1. Snowdonia Marathon, Gwynedd
Date in 2012: October 27
The Snowdonia Marathon is close to the heart of many runners, and tops the chart again as it enters its third decade. The demanding course circles Wales’ highest peak, and the dramatic views are much needed to distract from a punishing descent during miles four to six and a frankly horrendous climb in the last four miles. Masochists only need apply.
2. Brathay Windermere Marathon, Ambleside, Cumbria
Date in 2012: May 20
With a course that follows the edge of Lake Windermere and Esthwaite Water, it’s no wonder this race also scored extremely highly for scenery. This 26.2-miler also marks the final challenge of the Brathay 10 in 10 (an event comprising 10 marathons in 10 days). Enter online.
3. North Dorset Village Marathon, Sturminster Newton, Dorset
Date in 2012: May 6
Making the top ten list in only its third year in existence, West Country runners have fallen in love with the North Dorset Village Marathon. It’s a well named race too, as it passes through – count ’em – 10 villages, all with similar levels of chocolate-box cuteness. Enter online.
4. Baxters Loch Ness Marathon, Inverness, Scotland
Date in 2012: September 30
You raved about this tranquil point-to-point tour of the Highlands. Marathon runners follow the southern shore of the loch before crossing the River Ness and heading towards a traditional welcome in Inverness – with a ceilidh. Enter online.
5. Abingdon Marathon, Oxfordshire
Date in 2012: October 21
This firm favourite and UK Athletics gold graded race is a tried-and-tested chance to smash your PB. The flat course passes through the town alongside the Thames and follows a two-lap route through local villages.
6. MBNA Chester Marathon, Cheshire
Date in 2012: October 7
The chance to see stunning countryside as well as the historic city, a spectacular grandstand finish, elite field and slick planning, the organisers think this could become the UK’s top regional marathon – and it seems you do too. Enter online.
7. Halstead & Essex Marathon, Essex
Date in 2012: May 13
Seemingly ever-present in our annual race reviews, the Halstead & Essex has done it again with its no-nonsense blend of a real racer’s course, meticulous marshalling and a sizeable post-race recovery zone appealing to the many hundreds who flocked from afar to run it. Enter online.
8. Virgin London Marathon, London
Date in 2012: April 22
Predictable but entirely understandable. For those recently returned from another planet, every April, 40,000 runners and a million screaming supporters take over our capital. After exploring hidden corners of south London, then Canary Wharf and the City, no runner will forget the sight of Big Ben – or the coveted medal at the end of it all.
9. Brighton Marathon, East Sussex
Date in 2012: April 15
Launched in 2010, the Brighton Marathon has taken the running scene by storm to become the UK’s third largest marathon with a field of 15,000. The fast course takes in Preston Park, the city centre and coastal roads, with panoramic views from the South Downs to the Channel. Enter online.
10. Liverpool Marathon, Merseyside
Date in 2012: October 14
With typically boisterous support from the Scouse crowds lining the route, plus entertainment along the course, the Liverpool Marathon is an atmospheric celebration of the city, from the first glimpse of the city centre skyline, six miles in, to the gallop past the Liver Building and the finish at Pier Head. Enter online.