Best Marathons in Iowa

Marathons in Iowa for running races

Iowa, often celebrated for its rolling plains and friendly faces, invites marathon runners for an unparalleled experience. Nestled in America’s heartland, this state promises marathon races that mirror its natural beauty and community spirit. Furthermore, the courses, meandering from bustling towns to serene countryside, ensure a memorable run for all.

Des Moines, the vibrant capital, leads the pack with its standout marathon. However, Iowa’s charm doesn’t stop there. Moving outward, cities like Cedar Rapids and Dubuque beckon. They boast races that blend urban energy with breathtaking rural vistas. Plus, the state’s distinct seasons add a layer of intrigue to each marathon, making every run feel like a fresh journey.

The essence of Iowa’s marathons lies in its people. Their unwavering support and Midwestern hospitality transform each race into a heartwarming event. Moreover, local bands, cheering squads, and festive aid stations add flavor, making every mile a cause for celebration.

As we lace up to explore Iowa’s marathon landscape, anticipation builds. Eager to uncover the state’s long-distance treasures? With the promise of scenic routes and unmatched camaraderie, let’s dive deep into Iowa’s marathon splendors. Prepare for a journey that celebrates both endurance and the Hawkeye spirit!

Des Moines Marathon

Location: Des Moines, IA
Date: October

As autumn graces Iowa, the Des Moines Marathon stands as a hallmark event, drawing runners from all corners. The crisp morning air is electric, filled with excitement and anticipation. At the starting line downtown, a sea of participants, fans, and volunteers gather, their collective energy palpable. Then, with the sound of the gun, a wave of runners surges forward, their journey through the heart of Des Moines beginning.

The course’s initial miles weave through downtown, showcasing the city’s charm. Historic buildings, bustling cafes, and vibrant murals greet the runners. Spectators line the streets, their applause echoing amidst urban landmarks. Soon after, the route reveals the picturesque Des Moines River. The shimmering waters accompany participants, reflecting the city’s skyline and the brilliant fall foliage.

Beyond the river’s edge, runners experience the city’s lush parks. Birds sing, leaves crunch underfoot, and the serene environment provides a moment of calm. Volunteers at water stations cheer and offer refreshments, their encouragement propelling runners forward. The course then winds through neighborhoods, where families come out to support, creating an intimate and community-driven feel.

As the marathon draws to its close, the State Capitol building emerges on the horizon, signaling the approaching finish. The final stretch is lined with cheering crowds, their enthusiasm providing that last boost of energy. Crossing the finish line, a mix of exhaustion and elation washes over participants. The Des Moines Marathon is not just a race; it’s a journey through a city that embraces its runners wholeheartedly.

St. Paddy’s Marathon

Location: Des Moines, IA
Date: March

In Des Moines, March heralds more than just spring’s approach; it also brings the St. Paddy’s Marathon. The city transforms, with shades of green taking over streets and buildings. Runners, donned in festive attire, gather at the starting line, their spirits as high as their knee socks. A lively jig plays, and soon, with the race’s start, a wave of green sweeps through the city.

The first portion of the course dives into downtown Des Moines. Runners are treated to city landmarks bathed in morning light. Local shops, adorned with shamrocks, cheer the participants on, while spectators, in leprechaun hats, offer encouraging shouts. As runners cross the Des Moines River, they’re met with a shimmering reflection of the city’s skyline and festive decorations.

From the urban heart, the course shifts towards the city’s greener spaces. The parks, already coming to life with spring buds, resonate with the sounds of nature. Volunteers, stationed along the route, hand out water and festive treats. Their enthusiasm and the surrounding beauty keep spirits high. The pathway then takes a turn through welcoming neighborhoods, where residents wave and clap, their porches decorated in theme.

As the finish line nears, the sounds of traditional Irish music grow louder, pulling runners towards the end. The culmination is a grand celebration, with dances, songs, and plenty of cheer. After crossing the line, participants bask in their achievement and the festive atmosphere. The St. Paddy’s Marathon in Des Moines is more than a race; it’s a celebration of heritage, community, and the joy of running.

Wabash Trace Marathon

Location: Shenandoah, IA
Date: September

Nestled in Iowa’s picturesque landscapes, the Wabash Trace Marathon promises a unique running experience. This event draws both locals and visitors, all eager to embark on a scenic journey. The starting line buzzes with excitement. As runners set their watches and take deep breaths, the pathway ahead beckons, offering a glimpse into nature’s wonders.

