Runners Pick The 20 Most Underrated Half Marathons

Here at Half Marathon Guide, we love highlighting the best half marathons not only around the US, but worldwide. 

Whether you’re looking for the best half marathon in each state, the best half marathons in the world, or the most scenic half marathons across the US, we’ve written a list for you. 

That being said, we know that the “best races” are often skewed to the races that draw the most participants. 

So we asked the question – what are the races that don’t receive as much recognition as they deserve? 

To discover the races that avid runners consider hidden gem races, we asked over 3 million runners from the subreddit r/Running for recommendations on races that might not be in the spotlight but are beloved by those who have run them. 

The 20 Most Underrated Half Marathons

Out of the 182+ comments on this thread, the following 20 races received the most praise. From small-town races with big-time support to off-the-beaten-path trail runs, these are the hidden gem races that check all of the boxes for a top race.

The Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. The Detroit Free Press Marathon bridge between the United States and Canada.

Detroit Free Press Half Marathon in Detroit, MI

Taking the gold with 77+ upvotes, the Detroit Free Press Marathon has earned the title of the number one hidden gem race thanks to its unmatched course. What makes it so unique, you ask? Well, it’s one of the only marathons that allows racers to run in two different countries during a single race, making it a truly international marathon. 

We can definitely see how the trek from the U.S. to Canada “over the Ambassador Bridge as the sun rises with tens of thousands of people who share a passion with you” would be absolutely magical.

Although the city of Detroit sometimes gets a bad reputation amongst runners (the city was ranked the 5th worst running city in America by ARRIS), the Detroit Free Press Marathon helps shed a positive light on the city. With unparalleled community support from start to finish, runners can feel the love from Detroit’s residents as they run along the riverfront and through the revitalized city center, Eastern Market, and other historical neighborhoods. Moreover, this course is almost completely flat! While we believe a trip to Detroit is worth it for a slice of the city’s signature square pizza alone, this race is the perfect excuse to visit a place you might not otherwise travel to.

October 20, 2024 Register | More Info

Garmin Kansas City Half Marathon in Kansas City, MO

Closely trailing first place with 69+ upvotes, the Garmin Kansas City Marathon is a locally loved race that seems to slide under the radar to most people outside of Missouri. However, since so many past racers have nothing but positive things to say about this race, that might not be the case for long. 

Although Kansas City (KC) isn’t usually considered a top travel destination, the city has a lot to offer. Luckily, much of that is on display during this race. Weaving through KC’s lively streets, runners experience dozens of the city’s intricate fountains along with tons of beautiful parks, museums, and neighborhoods. This fun course is well-supported and leaves runners pleasantly surprised by KC’s charm. Some runners are more so surprised by all the hills throughout the course, but the challenging terrain makes completing this race even more rewarding.

October 19, 2024 | Register | More Info

The scenery from the Crater Lake Rim Runs one of the best hidden gem half marathons in the United States.

Crater Lake Rim Runs Half Marathon in Crater Lake, OR

Crater Lake is truly a sight to be seen, and there’s no better way to see it than during the Crater Lake Rim Runs. This event’s incredible road races take runners around the perimeter of the US’s deepest lake, which is situated in Crater Lake National Park. In its 47th year, the Crater Lake Rim Runs are well-loved for being stunningly beautiful and uniquely challenging.

Running at altitudes ranging from 5,980 to 7,850 feet above sea level with steep uphills and downhills deters some runners from signing up for this race, which is one explanation as to why it’s a hidden gem. However, those brave enough to take on the challenge are rewarded with non-stop breathtaking views of Crater Lake. If you’re lucky enough to secure one of the 500 entry spots, you won’t regret running this race.

August 10, 2024 | Register | More Info

The landscape of the Bird In Hand Half Marathon in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Bird in Hand Half Marathon in Lancaster County, PA

There usually aren’t many reasons for visitors to travel to Pennsylvania’s Amish country of Lancaster County, but the Bird in Hand Half Marathon is an exception. Filled with rolling farmland and serene country roads, Lancaster possesses a unique charm that keeps runners returning to this race despite its secluded location. Although the race is quiet, it’s still entertaining thanks to the farm animals roaming along the roads, buggies passing by, and the one-room schoolhouse and other historical areas throughout the course.

Runners who make the trip out to Amish country for this race rave about the event’s smooth production and welcoming community support. Runners get a peek into Lancaster’s hard-working community, with Amish families manning the race events and supporting runners throughout the race. A race unlike the rest, the Bird in Hand Half Marathon should be on your bucket list.

September 7, 2024 | Register | More Info

Oak Barrel Half Marathon in Lynchburg, TN

The Oak Barrel Half Marathon takes place in a town that essentially has one road in and out, so it makes sense why this race is quite hidden. Part of this is by design, however, with race organizers acknowledging that the event is intentionally limited to 1,500 runners due to Lynchburg’s lack of parking and infrastructure. Despite its rural setting, this race is surprisingly highly sought-after. The event always sells out quickly, with the regular registration spots for the 2024 race filling up in just seven hours.

