So, you’ve got your marathon tips down, you’ve got your gear in check and you’ve got the perfect fitness app companion with you to help your training and now you are looking for a marathon challenge to get your teeth stuck into. There are plenty of events on the calendar up and down the country and available in a variety of different conditions, if you don’t mind a bit of mud!
However, if you are a beginner, it can be difficult to find the right event with so many looking at marathons such as the London or Manchester events so what are your other options that perhaps provide a bit more freedom and flexibility for beginners as well as being a more approachable first offering? We’re going to go through a few of our favourites on the current UK calendar that offer a good mix of distances, conditions and locations because it doesn’t always have to be about the big cities. We’ve also included a few choice half marathons for a bit of variety and approachability.
The York Marathon is a picturesque and historic race, taking runners on a journey through the city’s mediaeval streets, along the banks of the River Ouse, and past some of its most iconic landmarks, including York Minster and Clifford’s Tower. The race is fairly flat throughout while still providing some gentle hills and climbs. The race is organised by Run For All, a really great non-profit and it is always a really well organised and maintained event. This year, it is being held on the 15th October and it will be the 10 year anniversary of the race so what better time to try it out? Run For All provides runners with ample opportunities for charity fundraising and the race is just a lot more relaxed and welcoming than a lot of the heavy duty marathon events in the UK.
The Bournemouth Half Marathon is a beautiful and scenic race, taking runners along the stunning coastline of Bournemouth and Poole. The course is mostly flat, with some gentle hills, and it offers breathtaking views of the English Channel and the Purbeck Hills. The marathon is known for its friendly and supportive atmosphere and there are good opportunities to get the kids involved on Saturday with plenty of junior events. Bournemouth is a real weekend event and this provides quite a nice atmosphere. This year, the junior events are being held on the 7th while the main race is on the 8th October.
Man Vs Horse Marathon
If you are looking for something a bit different and a bit more fun, the man vs horse marathon certainly has you covered. While there are now quite a few events held around the world, the original took place in Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales over 40 years ago and is now a June tradition. June 10th is the date for this year’s event and it promises to be a mad afternoon. The track is unlike any other marathon, providing a lot of mountainous and off-road terrain and it’s just a really unique experience. While it certainly won’t be for everyone and isn’t really a marathon in the traditional sense, it is certainly one of the most unique challenges in the UK and one you may want to consider.
Farnham Pilgrim Marathon
Experienced hikers will no doubt be familiar with the Pilgrim’s Way trail in Surrey. The Farnham Pilgrim Marathon is a challenging trail marathon with beautiful scenery and outstanding views in the Surrey Hills. The event has been running for 12+ years and has become a popular destination for marathon enthusiasts as it provides a unique experience being multi-surface and a lot of its distance being in the beautiful Surrey countryside. With that being said, this results in Farnham Pilgrim Marathon being possibly one of the toughest but prettiest trail marathons in the UK. While the full marathon with its hilly and twisting terrain may be a bit challenging for newcomers (though the support provided and local volunteers are always well-regarded), there are half marathon options available so you can still experience the course. 10th September is the date for this one which puts it right in the sweet spot of not being too warm but not being muddy from the Autumn downpours!
Causeway Coast Marathon
A slightly more challenging day at the seaside is provided by Causeway Coast’s marathon on the picturesque Northern Ireland coast. If you fancy, you can take on the ultra marathon challenge but they have distances available from 39 miles to a more standard 10K. Causeway Coast is one of the prettiest locations in the UK and running on the coast is always such a special and unique experience. This is yet another off-road marathon that provides something a bit different to the usual marathon and this provides a myriad of different surfaces and experiences. The date for your calendars with this one is 16th September 2023 and hopefully there will still be a bit of sunshine left!
In conclusion, running a marathon is a challenging and rewarding experience, and there are many great and unique options for beginners in the UK. Whether you’re looking for a fast and flat course, a picturesque and historic route, or a fun and supportive atmosphere, there’s a marathon out there that’s perfect for you. Just remember to train hard, stay focused, and enjoy the journey! If you are looking for even more sporting challenges to try in 2023, why not check out our pick of the best fitness challenges for the new year and if you are looking for fueling tips, check out our nutrition guide on how to fuel yourself for long runs.