“Running gives freedom. When you run you can determine your own tempo. You can choose your own course and think whatever you want. Nobody tells you what to do.” — Nina Kuscick, the first official female winner (1972) of the Boston Marathon
(Editor’s note: There are (of course) many other very flat and fast races across the country; these are just a sampling of some of the flattest and fastest ones we’ve found. We’ll update this post with more as we find them.)
This race — which bills itself as the “easiest marathon and half marathon in America” — runs the C&O Canal Towpath trail, alongside the 184-mile-long Chesapeake & Ohio Canal that stretches all the way from the tidal basin in Washington to the mountains of western Maryland.
Sunday, May 6, 2018 • Washington, DC
This women’s half marathon is flat, flat, flat! The start/finish line is at the Gold Bar campground and racers will run alongside the Colorado river for the majority of the course. Runners will beat the heat with a 6:30 AM start and are encouraged to bring their swimsuits for a post-race dip in the river.
Saturday, June 2, 2018 • Moab, UT
More than 2,000 runners come out to compete each year in this race, billed as one of the West Coast’s flattest and fastest running events, through the wilderness of Sauvie Island, a 12,000+ acre island just to the northwest of Portland.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018 • Portland, OR
If you’re ready for an almost all-downhill run along a pair of riverside trails in the Seattle area, this point-to-point route that starts in Olallie State Park and finishes in nearby North Bend is for you.
Sunday, August 26, 2018 • North Bend, WA
With a net elevation of zero, this half marathon is the definition of flat and fast. The mostly wooded course doesn’t lend itself to spectators, but who has time for crazy signs when you are running so fast?
Saturday, September 8, 2018 • Waterloo, IA
Nestled among the berry farms, tulip fields and waterfront communities of Washington State’s Skagit Valley, Burlington plays host each fall to this fast and flat races that takes runners on an out-and-back course through beautiful rural countryside.
Sunday, September 9, 2018 • Burlington, WA
This race along Block Island Sound is not only pretty flat and fast, but it’s gorgeous too. You’ll run past rocky coastlines, Victorian summer homes, oceanfront marshes and beautiful cottages. There are a few tiny elevation changes, but runners never go above 50 feet above sea level in elevation anywhere along the route.
Sunday, September 9, 2018 • Westerly, RI
Follow the tree-lined Luce Line Trail, a converted railroad whose history dates back more than a century, at this flat race here in this small city along the Crow River in southern Minnesota, just over an hour’s drive from downtown Minneapolis.
Saturday, September 15, 2018 • Hutchinson, MN
The flat, fast terrain of Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the setting for this race, which takes runners past some of the most important historical sights in U.S. aviation history.
Saturday, September 15, 2018 • Wright-Patterson AFB, OH
It’s not completely pancake flat, but the elevation changes at this race are quite minimal along the shady town streets and bike paths along the Fox River. It’s also a favorite for marathoners looking to qualify for Boston and for half marathoners looking to earn a PR.
Sunday, September 16, 2018 • St. Charles, IL
Known among locals as a great training run for November’s New York City Marathon, this flat and fast race runs through the streets of Jersey City and offers plentiful views of the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan and Ellis Island.
Sunday, September 16, 2018 • Jersey City, NJ
Run along the Shore Road Promenade that looks out onto the waters of New York’s Upper Bay from Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood, this course is considered an excellent one for setting a personal record (PR) time.
Saturday, October 6, 2018 • Brooklyn, NY
You’ll take an out-and-back tour of one of Georgia’s most beautiful “Golden Isles” at this race, where moss-draped oak trees tower over grassy lawns and 65 percent of the island is kept in its natural, undeveloped state.
Saturday, October 6, 2018 • Jekyll Island, GA
There is a small amount of elevation gain on the final miles of the course, but the first nine miles are flat, flat, flat! You’ll be encouraged by scores of spectators with cowbells as runners will fly through this loop course.
Sunday, October 7, 2018 • St. Charles, MO
Set for its fifth annual running along the fast (and very flat) crushed limestone and dirt trails that make up the Three Eagle Trail, built on an old railroad here in northern Wisconsin, this race offers up a gentle course and gorgeous fall foliage.
Saturday, October 13, 2018 • Eagle River, WI
With a course that features two and a half miles of running on the sands of Florida’s Cocoa Beach itself, this race offers a fast, flat route that’s open to both runners and walkers, and a chance to run with waves crashing over your shoulder.
Sunday, October 14, 2018 • Cocoa Beach, FL
With just 138 feet of elevation change, the Spirit of Survival 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.
Sunday, October 14, 2018 • Lawton, OK
Well-known as one of the fastest and flattest running events in the northeast — and a popular qualifier for the Boston Marathon — this half marathon follows a double-loop course mostly along the banks of the Merrimack River.
Sunday, October 21, 2018 • Lowell, MA
With a few miles of oceanfront running and only a few turns over 13.1 miles, this race lives up to its promise of being fast and flat. The point-to-point pancake flat course is actually almost a loop and runners finish just steps away from the ocean.
Sunday, October 21, 2018 • Myrtle Beach, SC
Runners flock to Indianapolis in the fall for a half marathon on a nearly flat course — it has gentle hills throughout, but hardly noticeable. The loop course travels along the same route as the full until just past the midpoint and then racers begin their journey back towards the start/finish line.
Saturday, November 3, 2018 • Indianapolis, IN
Thanks to its location along the Trinity River in Dallas, virtually the entire course is as flat as the Texas plains — the race starts at just over 400 feet above sea level, and never rises higher than about 430 feet.
Saturday, November 10, 2018 • Dallas, TX
Limited to a few hundred participants, this race draws runners looking to run fast, and you’ll 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.
Saturday, November 17, 2018 • Cotter, AR
You’ll get your chance to run through one of the East Coast’s most exclusive resorts when you run this pancake-flat course along its famed Sea Island Drive, where live oaks hang over the roads and perfectly manicured lawns lead up to luxurious beachfront homes.
Saturday, December 1, 2018 • Sea Island, GA
There isn’t usually much reason to visit the beach in December, but the Rehoboth Beach Half is definitely a great one. The weather is cool, the course is flat, and PRs are definitely likely. Sign up early because this small race sells out quickly.
Saturday, December 8, 2018 • Rehoboth Beach, DE
Run along Florida’s famed highway A1A, this small, friendly race unfolds along the sidewalks that line the highway and features views of the ocean and the intracoastal waterway for long stretches throughout.
Monday, December 31, 2018 • Delray Beach, FL
Along this fast, flat and scenic route, runners have views of the ocean for virtually the entire course, and pass by local landmarks like famed author Ernest Hemingway’s house and the southernmost point in the United States.
Sunday, January 20, 2019 • Key West, FL
Run mostly along the beaches of Southern California’s Pacific Coast Highway, this half is considered one of the best races of its kind in the country, where runners experience an elevation change of no more than 100 feet over the entire 13.1 miles.
Sunday, February 3, 2019 • Huntington Beach, CA