Best Marathons in Virginia: A Comprehensive Guide for Runners

Virginia, a state known for its picturesque landscapes and rich history, has also become a popular destination for marathon runners.

With an array of marathon options throughout the year, the state offers races that cater to the preferences and abilities of a diverse range of participants. Some of the best marathons in Virginia boast challenging courses, scenic views, and well-organized events, attracting thousands of runners from around the country.

The Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, for instance, is recognized as one of America’s toughest road races with 7,430 feet in elevation change along the stunning Blue Ridge Parkway.

Other notable Virginia marathons include the long-running Yuengling Shamrock Marathon and Richmond Marathon, which have become staples in the state’s marathon scene.

These races, along with numerous other options, make Virginia an ideal destination for both seasoned marathoners and newcomers to the sport.

Top Marathons in Virginia

Richmond Marathon

The Richmond Marathon takes place annually in the city of Richmond. It has a reputation for being one of the friendliest and well-organized marathons in the state.

The marathon features beautiful courses that showcase Richmond’s scenic beauty as it winds through parks and historic neighborhoods.

Marine Corps Marathon

Held in Arlington, the Marine Corps Marathon is a prestigious race that attracts thousands of participants each year.

This marathon is ideal for those looking for a challenging course that highlights the city’s landmarks and embraces the spirit of the Marine Corps. The marathon supports various charities tied to the military and provides a unique running experience for participants.

Charlottesville Marathon

The Charlottesville Marathon takes place in the beautiful city of Charlottesville.

This marathon offers gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and takes runners through a mix of historic downtown areas, scenic countryside, and charming residential neighborhoods. The hilly course provides an added challenge for runners looking to conquer a more demanding race.

Yuengling Shamrock Marathon

Located in Virginia Beach, the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon is the oldest continuously held marathon in the state.

The flat and scenic course provides runners with stunning ocean views and a festive atmosphere, as the race takes place around St. Patrick’s Day. The course is fast and has earned a reputation for being a favorite amongst those looking to set personal records or qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Blue Ridge Marathon

The Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon, held in Roanoke, takes pride in being labeled “America’s Toughest Road Race.”

The challenging course features 7,430 feet in elevation change, as it follows the Blue Ridge Parkway. Perfect for those who crave a demanding race, this marathon showcases the natural beauty of Virginia and offers an unforgettable experience for those who conquer it.

Trail Races in Virginia

Virginia offers a variety of trail races for both experienced and novice runners.

In this section, we’ll cover some notable events, including Conquer the Cove, Odyssey Trail Running Rampage, Chessie Trail Marathon, and Douthat State Park Trail Races.

Conquer the Cove

The Conquer the Cove event takes place in Roanoke, Virginia, and features both a 25k trail run and a challenging 50k race.

The courses wind through beautiful woodland areas, offering runners the chance to experience the natural beauty of Virginia’s trails. Participants can expect diverse terrain and a scenic, challenging run.

Odyssey Trail Running Rampage

Held in Bath County, the Odyssey Trail Running Rampage offers multiple distance options including a half marathon, a 6-mile trail run, and an adventurous 40-mile race.

This event takes runners through picturesque trails with varying elevations, providing a test of endurance and an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.

Chessie Trail Marathon

Located in Lexington, the Chessie Trail Marathon showcases the historic Chessie Nature Trail as it follows the Maury River. This event offers both a half marathon and a full marathon option for participants.

Runners can expect a mix of crushed gravel and dirt surfaces, making for a unique and enjoyable race experience.

Douthat State Park Trail Races

The Douthat State Park Trail Races are situated in the beautiful Douthat State Park, offering a 50k and a half marathon distance for trail running enthusiasts.

These races take place on a variety of surfaces, from single track to gravel roads, giving participants the chance to test their trail running skills in varied terrain.

Each of these trail races in Virginia provides a unique and challenging experience for runners at different skill levels, allowing them to enjoy the picturesque landscapes while accomplishing personal goals on the course.

Other Race Distances

Mathews Marathon & Half Marathon

The Mathews Marathon & Half Marathon is a family-friendly event that takes place in the beautiful town of Mathews, Virginia.

This race offers both a full marathon (26.2 miles) and a half marathon (13.1 miles) distance, catering to runners of various skill levels. The course is scenic, running through picturesque rural areas and along the water, providing a delightful experience for participants.

Tidewater Strider Dismal Swamp Stomp

In Norfolk, the Tidewater Strider Dismal Swamp Stomp is another great racing event that offers multiple distance options, including a half marathon (13.1 miles) and a 5K.

This race takes place at the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, giving runners a chance to experience the area’s unique natural beauty. The flat and fast course makes it a popular choice for those seeking a personal record or a beginner-friendly race.

Cross County Trail Marathon

For those looking for a race in Northern Virginia, the Cross County Trail Marathon in Springfield is an excellent option. This race offers a variety of distances, including a marathon (26.2 miles), half marathon (13.1 miles), 10K, and 5K.

Runners will traverse the beautiful Cross County Trail, which covers a range of terrain from paved paths to natural dirt trails.