The marathon unfolds predominantly on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, a former railway line turned trail. This crushed limestone path weaves through a canvas of ever-changing views. Tall trees form a canopy overhead, their leaves rustling with each breeze. On either side, vast expanses of green fields and gentle hills stretch out, painting a calm, pastoral scene that soothes the mind.

As miles accumulate, the course introduces runners to a series of small, charming towns. Each town, with its unique character, provides a warm welcome. Residents cheer from their porches, children offer high-fives, and makeshift water stations dot the route. Amidst these towns, wooden bridges appear, spanning serene creeks and offering views of the reflective waters below.

Approaching the finish line, the trail’s tranquility is complemented by a growing chorus of cheers. The community gathers, celebrating every runner’s achievement with enthusiasm. Exhausted but elated, participants cross the line, their journey on the Wabash Trace complete. This marathon, with its blend of natural beauty and community spirit, leaves an indelible mark on every runner’s heart.

IronHorse Marathon

Location: Riceville, IA
Date: May

The Ironhorse Marathon is a runner’s dream, set against a backdrop of natural beauty and historical significance. As dawn breaks, participants gather, excitement palpable in the crisp morning air. With each stretch and stride, runners prepare for the journey ahead, one that promises both challenge and wonder.

The course primarily follows old railway paths, a nod to the marathon’s namesake. This smooth, flat terrain is a favorite among those aiming for personal bests. Trees stand sentinel on either side, their branches arching over the path to create a natural tunnel. Periodically, remnants of the railway era, like old stations and rusted tracks, appear, offering a glimpse into the past.

Venturing onward, runners are treated to expansive views of open fields and serene waterways. Wildlife often makes an appearance, with birds soaring overhead and deer peeking through the trees. The path also winds through quaint towns where locals cheer and offer support. Their encouragement, along with the scenic vistas, propels runners forward, mile after mile.

The final stretch is a testament to resilience and determination. As the finish line comes into sight, a final burst of energy emerges. Crowds gather, applauding each finisher’s monumental achievement. The Ironhorse Marathon, with its mix of history, nature, and community, is a race that resonates deeply, long after the last step is taken.

Mighty Mo Marathon

Location: Sioux City, IA
Date: May

The Mighty Mo Marathon stands as a tribute to the majestic Missouri River, a race characterized by its unique landscape. At the break of day, runners congregate, the river’s gentle murmur setting the scene. The anticipation is tangible, and with a collective inhale, runners set off, chasing the horizon along the river’s edge.

Much of the marathon’s route traces the banks of the Missouri River, offering panoramic views that change with each bend. The path, mostly flat and firm, allows for a rhythmic pace. As runners glide by, the shimmering waters reflect the sky, and the occasional boat or kayak drifts past, its occupants waving in support. The serene ambience, punctuated only by the soft thud of running shoes, is meditative.

But it’s not just the river that captivates. The course also meanders through picturesque towns and lush green parks. Residents line the streets, their cheers and claps acting as a motivation boost. Makeshift aid stations, manned by enthusiastic volunteers, provide refreshments and much-needed pep talks.

As the marathon draws to a close, energy levels surge. The echoing cheers grow louder, and the finish line, draped in banners and balloons, beckons. The sense of accomplishment, mirrored in every finisher’s face, is profound. The Mighty Mo Marathon, with its river views and community warmth, leaves a lasting impression, etching memories of the mighty river’s embrace.

Moorehead Park Trail Mazathon

Location: Ida Grove, IA
Date: August

Moorehead Park Trail Mazathon is an ode to nature, set in the heart of a picturesque parkland. As dawn’s light filters through the trees, eager runners gather, fueled by ambition and the promise of the trail ahead. There’s a sense of unity as everyone gears up for the upcoming adventure.

The course unveils itself as a blend of winding trails and open clearings. Runners navigate through dense woods, where sunlight dapples the ground and birdsong fills the air. The terrain varies, with gentle inclines followed by soothing flats, allowing for varied paces and strategies. Every turn offers a fresh perspective, keeping participants engaged and curious.

Beyond the woods, the marathon route showcases Moorehead Park’s diverse beauty. Meadows burst with wildflowers, ponds shimmer in the sunlight, and occasional wooden bridges offer picturesque crossing points. Local wildlife might make a brief appearance, enhancing the race’s organic charm. The community’s presence is felt too, with cheer stations sprinkled along the way, lifting spirits with encouraging shouts.

The final miles are both a test and a celebration. The end is near, but legs are weary. Yet, as the finish line approaches, a newfound vigor emerges. Supporters cheer louder, and the achievement becomes real. Crossing that line, every runner feels the weight of their accomplishment, forever linked to the serenity of Moorehead Park.

