Best Marathons In Michigan – Runner’s Choose Michigan’s Top Marathons

With the longest freshwater coastline in America, the Mitten State is known for its breathtaking scenery, which runners can soak up by racing one of the following top-rated marathons in the state. 

Runners Goal Lights

Borgess Medical Center Kalamazoo Marathon

A community focused event, the marathon supports local children’s charities and strives to be environmentally friendly through its “Green Strides” program. It also encourages locals to participate in the race by creating “excitement zones” along the course to cheer runners on. Click here to learn more.

The Course

The marathon criss-crosses across the city, showing off its neighborhoods, parks, trails, downtown mall, and Western Michigan University. There’s an interactive map available on its website, where runners can view different aid stations and more.

Flying Pig Elevation

Image Source: Kalamazoo Marathon

Reviews

“The crowd support was AMAZING and the aid stations were incredible. Most races you are lucky if you get a GU packet. This race had bacon, girl scout cookies, wafers, gummy bears, etc. plus all your traditional offerings. It was a hard course but well done!!! The community really welcomes runners and supports them. I would recommend this to everyone I know.” — J.R., Marathonguide.com Review

“Enthusiasm runs high all around the course. The race is small enough and the roads wide enough that running is always comfortable.” — D.Z., Marathonguide.com Review

Traverse City Track Club Bayshore Marathon

Located in this top small-town destination, the Bayshore Marathon shows off the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan and the city’s famous cherry trees and orchards. All net proceeds are donated to charities. Click here for more information.

The Course​

According to the race, it’s a flat, out-and-back course with the only “rise” located between miles 18 and 19, and shaded along most of the route. "Expect a fast and scenic race with some of the most breathtaking views available on any marathon course." 

Football Hall of Fame Marathon

Image Source: Bayshore Marathon

Reviews​

“It far exceeded my expectations for an out and back run. Good support from the spectators and genuinely nice runners made for an enjoyable experience. The race itself had an abundant amount of GU stations and the post-race food was the best I have ever had.” — J.C., Marathonguide.com Review

“It was great for the marathon to able to provide spectator shuttle buses so that my son and wife were able to see me along the course. I would HIGHLY recommend that people would choose to run this marathon. Especially, if you are shooting for all 50 states like I am.” — J.S., Marathonguide.com Review

Whitefish Point Marathon

This small-town marathon was designed by an avid marathoner to encourage others from around the country to visit the beautiful area. All participants receive a t-shirt and medal, but those who run a Boston qualifying time receive a special award. Click here for more information.

The Course​

The course is flat and fast, starting in Paradise and heading north along Lake Superior. Except for a few miles, the course is mostly shaded.

ONU Polar Bear Marathon

Reviews​

“The race director made every effort to know your name and make you feel welcome. Flat and scenic course with plenty of aid stations. Quiet peaceful race!!! Really enjoyed the experience.” — C. L., Marathonguide.com Review

“This marathon is first class all the way. The volunteers and hospitality are absolutely wonderful. The course was just great and very beautiful. I cant see any way to improve upon what you are doing at the moment. I love the shirts, finisher medal and the other goodies in the race bag.” — M.H., Marathonguide.com Review

Charlevoix Marathon

Located between Lake Michigan and Round Lake in northern Michigan, the Charlevoix Marathon has been named one of the nation’s Top 10 Small Town Marathons by Runner’s World magazine and a top running event in the U.S. by Serious Running magazine.

The Course​

According to the race website, this Boston Marathon qualifying course is primarily flat, fast and shaded with a few inclines, taking runners out and back along Lake Michigan. One highlight is a misting station at the 10K turn.

ONU Polar Bear Marathon

Image Source: Charlevoix Marathon

Reviews​

“It is a fair out & back course with an uphill stretch somewhere around mile 9, it's not a severe incline and should be manageable for anyone who trained a bit on gentle rolling hills. Weather was perfect, 55 & sunny, very well-shaded & scenic course.” — D.M., Marthonguide.com Review

“This was a well organized event, which honestly is the highest compliment a runner can give. I would recommend it to first timers and marathon veterans alike.” — Rick, Marathonguide.com Review

Old Farts Running Club Fallsburg Marathon - Lowell

The organizers of this marathon say it’s not your ordinary race and those who it run agree. If you’re up for a challenge, this trail marathon is considered to be one of the toughest — and most fun — in the state. Jackets are given to all marathoners. Click here to learn more.