Between the stunning course and surplus of race swag, there’s a lot to love about this half marathon. Taking place in Tennessee’s rolling hillside, this rural race is a peaceful tour of Lynchburg’s country roads and farm fields. The few hills throughout the course help to keep things interesting, with Whiskey Hill standing out as the most notoriously challenging climb. Fortunately, efforts are generously rewarded with tons of post-race grub, swag, and festivities at the town’s main attraction, the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. “They gave shirts, hats, and socks last year and then told us to take some from previous years too,” shared one happy finisher. 

April 6, 2024 | Register | More Info

North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon in Port Angeles, WA

The North Olympic Discovery Marathon is a small-town race with big-time scenery. Set on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, this point-to-point race takes place on the paved Olympic Discovery Trail and offers beautiful ocean and mountain views.

Additionally, the race is very well organized with excellent support from volunteers and plenty of aid stations. With an entire weekend of races to choose from and walker-friendly events, the North Olympic Discovery Marathon has something for everyone! Some even say this race is Port Angeles’ best-kept secret. 

June 2, 2024 | Register | More Info

One City Half Marathon in Newport News, VA

If you’ve ever researched the best races to PR at, you may have heard of the One City Marathon. Set in the city of Newport News, this race is flat and fast- the perfect recipe for a speedy finish. With a high percentage of Boston qualifying times, this race’s subtle elevation changes and lack of crowds make it a favorite amongst Boston hopefuls. 

Nonetheless, the race also has a lot to offer to all participants, including first-time marathoners and even walkers. The course’s mix of urban roads, suburban stretches, and waterfront running make it a beautiful race. Despite being a smaller event, there’s still a lot of community support that helps propel runners along. Plus, the event always goes incredibly smoothly. One past runner said it best by simply stating, “One City is a great race! So well organized and a fast course.”

March 2, 2025 | Register

Fort Collins is home to one of the most underrated half marathons in the United States.

Fall Equinox Half Marathon in Fort Collins, CO

Limited to just 300 participants for the full marathon, we can see why runners are trying to keep the Fall Equinox Marathon a secret. However, with such stunning scenery and idyllic fall running conditions, it’s hard not to brag about this race. As runners pound the pavement along the Poudre River Canyon, they’re rewarded with jaw-dropping views of fall foliage and gushing whitewater rapids.

Although this marathon is extremely picturesque, it’s far from easy. The first several miles are extremely hilly until runners hit the peak around mile 8. From there, runners enjoy a gradual descent to the finish line. Some prospective participants may be discouraged by the difficulty of this course, but we promise the beautiful scenery makes it worth those brutal miles. However, if you’re looking for a less challenging race, we recommend the half marathon, which is entirely downhill and great for PRs!

September 22, 2024 Register | More Info

Millinocket Half Marathon in Millinocket, ME

Originally organized in 2015 as a way to bring business to a struggling mill town, the Millinocket Marathon has become one of the area’s most beloved traditions. What sets this race apart from all others is that it’s free. Yep, a free race! Instead of paying a registration fee, racers are encouraged to support local businesses and make donations to help cover race expenses.

A free race is enough to entice most participants. Therefore, many runners are pleasantly surprised when they discover just how well-organized and fun this race is. The whole community comes out for this event, with unofficial “aid stations” set up by locals. Runners can expect anything from pickle juice to Fireball shots to hot soup during this winter race. “What a riot! I’ve never laughed, danced, drank, and eaten so many cookies during a half marathon,” shared one past runner. 

December 7, 2024 | Register

Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon in Hampton, NH

Another hot answer from Redditors was the Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon, and we wholeheartedly agree! Thanks to the race’s electric running atmosphere and lively post-race festivities, the Smuttynose Rockfest Half Marathon also earned a spot on our 2024 list of the most fun half marathons!

Between performances from a band of Elvis impersonators and lively crowd support, this event feels more like a party than a race at times (in the best possible way, of course). The “Rocking After Party” is just as fun and features complimentary craft beers from the Smuttynose Brewing Co., clam chowder, lobster rolls, and live tunes. Plus, this race redefines fast and scenic with its flat course that takes runners around Hampton Beach. If you’re looking for a fall race to sign up for, this one should definitely be a contender!

Octoebr 6, 2024 Register | More Info

The Maui skyline home to the Kahakuloa Half Marathon.

Kahakuloa Half Marathon in Maui, HI

Given Hawaii’s remote location, we understand why this race is hidden. However, the Kahakuloa Half Marathon is a true gem that deserves some praise. “Small race, but it’s absolutely gorgeous,” shared a Maui local. Between the coastal views, the kind community who supports the race, and the fun finish with breakfast in a beautiful Hawaiian village, we can see why snagging one of the 200 available spots for this race is so exciting. 

June 1, 2024 | Register

The Lost Dutchman Half Marathon of the underrated half marathons that makes our list.

