1. Hastings Half-Marathon, East Sussex
Date in 2012: March 25
A staple of the British racing calendar, Hastings is packed with excited spring marathon runners, and the varied course is lined by cheering crowds – just the thing to help you push on up the largely uphill first nine miles. There are even special train services from London and a park-and-ride bus option for those travelling by car.
2. Meon Valley Plod, Clanfield, Hampshire
Date in 2012: February 12
Leg-punishing inclines and lashings of sludge make this cross-country slog the very definition of challenging – but all this is helped by its beautiful setting and heavily laden refreshment stations along the way. Enter online.
3. Trionium Knacker Cracker 10K, Dorking, Surrey
Date in 2012: January 1
Scale 475m on rough trails (most likely with a hangover) and if you get to the top in one piece you’ll be rewarded with amazing views over the North Downs, the usual goodies in your finisher’s bag as well as – for some reason – a carrot. Plus, the handicap format ensures a thrilling charge for the finish line.
4. Destination Basingstoke Half, Hampshire
Date in 2012: October 7
The first-ever Basingstoke Half Marathon was blessed with beautiful sunshine – just the thing to send a brand new race into the RW charts. Readers reported smooth organisation, bonkers crowds and an extremely satisfying downhill second half.
5. Bath Half-Marathon, Bath, Somerset
Date in 2012: March 11
One of the grandaddies of spring marathon tune-ups, this attracts runners from all over the West. There’s a grand start on Georgian Great Pulteney Street, superb crowd support all the way round and a fast course through the old-world centre of this historic spa town. Enter online.