The 20 Most Popular Half Marathons in the United States

Every year thousands of runners across the US wake up before dawn, lace up their shoes, and head off to run a half marathon. Over the past decade, the 13.1-mile-long distance has become increasingly popular with nearly every major (and many minor) cities hosting a race through their streets. Half marathons come in all shapes and sizes. There’s trail races through rural forest stretches to massive inner-city competitions weaving in between skyscrapers. Thus, the number of entrants vary drastically from race to race. A handful of halves, however, have amassed a following so large they have grown to accommodate fields nearing or larger than 10,000 runners. What follows is a list of the twenty most popular half marathons in the United States, ranked by how many runners completed the 13.1 in 2022.

If you’re looking for a big race with big crowds to keep you motivated, you can’t go wrong by picking one of the halves on this list. And with races in all four seasons and all across the US, there is something here for everyone. Racers will pass famous landmarks, world class musical acts, and dozens of port-a-johns on their way to a coveted medal. Each of these is a bucket list race, perhaps you should try all twenty? 

The United Airlines NYC Half Marathon is one of the most popular half marathons in the country.

United Airlines NYC Half

The largest half marathon in the United States is New York City’s marquee half, which makes total sense. Its sister race, the NYC Marathon, holds the world record for marathon with the largest field. While the 26.2 length held every November traces a course through all five of New York’s boroughs. The half has an arguably glitzier route.

Starting in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, runners cruise through downtown Brooklyn, over the Manhattan Bridge with its incredible view of the New York skyline, and up the East River. Then the course turns into midtown. It sends runners right through the heart of Times Square, past the Plaza Hotel, and to a finish in the heart of Central Park. While it’s more difficult to enter than others on this list, it’s well worth the extra effort. The United Airlines NYC Half Marathon is one of the most popular half marathons in the country.

Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas is the second of the most popular half marathons in the United States.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas

The Rock ‘n’ Roll series of races have made quite a name for themselves by hosting fun, exciting marathons and halves with a party atmosphere (or as much of a party atmosphere as possible with knee braces and taped nipples). It makes total sense then that their most popular race would take place in Vegas, the party capital of the US. In addition to concerts before, during, and after the race, entrants also get access to exclusive after parties at some of Sin City’s hottest clubs. To take advantage of the lights on the Vegas strip (and avoid the desert heat), this race is also run in the evening making it all the more one-of-a-kind. This is the second of the most popular half marathons in the United States.

RBC Brooklyn Half Marathon - the second of the most popular half marathons in Brooklyn.

RBC Brooklyn Half Marathon

The first of a pair of spring dueling half marathons in Brooklyn! The RBC Brooklyn Half, the slightly larger of the two, is hosted by New York Road Runners, the same organization that puts on the NYC Marathon and the NYC Half. Like the NYC Half, this race also starts in Prospect Park, but rather than venture towards Manhattan, it travels in the opposite direction, heading deeper into Brooklyn.

Part of the 5 Borough Series, it gives runners an in depth look at areas of New York most tourists (and plenty of residents) don’t often travel to. This half also concludes on the Coney Island Boardwalk, the perfect place to go for a quick post-run dip in the Atlantic Ocean or scarf down a few hot dogs from Nathans. Plus a ride on the rickety Cyclone roller coaster is basically the equivalent of a post-race massage chair. The second of the most popular half marathons in Brooklyn.


NYCRUNS Brooklyn Half Marathon - the third of the most popular half marathons in Brooklyn.

NYCRUNS Brooklyn Half Marathon

Brooklyn’s other premiere half is hosted by NYCRUNS and spends its time in the western sections of Brooklyn closer to Manhattan. Starting in North Brooklyn, it winds its way south passing under all three of the borough’s iconic bridges over the East River. It then pivots inward and rather than starting in Prospect Park, it ends there. This race is certainly more convenient for most runners and the course is a bit more interesting as it weaves around. You will, however, have to trade the coney dogs for brunch in Park Slope, and I wouldn’t advise taking a dip in any body of water in Prospect Park. The third of the most popular half marathons in Brooklyn.

The San Diego Rock 'n' Roll is California's most popular half marathons.

San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

It’s hard to find a more beautiful place to run than San Diego, which is probably why their half is the second most popular of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. Starting in the renowned Balboa Park, the half curves through several of the city’s most historic neighborhoods before returning to cut through Balboa again and end downtown. As with all Rock ‘n’ Roll races, the finish area doubles as a concert, with a series of musicians playing while runners can eat snacks and sip beer with their medals proudly around their necks. If you’re looking for a summer half, San Diego is also a great choice to do its temperate climate. The San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll is California’s most popular half marathons.

