What’s the toughest half marathon?


By Megan Cox

The other day, someone asked me what the toughest half-marathon were. I actually had no idea. I mean, I ran the Baltimore Half five years ago, and let me tell you something, I did not realize there are mountains in Baltimore (okay, well, they felt like mountains).

Anyway, I’m fairly certain that the Dallas Half Marathon, the race I’m gunning for, isn’t the toughest. Then again, tough is relative. After two babies and a hiatus from long-distance running, this may be the toughest race I’ve ever done.

But I got to thinking—what half is the hardest? Down the road, when I’m looking for more ways to top my last racing achievement, which half-marathon will give me true bragging rights?

Well, if you’re looking for a list of the toughest halfs, it’s not easy to find. There are lists of the “best” halfs and the “toughest” marathons, but I had trouble digging up the list I was looking for. So I decided, independent woman that I am, to make my own list of the toughest half marathons.

How, you ask, did I do this?

Easy breezy. I took the list of toughest marathons from www.runtri.com, which is compiled by looking at average finish times. Then I found out which races offered a half marathon, figuring that most half marathons run in conjunction with full marathons use part of the same course.

It ain’t rocket science, but it does require some mad Googling skills! And I assume no liability for the accuracy of my results. But I’m happy to hear whether you agree or disagree! Obviously, this doesn’t include half-marathons that are not offered with a marathon, so take this list with a grain of salt.

So here, in particular order, are the toughest half marathons according to my formula above.

  1. Disney World Half Marathon
  2. Portland Marathon Half
  3. Rock N’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon
  4. Austin Half Marathon
  5. Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon
  6. Rock N’ Roll Seattle Half Marathon
  7. Houston Half Marathon
  8. Space Coast Half Marathon
  9. Coeur D’alene Half Marathon
  10. Dallas Half Marathon!!!!

Yes, that last one is mine! Yikes. So maybe I WILL have some bragging rights. But that aside, I’m still kind of stuck on the Flying Pig half marathon. What is THAT?

Anyway, whether you agree or disagree with that list (and I’m actually surprised Baltimore isn’t on there), it gives you a starting point.

I have to admit that location goes more into my race destination decisions than difficulty, but maybe, once I get through the diaper stage (which feels like a million years from now), I’ll be ready to up the ante.

We’ll see.

This is a guest post by Megan Cox, an Oklahoma City-based novelist, writer and contributing blogger for HalfMarathons.Net. Learn more about Megan at her website.

6 thoughts on “What’s the toughest half marathon?

  1. Your formula is very off-base if the Disney World Half is #1. Long finishing times for that event occur because a lot of people wait in line to get their picture taken with characters, pose by Cinderella’s Castle, etc.

    It’s also one of the flatter halfs I’ve run. You might want to revise your formula to factor in elevation change instead of just average finishing time!

  2. The “Point to Pinnacle” half marathon in Hobart, Tasmania goes from sea level to the top of Mt Wellington, a gain in elevation of 1270 meters (4166 feet). Held in November, the weather is not hot, but occasionally strong winds and snow may be encountered near the top. http://www.pointtopinnacle.com.au/

  3. I live in Austin and ran the Austin half in 2012. It is tough however Austin has a tougher one called the Decker Challenge Half Marathon. 13.1 miles of every type of hill known to man. I hated it but I can say I finished it.

  4. santa Barbara has a half marathon called pier to peak. It goes from the ocean to Santa Barbaras highest peak. It goes from 0 to 4000 ft.This one is not for sissies. It took me an xtra hour from my normal half marathon time.

  5. The Kendall Mountain run in Silverton, Colorado. Although is isn’t quite a half marathon (it is only 12 miles), it deserves honorable mention. Starting at an elevation of 9,318 this run climbs to the top of Kendall mountain at 13,033 feet before descending back down to the start area. The entire course is quite steep, with the final 300 feet to the top being a class 3-4 scramble. Certainly one of the toughest runs I can think of!

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