Readers' Top 10 UK Races: Atmosphere

The most atmospheric British races of 2008 - as voted by you, the runners who ran them


Posted: 24 March 2009
by Alice Palmer

1. Flora London Marathon
Where: London When: April 26

It’s the big one. Twenty-eight years of racing; 35,000 runners; and 26.2 miles around the streets of London.

For runners of all kinds from the international elite to run/walkers, the Flora London Marathon is anticipated for months in advance, and as a result the atmosphere on race day is electric.

The support is legendary, with huge crowds lining the course; from Londoners out enjoying the day to the dedicated Runner’s World forum support team at Mile 17. But they all have one aim, which is to shout as much encouragement as they can muster, for friends, family and complete strangers.

 


2. Trionium Midsummer Munro Half-Marathon
Where: Surrey When: June 20

With 13.1 miles of trails over more than 3,000ft of ascent, the Midsummer Munro Half in Surrey is said by some to be tougher than a flat marathon course. But this doesn’t deter the race’s loyal band of fans who return every year.

With eight tough ascents on the course, what goes up must come down and runners are also faced with eight tough descents. Maybe it’s something about the rigours of the course that gives the Midsummer Munro its special atmosphere, or maybe it’s the stunning views from the route’s peaks, which cheer runners after the tough climbs to the summits.

Entrants can even join fellow runners and race organisers for a course run-through two weeks before the race, with all the information on the sights, history and geology of the route that you won’t have time to think about during the race.


3. Trionium New Year Box Hill Knacker Cracker 10K
Where: Surrey When: January 1 2010

The race organisers promise that entrants to the Box Hill Knacker Cracker 10K in Surrey will “laugh, cry and hurl”.

Kicking off each new year, the Knacker Cracker claims to be one of the UK’s toughest 10Ks, with trails covering four hills and a whopping 1500ft (457m) of ascent. Your reward? Amazing views over the North Downs from the top of each peak. You’ll also walk away with a medal, T-shirt, memento and slightly more unusually, a carrot. This friendly race’s handicap system of staggered start times also means no one in the small field of 150 runners gets left behind.

If you want to fit in with the rest of the field, start planning your fancy dress costume now. With prizes for fancy dress as well as the usual winner and age categories, this is one race where technical gear comes second to style.


4. Grizzly & Cub Run
Where: Devon When: March, 2010 date tbc

With 20(ish) miles of mud, sand, ups, downs, fields, and the infamous bog, running the Devon-based Grizzly course is an experience revered among its followers, who come from all over the UK. Join its 1,500-strong field and you could even become one of the devotees adding to the swelling compilation of poetry dedicated to the experience.

With a new title and devilish tweaks to the course each year, this is one race that has been nurtured by its organisers ever since the first staging over 20 years ago. 2009’s race was aptly entitled ‘Trails And Tribulations’ – will you be up for the challenge next year?


5. Easy Runner Sodbury Slog
Where: South Gloucester When: November, 2009 tbc

Get back to nature with the Sodbury Slog in South Gloucestershire – take on the challenge off this off-road race and you’ll see some stunning country scenery while negotiating 9.5 miles of stiles, obstacles and some suitably rural marshes, mud and even slurry.

But as tough as the course sounds, the Sodbury Slog’s organisers pride themselves on making all runners welcome. The race is built on its inclusive atmosphere, with jelly beans and chocolate on hand at drinks stations to help entrants push on. Previous years have welcomed tired runners over the finish line with jam-packed goody bags and even hot tubs at the finish.

 


6. BUPA Great North Run
Where: Newcastle When: September 20

One of the UK’s biggest races buzzes with the anticipation and excitement generated by 36,000 people ready to race and raise millions for charity while doing so.

The course may well be too busy for PB-hunters to make their mark, but there’s so much else going on that it’ll put a smile on the face of even the most competitive runner. From a Red Arrows display to the sight of the North Sea as the crowds reach the final mile and the race’s seafront finale, the Great North Run is a race that really lives up to its gargantuan scale.

But it’s the race’s Newcastle setting that’s the real star of the show, with exuberant locals lining the route to hand out sustenance from ice cream to beer, hose down overheating runners or cheer the crowds along with a sing-song. .


7. Mull of Kintyre Half-Marathon and 10K
Where: Argyll and Bute When: May 24

Runners entering the Scottish Mull of Kintyre Half-Marathon or 10K are not only able to pick their distance over this multi-terrain course, but they can also cram a pasta party and ceilidh into their racing weekend too.

Local residents make runners venturing up to this corner of Scotland very welcome, and finishers will be rewarded with a medal and goody bag. But it's during the race itself that entrants realise why the locals are so justifiably proud of their beautiful home, from the sight of the sun catching the Atlantic Ocean to the stunning sand dunes.


8. Race the Train 14
Where: Gwynedd When: August 15

This year marks 26 years of continuing success for the madcap idea of a band of runners racing the Talyllyn Railway on its journey to Abergynolwyn and back. Following the train on foot means taking on more than 14 steep and muddy miles of roads, fields, hills, stiles, tracks and agricultural land. Book family and friends on the return train journey for support, encouragement – and witnesses to your feat!

With over a thousand entrants last year, Race the Train continues to be a captivating challenge for runners from all over the world – competitors flock from New Zealand, Australia, America, Hong Kong and Africa to this normally quiet corner of North Wales, and local competitors return year after year to better their performance – beating the train is an irresistible challenge.


9. Snowdonia Marathon
Where: Gwynedd When: October 24

Once a year the National Trust invites a hardy crew of runners to Wales’ highest peak for a very special marathon. With steep climbs, twists and turns and a final sting in the tail, it’s a seriously tough marathon.

Snowdonia is a beautiful and carefully protected area, and the National Trust takes great care to ensure that this race is kind to its stunning setting by making sure the growing field covers ground by road rather than trail or fell. With spectators discouraged due to similar concerns for the environment, the Snowdonia Marathon feels intimate as the band of hardy runners cover the course together over the lower slopes of Snowdonia and around its beautiful lakes.


10. Hogweed Hilly Half
Where: South Gloucestershire When: March, 2010 date tbc

Throw away any PB ambitions and dive right in for 13.1 miles of roads through prime West Country scenery in this rural treat of a half-marathon.

Entrants in Hogweed Hilly Half’s small but perfectly formed field will face hills aplenty, but they’ll be amply rewarded for their toils with the glorious views over Gloucestershire waiting for them at the top.

Runners will also be looked after in grand style by the race marshals and organisers, with jelly babies on tap through the race, and sports massage once finished.


How the results were calculated

This list was calculated using 2008 race ratings given by respondents on www.runnersworld.co.uk after they took part in the races. We worked out the average of the 'scenery' rating runners gave races, to arrive at a figure between 0 and 100%, allowing us to rank them. NB: We have only included races with at least 25 responses and where a race appeared on more than one Top 10 chart (Scenery, PB Potential, Beginner-friendliness, Atmosphere), it was only included in the chart where it had the highest ranking.


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Discuss this article

Thanks for the including the Trionium events on the list.

Just to clarify, the run-through for the Midsummer Munro (and Knacker Cracker) is two weeks before the event (if it was the day before the race, you would be unable to compete on the day, since you would still be walking down the stairs backwards...!)

Anyway, we're glad to be in the company of such excellent races
Posted: 26/03/2009 at 18:45

Sorry for the oversight Dr Robert - we've amended this for you now!
Posted: 27/03/2009 at 09:20

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