Not only one of the most popular half marathons, but like the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas race, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Oneamerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon

Indianapolis is now home to not one, but two iconic spring races. The first of course is the Indy 500, the 500-mile-long car race that watches the world’s most skilled Indy Car drivers take laps of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The newer race, the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon is a half-marathon that gives runners the chance to do a lap of the famed race track. Swapping tires for sneakers (and going ridiculously slower) racers will get up close and personal to where all the pitstop, car flip, and milk guzzling action will take place only a few weeks later. Fingers crossed that the weather is good and you won’t get a dreaded yellow flag. Not only one of the most popular half marathons, but like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas race, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Disney’s Princess Half Marathon

Like Rock ‘n’ Roll, runDisney also hosts a number of highly anticipated halves each year. Their most popular of 2022 was the princess-themed half marathon they hosted in February. The Princess Half is VERY pro-costume so if you’ve got a tutu, tiara, or pair of glass running sneakers, bring ‘em. (On second thought, maybe not the glass sneakers). The magical race starts near EPCOT, runs through Magic Kingdom and then finishes back by the giant globe. As with all Disney races, there are photo ops galore, with plenty of characters lining the course. The MUST GET photo, however, is with the castle behind you. I mean, if you aren’t going to get a picture with the Cinderella Castle, then what is the point of running the Princess Half in the first place?

Disney World Half Marathon

Virtually the same size as the Princess Half, and with a very similar course, the original Disney Half Marathon is nearly indistinguishable from its sister race. The two main differences are 1) it’s not explicitly princess themed, although you do run through Cinderella’s Castle, and there will certainly be runners dressed as princesses participating, and 2) it takes place on Disney’s Marathon Weekend. That means Disney World will be bursting with opportunities to meet other runners and participate in running activities. Those brave enough can attempt the Dopey Challenge which involves running a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon on four consecutive days.

St. Jude Rock 'n' Roll Nashville - one of the most popular half marathons in the midwest. 

St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville

If any city was going to have a music-themed half marathon, it makes sense that it would be Nashville or Music City, USA as it’s known. Like the other Rock ‘n’ Roll races, the Nashville event also includes concerts before, during, and after the race, but this time there’s a bit of a country twist to the acts. Starting the race downtown and trotting past the numerous Honky Tonks on Broadway just feels right, and the half weaves through some historic neighborhoods before returning downtown and sending runners over the Cumberland River to the finish. Then it’s a party with guitars and Nashville hot chicken. One of the most popular half marathons in the midwest. 

Aramco Half Marathon

Perhaps the best thing about Houston’s largest half marathon is just how flat it is. While many races boast about being “mostly flat” with “just a few rolling hills,” the Aramco Half’s total elevation change is only 20 feet from the highest to lowest parts of the course. That means that if you’re looking for a fast course or an easy course, this is a great choice. Avoid pounding your knees on a steep downhill or groaning through a nasty uphill slog. The Houston half cruises along AND since it usually falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you’ll get to enjoy an extra day to recover before you head back to work. The most popular half marathons in Texas.

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon

The fourth (and certainly not last) Rock ‘n’ Roll race to feature on this list is the one hosted in Alamo City aka San Antonio. The winter race does a nice loop of the city before ending a few blocks from where it begins. While the race itself doesn’t pass directly in front of the Alamo itself, you’ll start and finish within blocks of the historic mission so you can get plenty of photos there with your medal after. And if that wasn’t great enough, you’ll also be near the city’s famed river walk so you can head over there for a few celebratory drinks. Enough tequila, and perhaps you won’t “remember the Alamo” after all. 

Philadelphia Half Marathon

“Hey Siri! Play the soundtrack for Rocky.” If you’re going to run a race in Philadelphia (preferably clad in a gray on gray sweat suit), then you’ve got to make a running playlist full of Rocky songs. The Philadelphia Half Marathon is a sightseer’s dream race. As you zig zag around the city, you’ll run past Independence Hall, the Delaware River (hi New Jersey), the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Schuylkill River, which you need to pronounce with a Philly. Plus the race finishes near the Rocky Balboa statue and the steps he famously ran up while training, so you’ve got photo ops galore. 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington DC

Since DC’s massive Marine Corps Marathon doesn’t include a half-marathon option, the biggest half in the nation’s capital is Rock ‘n’ Roll’s DC race. Similar to the Philadelphia Half, this race is not lacking in historical attractions along the race course. Starting near the Washington Monument on the National Mall, runners will pass by The White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Potomac River before doing a big loop back to the finish line in front of the nation’s Capitol. The whole race won’t be nearly as grueling as running for office.