In addition to these races, there are several other race events throughout Virginia catering to different distance preferences:

  • In Lexington, the Virginia Creeper Trail Half Marathon & 10K provides runners with a challenging 13.1-mile or 10K course along the historic Virginia Creeper Trail.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Running Club hosts the Solomons Island Metric Marathon (26.2K) and 10K in Chesapeake, offering a unique racing distance that allows runners to experience the beautiful waterfront community.
  • For ultramarathon enthusiasts, the Eagle Up Ultra in Virginia Beach features a 100K distance in addition to the standard marathon (26.2 miles) and half marathon (13.1 miles) options.

These are just a few examples of the diverse race distances and events available to runners throughout the beautiful state of Virginia.

Virtual Race Options

In recent times, virtual races have become a popular alternative to traditional in-person races. They offer flexibility, convenience, and the ability to participate from any location. Virginia has several marathons and half marathons that provide virtual race options for runners.

One of these races is the Shamrock Marathon & Half Marathon. Participants can choose from both in-person and virtual options, allowing them to run the race wherever they are most comfortable. The Shamrock Marathon is well-known in Virginia and offers top-notch amenities for runners, making it a great choice for those interested in virtual events.

Another race offering virtual options is the Virginia Marathon in Middleburg, VA. Hosted by Old Dominion Racing, this event allows runners to choose between live in-person racing and virtual racing. Additionally, all in-person racers have access to built-in virtual training, which can help to improve their race day performance.

To help find more virtual races in Virginia, you can visit websites like Running in the USA, which provides a comprehensive list of upcoming races categorized by distance and location. By searching for virtual options, you can find a variety of races to fit your preferences and schedule.

When participating in a virtual race in Virginia or elsewhere, it’s essential to follow proper etiquette and stay safe. Some tips for virtual racers include:

  • Registering for the race and selecting the virtual option during sign-up
  • Running the race on the specified course or an equivalent distance of your choosing
  • Tracking your time and submitting your results after completing the race
  • Sharing your accomplishment on social media and connecting with other virtual racers

Overall, virtual marathons and half marathons in Virginia provide an excellent way for runners to enjoy the thrill of racing while maintaining flexibility, safety, and personal preference. These virtual race options help keep the running community connected and engaged, no matter where participants are located.

Family-Friendly Races

5K Run Lexington

The 5K Run Lexington is a fantastic option for families looking to participate in a fun and welcoming race. With its fairly flat course, the event is ideal for runners of all fitness levels, including children and beginners. Located in the picturesque city of Lexington, participants will enjoy the beautiful surroundings as they make their way to the finish line.

The 5K Run Lexington often hosts a variety of entertaining activities for the whole family, such as music, food, and games, ensuring everyone has a great time. Don’t worry if this is your first race, as the event fosters a friendly atmosphere and focuses on encouraging everyone to reach their goals, no matter their pace or experience.

Kids Run Charlottesville

For a race focused on the younger runners, consider the Kids Run Charlottesville. This event specifically targets children, with the mission of fostering their love for running and promoting healthy habits from a young age.

The race is designed to accommodate children of varying ages and abilities, offering different distances and age-appropriate challenges. As a result, it’s the perfect opportunity for kids to challenge themselves and grow as runners, all while having fun and bonding with their peers.

Participating in the Kids Run Charlottesville is an excellent way for children to develop self-confidence, perseverance, and teamwork skills. The race also emphasizes the importance of community engagement, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting local charitable organizations.

In conclusion, both the 5K Run Lexington and Kids Run Charlottesville offer family-friendly races that cater to different age groups and running abilities. So, whether you’re an experienced runner or just starting in the sport, these events provide a supportive and enjoyable atmosphere for families to share their love for running.

Race Details and Registration

One of the most popular marathons in Virginia is the Charlottesville Marathon, which takes place annually in April. The event features the main marathon, a half-marathon, and a smaller 8k course, affording participants various course options to choose from.


To join the Charlottesville Marathon, individuals can register online in advance. Prices typically increase closer to the race date, so early registration is highly recommended. Be sure to check the race’s official website for detailed information on registration fees and deadlines.

USATF Certified

The Charlottesville Marathon is a USATF certified race, meaning that the course has been officially measured taking into account the USA Track & Field guidelines. This certification ensures the course’s accuracy regarding its length, providing long-distance runners confidence in achieving their desired times.


The event consistently receives positive reviews from participants, praising its picturesque courses, well-organized logistics, and dedicated volunteers. Runners appreciate the vibrant atmosphere created by enthusiastic spectators cheering along the way.


The various courses offered meander through the scenic surroundings of Charlottesville, including portions that pass through historic downtown areas, the University of Virginia’s campus, and serene rural landscapes. Participants experience a mix of terrains, featuring mostly paved roadways with occasional stretches of gravel, lending a unique blend of surfaces for a marathon event.


Charlottesville, Virginia, boasts a rich history and a thriving cultural scene, making it an ideal location for this prestigious marathon event. In addition to the race, participants can take advantage of the city’s numerous restaurants, shops, and attractions, making the marathon experience memorable for both runners and their supporters.

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