Marathons In California

Marathon running has become a very popular way for people who enjoy running to push themselves to their physical limits and see new places in the process.

Marathons In California

In fact, it’s estimated that more than half a million Americans cross the finish line of marathons across the country every year.

The number of runners participating in these races continues to increase, with many major events now hosting lotteries to decide who will be allowed to run.

A standard marathon is 42.195 km (26 miles or 385 yards) long. They are generally run within a certain time limit and follow a specific course set out by the organizers of the event.

Since marathons are generally events for recreational running, there is some leeway allowed in how you choose to complete them.

Some people will complete the course through a combination of running and walking, others will run the whole distance, and others can complete the event in a wheelchair or hand bike should they wish.

If you are interested in taking part in a marathon, then you will need to find one that you can enter. That’s why this list is here to help and show you a few of the most popular marathons that runners can join in the state of California. 

Redwood Trail Run 

Location: Oakland

Date: April 2nd 

The Redwood Trail Run is an annual series of races held at the beginning of April  at the Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, CA.

This scenic trail runs along the east ridge and west ridge trails, with the mighty trees that the park takes its name from towering over the contestants. 

There are multiple courses of different lengths, allowing participants to choose between a full 50K marathon or a smaller half-marathon if they prefer.

Children and younger runners can take part in a slightly shorter course, so nobody is left out from this scenic race. 

Those who want to get out of the city and go running in a beautiful natural park instead should definitely check out this marathon.

Children can run for free, although adults will need to pay a registration fee in order to participate. 

Wild Wild West Marathon

Location: Lone Pine 

Date: 7th of April 

This marathon is located in the Alabama Hills near the town of Lone Pine in Inyo County, California. There is both a 50 mile, 50 K and 10-mile race held at this event as well as the marathon itself.

This means there are courses for all levels of runner, no matter their age or physical capabilities. 

The Wild Wild West marathon is a great choice for anyone looking for something a little more adventurous than your usual long distance race.

It takes place mostly in an empty desert landscape, and as such there are water refill stations located at regular intervals along each course. 

This race is walker friendly and is a great way for families and recreational runners to enjoy some spectacular scenery and good exercise in early May. 

Mountains 2 Beach Marathon

Location: Ventura

Date: 29th of May 

This is another fun marathon that takes place in the stunning Ventura River valley.

As its name suggests, contestants will start in the Ojai mountain, run down the valley until they reach the surfing beach near the town of Ventura.

As such, this is a great way to see all the different landscapes that California has to offer, from stunning woodland to sandy beaches. 

There are three different events including a marathon, half-marathon and smaller 5k and 1k races for children.

This race is an official Boston marathon qualifier, and as such can be very useful for any runners looking to register for that race.

In order to use this event to qualify for the Boston marathon, runners will have to complete it within a set time limit to show that they are ready. 

If you are looking for a fun, downhill marathon that takes you through a variety of scenic locations, then this one is very worth considering. 

Rock ‘N’ Roll San Diego 

Location: San Diego 

Date: 5th of June 

This is a relatively new marathon that was started by Heineken in 1998. It consists of three events, with a marathon and half-marathon held on the 5th of June and a 5K children’s race held the day before.

The race starts in Balboa park and finishes in downtown San Diego, taking runners on a tour of the historic city throughout the event. 

If you are a fan of road races and want to avoid any adverse terrain like rocky foot trails, then this is the marathon for you.

It is another event that can be used to qualify for the Boston marathon, provided you complete it within a specific time. 

Mt Umunhum Ultras 

Location: San Jose 

Date: 11th of June

This is an ultra marathon that has been created specifically for those who want to push themselves further than their normal training runs.

The largest race at this event is a 100K ultra marathon that takes runners from the Santa Clara Valley all the way up to Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve in the mountains.

Marathons In California (1)

Don’t worry if that sounds a bit daunting, as there are also plenty of other races as well, including a regular 50k marathon, a half-marathon and miniature 5K courses for children and young adults. 

As you can see, this is an event that offers a bit of something for everybody. It offers some spectacular scenery and sights that will allow runners to appreciate the stunning beauty of California.

You can register for this race either online or in person by showing up on the day. Be warned, the registration fee will be slightly higher if you don’t book in advance. 

Rancho Hills Trail Run

Location: Morgan Hill 

Date: 9th of July

If the last race didn’t have enough uphill trekking for your liking, then the Rancho Hills Trail Run has got you covered.

This trail run takes place in the Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve, offering stunning scenery and panoramic views along the base of the Santa Cruz mountains. 

There are a lot of uphill sections throughout this race, and as such, it certainly isn’t an event for the faint of heart. 

That said, there are multiple different courses to choose from and between the 50K marathon and the 5k children’s race, you are sure to find a distance that suits your abilities.

Since it is organized by the same people who host the Mt Umunhum race, it has the same policy allowing people to register on the day.

However, if you do plan to just show up, be prepared to pay a slightly higher registration fee than usual. 

The San Francisco Marathon 

Location: San Francisco

Date: 24th of July

The San Francisco Marathon is one of the most prestigious marathons in California and will be celebrating its 45th year in 2022.

Runners have the choice of taking on the full marathon, or simply one half of it, as well as options for an ultra marathon or smaller 10-5k courses. As such, this is another event that offers something for everybody. 

During the race you can see all the wonderful sights that San Francisco has to offer including the Golden Gate Bridge.

This marathon begins at 5:40 am so be prepared for an early start. While getting up this early may not sound too appealing, it means that you start this race with a glorious sunrise at your back and the entire city of San Francisco in front of you. 

Diablo Trail Run

Location: Clayton 

Date: 18th of September. 

This is another race that offers runners a stunning view of the San Francisco Bay Area, although this time from the mountains in the Diablo State Park.

The shorter 4-mile course is along mostly flat foot trails, but for the longer courses you can expect to be doing a lot of running uphill. 

While you are ascending, you will have a spectacular view of both the mountains and the bay. As with any run, it is vital to stay hydrated, which is why this course has several aid stations located along the way.

Here you can refill your water bottle and keep yourself going through each leg of the race. 

Long Beach Marathon

Location: Long Beach

Date: 9th of October. 

This is a great event to take part in if you want to experience the beautiful beaches of Southern California.

The Long Beach Marathon is held every year in October, and is a great marathon for those who want spectacular scenery without too many hills. 

There are only three courses to choose from including a full marathon, a half one and a 4k race for children held the previous day.

The race starts in downtown Long Beach and takes its participants along a gentle course where they will be running alongside the Pacific Ocean.

Those looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon can do so at this race by completing it within a certain time limit. 


These are just a few of the marathons that take place every year in the state of California. If you look around you will find a large selection of other marathons held all across this state. 

With courses that range from roads to scenic mountain trails, there really is something for everybody.

So why not grab your running shoes and start training for one of these marathons today so you can see the incredible sights that California has to offer.

Megan Rinzel
Latest posts by Megan Rinzel (see all)