Lifetime Miami Half Marathon

Who wants to go island hopping? The Miami Half is a dream for anyone who loves sunshine and the beach. Set in downtown Miami, the race runs across a series of bridges to and from Miami Beach before taking a nice long stroll along the city’s waterfront. The course is lined with well wishers and palm trees as runners cruise to the finish on what is also a very flat course. This race can be a bit hot though, so make sure to drink plenty of water at the aid stations, especially if it’s on a hot year. And don’t forget to bring sunscreen.

Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Our final Rock ‘n’ Roll Half on the list takes place in the Arizona desert outside Phoenix, Arizona. While running a race in a desert may seem daunting, it can’t be that bad if 9,000 people are doing it and there’s a party at the end. Plus as Arizonians always say “it’s a dry heat.” The race begins and ends in Tempe near the Arizona State University campus before crossing the river into a scenic section of Scottsdale. It then loops back through the Sonoran Desert landscape before crossing back over into Tempe and approaching the finish line. Watching the beautiful sunrise and taking home a shiny new medal should be plenty of motivation to keep going.

Pittsburgh Half Marathon

While running in Pittsburgh usually involves lots of agonizing hill climbs, the creators of the Pittsburgh Half have somehow managed to create a 13.1-mile-long course that stays relatively flat (something that cannot be said for the full version). Starting downton, the race gives you a tour of Pittsburgh’s many eclectic neighborhoods, taking you through the Strip District, the North Shore, and the South Side before finishing blocks from where you started. You’ll get plenty of great views of the city’s skyline and cross multiple bridges as you run along it’s three rivers. Afterwards you can head over to Primanti Brothers for a sandwich, Eat n Park for some cookies, or Sheetz for mozz sticks. If you’re a Wawa family, we don’t want to hear about it.

St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon

  • Location: Memphis, TN 

The 2023 Memphis Half is a bit mysterious at the moment. While the race date has been set, the event organizers are currently working on an overhaul of the course meaning that 2023’s runners will be embarking on a journey no one has ever run before. The race, proceeds of which go to the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, typically crisscrosses the Tennessee city along the Mississippi River, but where will the new course take runners? Perhaps across into Arkansas? Perhaps to the Memphis Zoo? If they really started on the outskirts of town, they could probably get runners to Mississippi itself. Keep your eyes peeled because big news could be coming any day now. 

Long Beach Half Marathon

In some of the least surprising news in the history of racing, those who sign up to run the Long Beach Half Marathon will spend much of their time running along the aforementioned Long Beach. The half, which takes place every year in a southern suburb of Los Angeles, is the west coast’s answer to the Miami Half. It is also a flat, easy course that provides plenty of gorgeous views while leading its runners to the finish line. A hat and some SPF 50 are a must for this run, but thanks to the temperate California weather, even when it’s sunny, it never gets too hot.

Austin Half Marathon

Austin natives may say “Keep Austin weird” but thankfully their half marathon isn’t doing anything that wild and outlandish. The race, which starts and ends downtown near the Texas State Capitol, ventures out into Austin’s diverse neighborhoods. The Austin Half is known for especially exuberant fans, so don’t be surprised to find houses along the course hosting parties in their front yard and offering runners a shot of tequila. While I might skip the mid-run booze, if you have a friend wait in line at Franklin Barbecue when you start the race, you might be just in time to grab a sandwich when you finish.


Flying Pig Half Marathon

No, the Flying Pig Half Marathon doesn’t really have anything to do with flying pigs (aside from a statue and Cincinnati’s history of being a pork producing city), but yes, your half marathon dreams can come true here. And if it’s creative name signifies anything about the race it’s how inventive it is. The course begins and ends in Ohio but crosses the Ohio River into Kentucky in the middle. The race organizers also offer Skyline Chili-themed medals for those who run a combination of the weekend’s races including the 5K, 10K, and Marathon. While Cincinnati isn’t necessarily a small town, this half has all the small town charm in all the best ways. 

What are the most popular half marathons?

While the United Airlines NYC Half has the most registrations with over 22,000 runners, there are half marathons like Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota that sell out of their limited spots every year.

Calendar of the Most Popular Half Marathons the United States

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