The Course​

Runners will do two 13.1-mile loops covering some tough terrain — including a “hill so big you will feel your heart pounding out of your chest” and another hill named after Chuck Norris. Come prepared with your own water as aid stations will be limited.

ONU Polar Bear Marathon

Image Source: Old Farts Marathon

Reviews​

“Great swag, you pretty much get your entry fee back in swag. If you're soft — skip this race.” M.B., Marathonguide.com Review

“This is not your ordinary trail marathon, more like a 26.2 mile obstacle course. You might even lose a shoe in the mud pits. Best part is the race director. He did a great job at organizing and marking the course, so even I could not get lost.” — Ed, Marathonguide.com Review

Detroit Free Press Talmer Bank Marathon

Grab your passport for this one — the Detroit Marathon not only takes runners all over The Motor City but into Canada as well. Home to the largest city in Michigan, it was selected as one of the 10 best events for first-time marathoners by Rodale Publishing and two of its miles were selected as the “most scenic” and “most memorable” by Competitor magazine. Click here for more information.

The Course​

Aside from the Ambassador Bridge around mile 3 and coming out of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel near mile 8 — both considered big highlights of the course — the marathon is relatively flat. Other highlights include running in Windsor, around Belle Isle and along the RiverWalk.

ONU Polar Bear Marathon

Reviews​

“First-rate marathon! Well organized! The 2-minute waves worked well (I started in C coral). Running the first three miles prior to sunrise is a big plus! Running in Windsor, along the river, was picture perfect! Plenty of water stops along the entire course. Course is mostly flat. I ran negative splits all the way to mile 25. Plenty of spectators along the way! I will run this again!” — Steve, Marathonguide.com Review

“From the beautiful sunrise over Canada as we crossed the Ambassador Bridge, to actually running across the border, to the riverside run in Windsor, to the tunnel back into the United States, to English Village homes, to Belle Isle...what a wonderful experience. One of the most scenic marathons I've ever run! And the finishing medal is one of the most unique I've collected.” — T.K., Marathonguide.com Review

Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon

Marathoners looking to run a BQ — this one’s for you. According to the race, the flat, fast course helped nearly 20 percent of marathoners qualified for the Boston Marathon last fall. It also prides itself on being a “fun, highly personal, authentic race experience particularly for runners who value a well-organized, personal experience over the chaotic, crowded fields of ‘big city’ races through ‘concrete canyons.’”

The Course​

Marathoners will tour downtown Grand Rapids before running along the trails of Millenium Park. As shown by the chart below, elevation change is less than 100 feet.

ONU Polar Bear Marathon

Image Source: GrandRapidsMarathon.com

Reviews​

“One of the best run events I've been too. Great staff, aid stations stocked perfectly. Beautiful run course, took me places in Grand Rapids I'd never been in over 40 years of living or visiting in this area!” — Peter, Facebook.com Review

“This marathon is one of the best coordinated marathons on the planet! Volunteers are so friendly and great swag! The race is also the perfect size. Easy to get to and out of plus great food and beer at the finish. None of that cheap crap but actual craft beer and they don't run out. I love this race!” — Jan-Al, Facebook.com Review

Marquette Marathon

This point-to-point in the Upper Peninsula takes runners from Ishpeming to Negaunee to Marquette, and according to race organizers, will become known as one of the fastest Boston Marathon qualifying courses in the nation. More information will be available on the race website.

The Course​

In addition to beautiful scenery, which includes the Iron Ore Heritage Trail and Lake Superior, it has a net elevation drop of over 1,000 feet, making it a great course to PR or run a BQ.

Reviews​

“The course was VERY well marked with mile markers at every mile. Aid stations were plentiful and I was always able to get water when I needed it. The locals were very enthusiastic and excited to cheer the runners on even though the weather was less than ideal. The course itself has a nice gradual downhill section but you really need to be careful not to get carried away. My quads were COMPLETELY eaten up by the end of the race. Near the end there a couple of hills but nothing too bad.” — H.C., Marathonguide.com Review

“Very good organization from packet pickup to picking up the shuttle buses. The course had a bit of everything in it. It was flat enough to get a good time and hilly enough to be interesting. Although there were few spectators the ones there were enthusiastic. Volunteers were terrific. PLENTY of toilets along the course (always a plus).” — C.K., Marathonguide.com Review