1. Chester Marathon, Cheshire
Date in 2012: October 7
Date in 2013: October 6 - Enter online now
It starts and ends at Chester Racecourse, but it’s not only thoroughbreds that sign up for this popular gallop around the historic city and its outlying villages. You briefly jump over the border into Wales, and once the cheeky final hurdle in the form of a hill at mile 24 is cleared, you’ll be home and hosed before you know it.
2. Snowdonia Marathon, Gwynedd, Wales
Date in 2012: October 27
Last year’s winner again ranks highly as a must-do for distance runners everywhere – if you can land a much sought-after place, that is. The beguiling scenery helps you through three daunting climbs before the welcome downhill finish back into Llanberis. Even after 30 years, the support for this event among the mountains leaves many of you on a monumental high.
3. Purbeck Marathon, Dorset
Date in 2012: September 16
Date in 2013: September 15 - Enter online now
With a top-three finish on its debut, this extremely hilly course, which hugs the Jurassic coastline, has become an instant hit. The loop from Swanage seafront also passes the ruins of the magnificent Corfe Castle, before rewarding those completing this energy-sapping run with free ice cream.
4. Halstead and Essex Marathon, Essex
Date in 2012: May 13
Date in 2013: May 12 - Find out more
The organisers behind this highly praised rural event know exactly what’s required to impress. Even the back markers here feel like elites – you can pre-book marshals to hand out your own personalised drinks at water stations. Runners follow two large loops with just enough hills to make it interesting rather than a slog.
5. Brighton Marathon, East Sussex
Date in 2012: April 15
Date in 2013: April 14 - Find out more
In the three years since it was unveiled, this south-coast marathon has got flatter, faster and bigger with only London and Edinburgh above it in the list of the UK’s biggest 26.2-milers. Runners pass Brighton’s piers, the Royal Pavilion and Fatboy Slim’s gaff before a noisy welcome on the prom.
6. Brathay Windermere Marathon, Ambleside, Cumbria
Date in 2012: May 20
Date in 2013: May 19 - Enter online now
Keep the image of sprawling on the lawns of Brathay Hall after the finish line firmly in mind because leading up to that, there’s a brutal course to conquer. Local support at Hawkshead and Ambleside is bountiful and the scenery along the lakeside beautiful, as this walker’s paradise becomes a runner’s delight.
7. Trionium Greensand Marathon, Dorking, Surrey
Date in 2012: October 21
The communal singing of Jerusalem just before the start really brought a lump to the throat of many of you who love this tough’un among the steep Surrey Hills. And its clockwork-like organisation meant you were further singing its praises.
8. London Marathon, London
Date in 2012: April 22
This annual life-affirming mass gathering simply gets stronger each April. Its status is such that to many runners and non-runners alike in this country, it’s simply ‘The Marathon’. Perhaps the tick-’em-off sights, the fancy dress, the inspirational backstories and the millions of pounds raised for charity have something to do with it.
9. Liverpool Marathon, Merseyside
Date in 2012: October 14
This is fast becoming as much part of the Liverpool scene as the Royal Liver Building, which the race passes on this scenic tour of both the Wirral and Liverpool itself. The atmosphere is electric, especially as runners emerge from the tunnel under the Mersey and head through Sefton Park before finishing at Pier Head in front of a crowd as lively as the Kop on derby day.
10. Worcester Marathon, Worcestershire
Date in 2012: April 15
Date in 2013: April 14 - Enter online now
Worcester sources tell us this new kid on the marathon block suffered a few teething problems when it hit the country lanes, but many of you were confident it would soon outgrow these minor niggles. And as this double-lapper is pretty good value and hands out a decent medal to boot, many of you will be returning for a second helping.