality course alone won’t automatically guarantee you a PR. To run like an elite, you’ll need to train like one.

Whether you’re a first-timer, comeback runner, or experienced marathoner, our dynamic marathon training guides will give you the boost you need to run your fastest marathons yet

We also recommend the app Runna for additional running guidance. You can use the code HALFMARATHON for 2 weeks of premium training for free. Happy training! 

Where did you run your fastest marathons time? Let us know in the comments below!

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