Best Marathons In Minnesota – Runner’s Choose Minnesota’s Top Marathons
Gorgeous courses await those in the Land of 1,000 Lakes. From a challenging trail course up north to a tour through the Twin Cities, here are the top marathons to check out in Minnesota.
Grandma's Marathon - Duluth
Even with a registration cap of 8,500, the Two Harbors-to-Duluth race still sells out six months in advance, which shows just how popular it is. Named after its original sponsor, Grandma’s Restaurant, in 1977, today the marathon is considered one of the top races in the Midwest for its scenic course to Lake Superior. Click here for more information.
The course runs along Highway 61 from just outside Two Harbors to Canal Park in Duluth. According to the race, it’s ideal for first-time marathoners as the terrain is relatively flat with some gently rolling hills. It notes a larger incline is just before mile 22.
Image Source: Grandma's Marathon
“The volunteers and crowds are top notch, as are the medical staff, military personnel and just about everyone else I came into contact with. They were great and wanted to make sure I was doing well (I ended up walking the second half). Other runners are friendly and I felt like this is a place I want to come back to.” — Jonathan, Yelp.com Review
“Once you hit the city of Duluth, the crowds really picked up and the cheering on Superior Street rivaled any marathon or race for that matter I've ever run. It was almost deafening.” — S.H., Marathonguide.com Review
The Mankato Marathon says it’s the “Midwest’s boldest race, showcasing a dynamic course and determined runners.” Marathoners receive a high-quality long-sleeve technical shirt when they finish the race, in addition to a medal and goodie bag. Click here to learn more.
Runners will go through vast countryside in the beginning and into the Minnesota River Valley. The marathon has cheer zones along the valley to help runners stay motivated.
Image Source: Mankato Marathon
“A flat course that started in town and headed out to the country then back into town for the finish. Great shaded, paved trails for a majority of it. Plenty of water stops and porta potties along the way. Definitely would recommend this race!” — S.E., Marathonguide.com Review
“The course was beautiful, the organization was excellent, the crowds were amazing, the pace team was fun and engaging, and the runners were great. I had a wonderful time and would recommend the race to others without hesitation.” — J.S., Marathonguide.com Review
Zoom! Yah! Yah! Indoor Marathon - Northfield
The oldest indoor marathon in the country, Zoom! Yah! Yah! is touted for its camaraderie and pre-race dinner. Other highlights include having a personal lap counter/split taker, music played the whole race and a 600 aid stations. Visit the Zoom! Yah! Yah! website for more info.
Located at St. Olaf’s Tostrud Field House running track, the course is kept at a constant 56-64 degrees while runners complete their 150 laps for 26.21 miles. Course direction is changed every half hour.
“The ZYY is everything it promises to be in the Race Directors claim. It’s flat, the weather conditions are ideal, there are 600 aid stations (guaranteed to provide something of your liking, since you supply it). Between the lap counters and the 40-plus other runners who you will see for your entire race, the course support is unrivaled. Be sure to get to Northfield the night before so you can partake in what is undoubtedly the best pre-race meal on the marathon circuit.” — R.T. Marathonguide.com Review
“Variety is not something that should be expected with this marathon...and that's exactly what you get. It takes a special kind of focus to grind through the 150 laps, but fortunately, you're not alone out there. Your personal lap counter (provided by the St. Olaf Women's Track team) will energetically cheer you on and keep track of the 150 laps you've completed. Spectators, even those who aren't related to you in any way shape or form, will cheer you on. But mostly, it's you and the other 40-odd runners. Y'all get to know each other very well over the course of the day, with encouragement and motivation from each of them. They're the ones who make the race awesome.” — A.H., Marathonguide.com Review
Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon - St. Joseph
As the name suggests, the marathon is almost entirely run on the Lake Wobegon Trail. It’s organized by the St. Cloud River Runners, whose goal is to “provide you with the swag, food and other fringe benefits equal to or better than most large races with the convenience, personal attention, friendliness and value of a small race.”
The Lake Wobegon Trail is a 10-foot wide asphalt bike trail on a former railroad track. The course is primarily rural and passes through small towns. According to the race website, the trail is smooth, has no cant and there’s very little elevation change.