Triple D Winter Marathon

Location: Durango, IA
Date: January

Winter’s embrace is keenly felt at the Triple D Winter Marathon. As snow blankets the ground, runners bundle up, preparing for a unique chilly challenge. The atmosphere is electric, charged with anticipation. Everyone understands that this isn’t just a race against time, but also nature’s elements.

Starting off, the course unravels through a snow-kissed landscape. Trees stand tall, their branches heavy with white, framing the path ahead. Footprints from early birds mark the way, guiding participants over slippery stretches. Care is essential, as the terrain can be unpredictable, alternating between packed snow and icy patches. Each step is both an exercise in caution and a testament to resilience.

Midway, the marathon offers expansive views of winter wonderlands. Frozen lakes shimmer in the distance, and fields lay untouched, save for the occasional deer tracks. The silence is palpable, broken only by the rhythmic crunch of shoes against snow and the collective breaths of determined runners. Here, the cold is both a foe, nipping at exposed skin, and a friend, making the surroundings all the more enchanting.

As the finish line comes into sight, a mix of fatigue and exhilaration sets in. Legs might be tired, but spirits are high. Every runner, by now, shares a bond with the winter world around them. Conquering the Triple D Winter Marathon is more than just a physical feat; it’s a dance with winter, a memory etched in ice and snow.

Prairie Series Marathon

Location: Sioux City, IA
Date: May

Nestled in the heartland, the Prairie Series Marathon in Iowa is a picturesque journey. The start is always brimming with enthusiasm. Runners from various backgrounds gather, eager to tackle the flat terrain. Surrounded by open skies, the initial miles are an introduction to the serene landscape.

Onward, the course unfolds across vast expanses of farmland. Fields stretch endlessly, painted with hues of greens, yellows, and browns, depending on the season. Every now and then, a barn or a silo breaks the horizon, adding character to the view. Gentle breezes carry the scent of fresh earth, a constant reminder of the state’s agricultural roots.

As participants approach the halfway point, clusters of trees begin to emerge. These pockets of woods offer brief shaded respite from the sun. The sound of leaves rustling and birds singing provides a soothing background melody. Here, runners can often spot local wildlife, from bounding deer to chirping crickets, adding to the event’s charm.

Approaching the finish, the community’s support is evident. Cheering crowds and hand-made signs line the final stretch, boosting weary spirits. Completing the Prairie Series Marathon isn’t just a test of endurance. It’s an immersive experience, connecting runners to the heart and soul of Iowa’s tranquil landscapes.

Heartland Series Marathon

Location: Clinton, IA
Date: July

In Iowa’s vast landscape, the Heartland Series Marathon stands out as a runner’s delight. The race commences with palpable excitement. Runners line up, ready to explore the state’s natural beauty. The first few miles gently introduce participants to the sprawling countryside.

As the race progresses, vast cornfields become a prominent feature. The golden stalks sway with the wind, creating a harmonious dance to the side. Occasionally, a meandering river or stream punctuates the view, shimmering under the sun. Bridges over these waterways provide brief moments of shade and reflection.

Beyond the mid-way mark, the path reveals quaint townships. Here, historic homes, bustling markets, and friendly locals cheer on the participants. The aroma of freshly baked goods from local bakeries wafts through, tempting and energizing runners. Children’s laughter and encouraging shouts echo, providing motivation during tougher stretches.

Drawing near to the end, the energy is electric. The community gathers, celebrating every runner’s effort and determination. The final miles are a testament to human spirit and Iowa’s warm hospitality. Crossing the finish line, participants not only achieve a physical feat but also deeply connect with the heart of the Heartland.


Drawing to a close on our marathon tour of Iowa, we’re left with a montage of vivid memories. From the urban tapestry of Des Moines to the gentle hills of Dubuque, every step has told a story. Moreover, the blend of natural beauty and community warmth has added depth to this marathon experience.

Iowa’s defining feature remains its people. Their encouragement, paired with the backdrop of cornfields and cityscapes, has made each race unforgettable. Furthermore, the harmonious tunes of local bands and enthusiastic cheers have underscored the spirit of Iowa marathons.

While the journey ends here, the essence of the Hawkeye State will remain a constant inspiration. The friendships cultivated, challenges embraced, and milestones achieved will continue to motivate future runs. Every marathon in Iowa is a testament to the state’s charm and the tenacity of its runners.

In parting, let Iowa’s marathon spirit fuel your future endeavors, both on and off the track. Until the paths of endurance intersect again, may your runs be fulfilling and memories enduring. Happy running!

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