The Lost Dutchman Half Marathon in Apache Junction, AZ

The Mesa Marathon takes Arizona by storm each winter, but it seems to have some competition. “The Lost Dutchman Marathon in Phoenix’s East Valley is much better than the more popular Mesa Marathon, which is nearby and usually held the week prior,” shared one past participant. Other runners fully supported this statement and shared that they also opt for the Lost Dutchman over the Mesa Marathon each year. How come? Well, the sunrise start in the desert, the relatively flat course, and the smooth organization of the event are all big reasons that this race stands out amongst other Arizona races.

February 16, 2025 | Register | More Info

Cowtown Half Marathon in Fort Worth, TX

Everything is bigger in Texas, so it makes sense that races in larger Texan cities usually overshadow small ones. However, bigger doesn’t always equal better. According to several Redditors, the Cowtown Marathon is far superior to Texas’s big-city races. Running around the historic Fort Worth Stockyards and downtown Cowtown, you’ll feel the true spirit of Texas. Although this marathon is a bit hilly, the challenge keeps things exciting. Plus, the heavy sideline support helps to distract runners from the hills.  

February 23, 2025 | Register | More Info

New Bedford Half Marathon in New Bedford, MA

If you’re a serious runner, the New Bedford Half Marathon might ring a bell. “Certain races are known for always having good competition. That’s New Bedford,” shared one past runner. Since this Northeast race is ideally spaced out from the Boston Marathon, it’s known for attracting fast, serious runners. However, this race seems to be lesser-known amongst casual runners. Due to its smooth organization and excellent crowd support, the New Bedford Half Marathon gained lots of support as a hidden gem race.

March 2025 | Register | More Info

Top of Utah Half Marathon takes place in the Cache Valley Utah.

Top of Utah Half Marathon in Logan, UT

Peacefully nestled in the Cache Valley, the Top of Utah Half Marathon is an incredibly scenic run along a gently downhill course. It takes place on the same course that the Top of Utah Marathon is run on a few weeks later, so it’s an excellent training run for those looking to take on the full marathon. Thanks to its fast, breathtaking route, the Top of Utah Half Marathon earns the title of a top hidden gem race in our books.

August 24, 2025 | Register | More Info

Med Bow Rail Half Marathon in Laramie, WY

Limited to 200 runners total, the Med Bow Rail Marathon is definitely hidden. That being said, those who make their way to Wyoming for this small-town race are kindly rewarded with stunning views of Medicine Bow National Forest, which features peaceful mountain streams and lots of wildlife. Although this high-altitude race is run at around 9,000 feet above sea level, the course itself isn’t very hilly.

August 10, 2024 | Register | More Info

Yakima River Canyon Half Marathon in Yakima, WA

For a beautiful race with a small-town feel, look no further. The Yakima River Canyon Marathon is community-based, quiet, and scenic, making it a true hidden gem race. As runners snake around the Yakima River Canyon, they’re surrounded by breathtaking river vistas. Although the race is mostly downhill, there are two major hills that add a fun challenge to this race. 

April 2025 | Register

Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon in Birmingham, UK

Shifting to international races, the Birmingham Black Country Half Marathon seems to be the UK’s top hidden gem race with 54 upvotes supporting this response. During this point-to-point race, runners enjoy “an interesting perspective of a heavily populated and industrial region” while following a Victorian canal from Wolverhampton to Birmingham. If you ever find yourself on the other side of the pond, check out this race!

July 6, 2024 | Register

Bollington Brewing 3 Peaks Fell Race in Bollington, UK

Another rave-worthy race in the UK, the Bollington Brewing 3 Peaks Fell Race traverses three peaks, as its name suggests. Only a small number of runners take on this challenging 1,200-foot ascent, as is evident by the entry pool of 227 runners during last year’s race. However, that doesn’t stop this event from having a festive vibe. As the only race in the UK to start and finish at a brewery, the promise of a cold pint, fresh chili, and live music at the finish line help keep runners’ spirits high as they take on this demanding course.

September 10, 2024 | Register

SwissCity Half Marathon backdrop in Lucerne Swizerland.

SwissCity Lucerne Half Marathon in Lucerne, Switzerland

Last but not least, the SwissCity Lucerne Marathon earns a spot on our list for its magnificent views, epic crowd support, and phenomenal race production. Its course offers a variety of scenery, including segments around Lake Lucerne, downtown Lucerne, and through nearby suburban areas. The fast, flat course is “perfect for beginners and experienced folks alike.” With 7,000 runners, the SwissCity Marathon Lucerne is a beloved Swiss tradition. However, we believe this race deserves more international recognition. 

October 27, 2024 | Register | More Info

Preparing for Your Next Race

We hope that our list of hidden gem races helps you discover new, unique races to sign up for! 

If you’ve already registered for your next race, congratulations! Capitalize on your excitement and get an early start on training with one of our comprehensive training plans.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment