Best Marathons in Kansas

Marathons in Kansas for running races

In the heart of America lies Kansas, a state of sweeping plains and vibrant cities. While known for its agricultural prowess, Kansas has another feather in its cap: marathons. These races traverse landscapes that mirror the state’s rich history and beauty. Furthermore, the blend of urban skylines and open fields offers a dynamic running challenge.

Wichita, the state’s largest city, sets a grand stage with its flagship marathon event. But the story doesn’t end there. Other cities, like Topeka and Lawrence, extend the invitation with their distinct marathon flavors. They craft routes that wind through historical sites, alongside rivers, and past iconic landmarks. Moreover, the changing Kansas weather, from crisp fall mornings to balmy spring days, adds a layer of unpredictability to the race.

Central to the Kansas marathon experience is the community spirit. Locals line the tracks, bringing energy and encouragement that can buoy any tired runner’s spirit. Additionally, local festivities, music, and themed water stations are spread throughout the courses, infusing them with a unique Kansan essence.

As we set out to explore the marathon treasures of Kansas, anticipation builds. Eager to experience the blend of endurance and Midwestern charm? Lace up those running shoes and let’s embark on this Kansas marathon journey. The Sunflower State awaits, promising miles of memories and marathon magic!

Garmin Olathe Marathon

Location: Olathe, KS
Date: April

Situated in Olathe, Kansas, the Garmin Olathe Marathon starts with much anticipation. Olathe, known for its community spirit, offers a warm welcome. Participants from different regions gather, ready for the course ahead. Their path is a blend of city views and natural landscapes.

The race kicks off in a bustling urban setting. Soon after, it transitions into serene suburban areas. Tree-lined streets provide shade and aesthetic pleasure. Additionally, Olathe’s historical architecture offers runners visual landmarks along the way.

Around the halfway point, the course moves towards the city’s parks and green spaces. The sound of chirping birds and rustling leaves creates a calm ambiance. Runners often appreciate this break from the urban hustle, taking in the fresh air. Water bodies, such as ponds and lakes, dot the course, reflecting the sky beautifully.

As the finish line approaches, the energy of downtown Olathe becomes palpable again. Cheering crowds of locals and family members motivate runners for the final stretch. Crossing the finish line, a feeling of accomplishment washes over participants. The Garmin Olathe Marathon truly offers a diverse and memorable experience.

Eisenhower Marathon

Location: Abilene, KS
Date: April

The Eisenhower Marathon, located in Abilene, Kansas, is named in honor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As the gun goes off, participants set out, their journey infused with historical significance. Abilene’s charm is evident right from the start. The town’s rich history unfolds as runners progress.

Initially, the course winds through Abilene’s quaint streets. Historic homes line the path, whispering tales of bygone eras. Soon, the scene transitions to open countryside. Rolling farmlands stretch out, offering expansive views. The sight of golden fields against the horizon is truly breathtaking.

As miles accumulate, runners encounter gentle hills. While they challenge endurance, they also provide dynamic shifts in scenery. Streams and ponds shimmer under the sun, and occasional wooden bridges offer rustic charm. Birdsong fills the air, accompanying the rhythmic sound of footsteps.

The last stretch brings runners back into town. The energy shifts as locals cheer from sidewalks and porches. Crossing the finish line, a sense of pride envelops each runner. The Eisenhower Marathon doesn’t just offer a physical challenge, but also a journey through history and nature.

Prairie Fire Marathon

Location: Wichita, KS
Date: October

The Prairie Fire Marathon, held in Wichita, Kansas, is a celebrated race that attracts participants from various regions. Kicking off in the city’s vibrant downtown, runners immediately feel the buzz of the city. Wichita’s downtown boasts a mix of modern structures and historic landmarks, providing a visual treat as participants start their journey.

Transitioning from the urban landscape, the course leads runners along the picturesque Arkansas River. The river pathway is serene, offering a calming backdrop of flowing waters and green parks. This section, a favorite among many, allows runners to find their rhythm while enjoying nature’s beauty.

Midway through, the marathon introduces a unique experience. Runners traverse through the Keeper of the Plains plaza, a significant cultural and historical point in Wichita. This iconic monument stands tall, casting its majestic silhouette against the sky, motivating runners as they push forward.

As the course loops back, the Wichita community comes alive with cheer and support. Spectators line the streets, their encouraging shouts fueling every stride. The final stretch back into the heart of downtown is electric, as exhausted yet elated runners cross the finish line, marking their achievement in the Prairie Fire Marathon.

Salina Crossroads Marathon

Location: Salina, KS
Date: November

The Salina Crossroads Marathon, based in Salina, Kansas, offers a unique and engaging running experience. Starting in downtown Salina, the race launches participants through a blend of cityscapes and historical touches. The charming streets showcase the heart of the town, where old-world charm meets modern-day amenities.

Moving on, the course winds its way into the city’s serene outskirts. Here, participants encounter flat terrains with occasional mild inclines, ensuring a moderately challenging but manageable race. These rural sections feature tranquil farmlands, providing a stark and beautiful contrast to the earlier urban setting.

As runners navigate the midpoint, they’re treated to picturesque views of the Smoky Hill River. This scenic stretch offers a moment of reflection and relaxation, with nature acting as a calming companion. The shimmering waters, coupled with the rustle of trees, make this segment a runner’s delight.

Drawing towards the end, the marathon reenters the vibrant streets of Salina. With the community cheering passionately, runners feel a surge of energy. The last few miles, flanked by supporters and peppered with local landmarks, lead to a triumphant finish in the city’s core, culminating the Salina Crossroads Marathon experience.

Gobbler Grind Marathon

Location: Overland Park, KS
Date: November

The Gobbler Grind Marathon, hosted in Overland Park, Kansas, is an autumn favorite among the running community. The race commences in Corporate Woods, setting a lively tone with the bustle of eager participants. This beginning stretch, characterized by its smooth paths, allows runners to find their rhythm amidst the crisp fall air.

Transitioning from the start, participants venture into the city’s interconnected trail system. The winding trails, adorned with fallen leaves, create a mesmerizing tapestry of oranges, yellows, and reds. This middle segment offers a relatively flat terrain, with the occasional gentle slope, adding a touch of challenge to the otherwise even course.

As the marathon progresses, runners are guided alongside scenic waterways and through tranquil parks. The serene ambiance of the lakes and the gentle rustling of trees provide a peaceful backdrop, allowing participants to lose themselves in the beauty of nature. These portions offer both shade and a refreshing break from the urban landscape.

Rounding off towards the end, the course loops back, bringing participants closer to Corporate Woods. The final miles, buoyed by the cheers of spectators and the prospect of the finish line, inject a renewed vigor into weary legs. Crossing the finish line, participants conclude their Gobbler Grind Marathon journey, a blend of urban charm and nature’s splendor.

Kansas Rails to Trails Marathon

Location: Ottawa, KS
Date: October

The Kansas Rails to Trails Marathon kicks off in the small town of Ottawa, presenting an inviting start for participants. The race takes place in autumn, with the trail offering glimpses of seasonal beauty. The early stretches are surrounded by farmlands, giving runners a taste of the Kansas countryside.

Transitioning further, runners soon find themselves on the Prairie Spirit Trail, a converted rail trail. This section is predominantly flat, thanks to its railway heritage. The crushed limestone path is gentle underfoot, ensuring a smoother running experience. Tall trees flank the trail, their leaves forming a colorful overhead canopy.

Midway into the marathon, participants encounter various wooden bridges and trestles. Each bridge offers panoramic views of the underlying creeks and rivers, adding to the course’s scenic charm. Wildlife sightings, particularly deer and birds, are not uncommon, enhancing the race’s nature-centric appeal.

Approaching the finish, the trail gradually winds back towards Ottawa. The final stretch reacquaints runners with the initial farmlands, painting a full circle of the course’s beauty. As participants cross the finish line, they’re greeted with a sense of accomplishment, having experienced the serenity of the Kansas outdoors.

Lagerhead Marathon

Location: Ottawa, KS
Date: November

The Lagerhead Marathon begins in a lively city setting, immediately setting an energetic pace for all its participants. Streets lined with cheering spectators create an ambiance of encouragement right from the start. As the race progresses, runners move through the city’s main landmarks, offering a quick tour of its architectural marvels.

Transitioning from the urban landscape, the course leads runners into serene park trails. These paths are surrounded by dense trees, offering shade and a refreshing escape from the city’s hustle. The ground here is a mix of compacted soil and light gravel, ensuring a steady grip for every stride. Occasional wooden benches and picturesque viewpoints dot the trail, providing a visual treat.

As participants push forward, the trail opens up to vast meadows and farmlands. This segment showcases the region’s agricultural richness, with fields of golden crops swaying gently in the breeze. The sight of distant hills and the aroma of fresh farmland air make this stretch particularly rejuvenating.

The final miles of the Lagerhead Marathon return to the urban setting, but with a twist. Runners pass by historic neighborhoods, getting a glimpse of the city’s rich past. The marathon concludes at a local brewery, where finishers are greeted with a celebratory lager, making their efforts all the more rewarding.

Hell on Gravel Marathon

Location: El Dorado, KS
Date: July

The Hell on Gravel Marathon kicks off near the iconic Walnut River, setting the tone for a scenic run ahead. Right from the start, runners are introduced to the rugged charm of gravel paths. The course, mainly unpaved, offers participants a genuine feel of nature’s raw beauty.

Venturing forth, runners find themselves amidst vast expanses of open fields. Here, the horizon seems endless, with only the distant silhouettes of trees breaking the skyline. The crunch of gravel underfoot becomes a rhythmic sound, accompanying every step of the journey. This segment is particularly open, allowing participants to embrace the expansive skies above.

Further along the course, the marathon meanders through wooded areas. Tall trees line the path, their canopies providing much needed shade. The coolness in these woods is a welcome respite from the sunny stretches. Birds chirp, and the wind rustles leaves, adding to the serene ambiance of the trail.

Approaching the finish, the marathon circles back towards the Walnut River. The sound of flowing water becomes more pronounced, signaling the end of this gravel adventure. As runners cross the finish line, the river’s gentle ripples serve as a calming backdrop, making it a fitting conclusion to a challenging yet rewarding race.

Little Apple Marathon

Location: Manhattan, KS
Date: October

The Little Apple Marathon begins in the heart of Manhattan, Kansas, often referred to as “The Little Apple.” Initially, the course showcases the city’s vibrant streets. Runners get a glimpse of urban life, with local landmarks dotting the route. The city’s enthusiasm is palpable, with residents cheering and offering support.

After departing the city center, the marathon stretches into the picturesque countryside. Here, lush green fields flank the pathway, a stark contrast to the urban setting. Rolling hills challenge the participants, but also reward them with breathtaking vistas. The serenity of nature envelops the runners, offering a peaceful backdrop.

Subsequently, the course leads participants alongside the Kansas River. The shimmering waters of the river reflect the sky, creating a tranquil environment. The gentle murmur of flowing water serves as motivation, pushing runners towards their goal. Trees lining the riverbank occasionally cast shadows, providing moments of cool.

Drawing to a close, the Little Apple Marathon steers runners back into Manhattan. The transition from rural to urban marks the final leg of the journey. As the finish line appears on the horizon, the city’s energy revives exhausted spirits. Completing the marathon, participants are greeted with cheers, encapsulating the warmth and spirit of “The Little Apple.”

Flint Hills Marathon

Location: Manhattan, KS
Date: April

The Flint Hills Marathon begins in the mesmerizing landscape of the Flint Hills region in Kansas. This area, known for its rolling grasslands and scenic beauty, sets a serene stage. Runners start their journey amidst the vast expanses of native tallgrass prairie. The sight of wildflowers and occasional wildlife accompany them, providing a natural motivation.

As the race continues, participants are led on a series of gentle inclines and declines. These rolling terrains offer both challenge and excitement. While the climbs test stamina, the descents offer brief breaks. Throughout, the horizon displays a canvas of the sky meeting the hills, captivating one’s senses.

Midway through, the marathon introduces runners to the tranquil waters of the region’s reservoirs. Reflecting the clear blue skies above, these water bodies are a refreshing sight. Birds flying overhead or resting by the shores create a harmonious ambiance. The rustling of grass and chirping of crickets become the marathon’s soundtrack.

In the concluding stretch, the Flint Hills Marathon route winds back through the prairies. The familiarity of the tallgrass, now appearing golden with the setting sun, welcomes runners home. As they approach the finish line, a sense of accomplishment floods in, having traversed one of Kansas’ most iconic landscapes.


Reflecting on our marathon odyssey across Kansas, a symphony of moments springs forth. The state’s signature blend of vast landscapes and bustling cities has offered a runner’s paradise. From the dynamic terrain of Wichita to the historical paths of Topeka, the memories have been profound. Furthermore, the challenges faced and conquered on these routes will forever be etched in our hearts.

Central to this marathon tale has been the spirit of the Kansan community. Their unwavering support, from spontaneous cheer squads to heartfelt local events, has been the backbone of each race. Additionally, shared experiences, laughter, and determination among runners have woven a tapestry of camaraderie.

While our journey through Kansas’ marathons now reaches its finale, the essence of the Sunflower State remains undiminished. The routes explored, friendships fostered, and the goals achieved will echo in our minds for times to come. Each marathon stands as a testament to Kansas’ rich culture, vast beauty, and indomitable spirit.

In parting, let the marathon memories of Kansas serve as a beacon for future endeavors. Whether on new running trails or life’s own marathon, let the spirit of Kansas guide and uplift. Until we lace up again, may your miles be many and your journey ever-inspiring. Happy running!

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