It starts with a jog that speeds up to a run. Next comes the 5K, 10K and then before you know it, you are signing up and training for your first marathon. Your preparation takes months of discipline, dedication and sacrifices over grueling and tiring long days, but in the end you wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. You compete. You feel the glory of finishing what you set out to accomplish. And now you can check one more item off your bucket list. Or perhaps your first marathon is the start of many. Kudos to you either way!

When it comes to finding a marathon to compete in, there is no shortage of offered races in the United States. From the Big Sur Train and Whidbey Island Marathons in the West to the Mardi Gras and Lower Potomac River Marathons in the East, marathoners have hundreds of races to choose from each and every year. The decision typically boils down to location, timing and personal preferences.

For marathon runners wanting a wonderful experience with the course, events and race management, below is my list of the top U.S. marathons, listed chronically by the next upcoming race dates. Any of these marathons will make your training and tireless perseverance all the worthwhile.

Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Race Date: October 7, 2012
Runners: 45,000+
Course Overview: Known for being fast and flat, this course offers a scenic tour of Chicago and its lively neighborhoods, as well as a convenient start and finish in beautiful Grant Park, attracting attracts both elite athletes and amateurs alike.
Certification: USATF
Contact: Bank of America Chicago Marathon, 135 South LaSalle Street, Suite 1160, MC: IL4-135-11-61, Chicago, IL 60603; phone 312-904-9800; e-mail office@chicagomarathon.com

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
Race Date: October 7, 2012
Runners: 8,000+
Course Overview: Dubbed the “Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America®,” the Twin Cities marathon is full of crowd support and exceptional scenery, starting at the Metrodome in Minneapolis and finishing at the state capitol.
Contact: Twin Cities In Motion, 2635 University Avenue West, Suite 190, Paul, MN 55114; phone 651-289-7700; email info@tcmevents.org

Portland Marathon
Race Date: October 7, 2012
Runners: 8,000+
Course Overview: Three loop marathon with a fair amount of small hills and one large one at mile 17 well organized and caters to the runner, a large amount of spectators and lots of music a fun one to run.
Contact: The Portland Marathon House, 1888 SW Madison, Portland, OR 97205; phone 503-226-1111; email info@portlandmarathon.org

ING New York City Marathon
Race Date: November 4, 2012
Runners: 33,000+
Course Overview:
The course takes marathoners through the streets of New York’s five boroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan and finishing up in Central Park, uniting dozens of culturally diverse neighborhoods.
Certification: USATF
Contact: New York Road Runners Club, 9 East 89th St, New York, NY 10128; phone 212-423-2249; e-mail marathonmailer@nyrr.org

Marine Corps Marathon
Race Date: October 28, 20132
Runners: 21,000+
Certification: USATF
Course Overview: The course runs on both sides of the Potomac, along the Mall, through Georgetown, past nearly every memorial in town, and back in a large loop to the Marine Corps’ Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery.
Marine Corps Marathon, PO Box 188 Quantico, VA 22134; phone 800-RUN-USMC; email marine.marathon@usmc.mil

Honolulu Marathon
Race Date: December 9, 2012
Runners: 20,000+
Course Overview: Runners start on Ala Moana Boulevard, Hawaiian for “path by the ocean,” go west along the waterfront toward downtown Honolulu, loop through downtown and head east through Waikiki  before ending their hardships in Kapiolani Park.
Certification: USATF
Contact: Honolulu Marathon Office,3435 Waialae Avenue, Suite 200, Honolulu, HI 96816; phone 808-734-7200; email info@honolulumarathon.org

Walt Disney World Marathon
Race Date: January 13, 2013
Runners: 15,000+
Course Overview: An entertaining run through all four parks, staring at Epcot, on to the Magic Kingdom, then to Animal Kingdom before finishing in Hollywood Studios with Disney characters cheering along the way.
Certification: USATF
Contact: Run Disney, P.O. Box 10000, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830; phone407-938-3398; email rundisney@email.mydisneyparks.com

Los Angeles Marathon
Race Date: March 17, 2013
Runners: 14,000+
Course Overview: Full of glitz, glamour and maybe even paparazzi, the LA Marathon is more than a race; it’s a total community effort with support and encouragement at every turn of over 70 points of entertainment along the course and famous landmarks at every mile.
Contact: LA Marathon LLC, 871 Figueroa Terrace, Los Angeles, CA 90012; phone 213-542-3000; email info@lamarathon.com

117th Boston Marathon
Race Date: April 15, 2013
Runners: 22,000+
Course Overview: Considered to be one of the more difficult marathon courses due to the Newton hills, near Boston College, the race runs through eight Massachusetts cities and towns: Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston on Patriot’s Day every year.
Contact: Boston Athletic Association, 40 Trinity Place, 4th Floor Boston, MA 02116; phone 617-236-1652 e-mail registration@baa.org

Rock N’ Roll San Diego Marathon
Race Date: June 3, 2013
Runners: 13,000+
Course Overview: Featuring ideal running temperatures in a scenic coastal setting on a course that is as flat and festive as they come with upwards of over 40 bands play live music on 26 stages and,000 cheerleaders encourage runners to the finish line.
Certification: USATF
Contact: Competitor Group, 9477 Waples Street, Suite 150, San Diego, CA 92121; phone: 858-450-6510; email info@competitorgroup.com

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.