Image Source: Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon
“For a small town marathon the race directors do a great job of making everyone feel like they are all big time winners. The course is fast and flat with absolutely beautiful scenery all along the paved trail. The cheering crowds were surprisingly large for a small marathon and the massages, awards, and food at the end rival some bigger marathons I have run. If you want a nice getaway and great time in speed and the experience I would recommend this marathon.” — Theresa, Marathonguide.com Review
“This race is the perfect size; small but not tiny. Beautiful fast course through countryside and small towns; minimal road crossings. It's also a great value, especially for the high quality bag, and great looking shirts and medals.” — T.V. Marathonguide.com Review
Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon - Duluth
Formerly known as the Half Voyageur, the trail marathon was renamed in honor of its founder, ultramarathoner Eugene Curnow. The point-to-point race takes runners over rough woodland trails from Duluth to Carlton. Marathoners who volunteer at the Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultra can enter this race for just $10. Click here for more information.
If you’re looking for something flat, this race isn’t for you. In addition to varying elevation, some parts are very technical, such as mossy rocks, roots and boulder fields.
“This is a difficult course with a lot of up and down mainly through woods on trails. It's a real adventure with ever changing sections. One minute you are on a bike path then into the woods, forge a stream, scramble up a mud bank, run up a tough power line clear cut. In another part we came off a ridge down a rope line. So it is a very cool course but not for the faint of heart. It's nice to get off the roads. Organization and volunteers were great.” — J.S., Marathonguide.com Review
“Most gratifying test that I have ever completed. Great, low-budget, intense workout that requires both mental alertness and physical fortitude. Depending on the year/course, you will either have a faster course with hills or a slower course with hills. Loved it. Got wet, dirty, and a little bloody. Well worth the price.” — G.G., Marathonguide.com Review
Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon
The marathon gets its name from the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues, which stand at Third St. and Bemidji Ave. in Bemidji. The race organizers say the event “harnesses the beautiful sights and views around the lakes” of the city. The marathon is capped at 225 runners. Click here to learn more.
Image Source: Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon
According to the race website, the course is a scenic, fairly flat route on paved trails and roads. Most of the course is partially shaded and there are some open areas along the lakeshore. The course is a certified Boston qualifier.
“I was attracted to this marathon because it looked like a great time to see the fall foliage and it appeared to be a fast course. I wasn't disappointed in either aspect. The trail was entirely paved, with just one small insignificant hill, and extremely flat and smooth pavement.” — Tim, Marathonguide.com Review
“There were lots of volunteers at each water stop so there was no congestion anywhere on the course. I enjoyed seeing the elite half-marathoners pass us at about mile 5 or 6, as they started 20 minutes later. The course was beautiful — the half-marathoners missed the nicest 6-mile stretch. I highly recommend this course for both beginners and PR/BQ runners.” — K.D., Marathonguide.com Review
Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
Claiming to be the “Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America,” the Medtronic Twin Cities starts in downtown Minneapolis and finishes at the Minnesota State Capitol in Saint Paul, winding around four lakes and along both sides of the Mississippi River. Participants receive a Brooks long-sleeve technical shirt, Summit Beer, free hot chicken or veggie broth and Caribou Coffee at the 27th mile festivities. A special gift surprise is included at packet pick-up.
The point-to-point marathon contains a few rolling hills with no climbs over 100 feet. In addition to the scenery, there are 10 Cheer Zones and more than a dozen course entertainment acts.
Image Source: Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
“I can't say enough about the spectators and volunteers along the course. The aid stations were well-run and efficient and the support along the entire 26.2 from the community was great. It was like running a marathon through a giant block party.” — C.S. Marathonguide.com Review
“I loved it. The ‘Most Beautiful Urban Marathon’ moniker is not hype. A huge reason that I wanted to have a positive finish was so that I could soak in all the beauty. From the very urban streets of Minneapolis to the suburban neighborhoods surrounding the lakes, everything gave off an appealing charm I've never seen anywhere else. Technically, this course offers plenty of PR opportunities. There are some hills but nothing significant, including Summit Drive which is more of a really long (mildly soul-crushing) incline than a hill.” — Jeni, Marathonguide.com Review