Readers' Top 10 UK Races: Beginner-friendliness

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


Posted: 25 March 2009
by Alice Palmer

1. Zoo Stampede (Whipsnade Zoo 10K)
Where: Bedfordshire When: June 7

Kick off your racing career with something a little bit different – run with the animals – as well as 500 other runners – at the Whipsnade Zoo Stampede in Bedfordshire.

The 10K route takes entrants on three fast laps through the zoo’s flat parkland, with the exotic menagerie of the zoo’s collection keeping runners entertained as they tour the park. All profits from the event are donated to the Zoological Society of London for conservation projects.

And the summertime staging makes the Zoo Stampede perfectly timed for a proper day out – pack a picnic and enjoy the rest of the day in the zoo as free entry is included in the price tag.

2. London Santa Run 6K
Where: London When: December 5

If you like dressing up, running and Christmas, the London Santa Run is the race you’ve been waiting for.

The 6K course is just the right distance for most beginners, and the race is set alongside the Thames in the attractive surrounds of central London’s Battersea Park.

One of the UK’s growing band of fancy-dress Santa races, the London Santa Run comes from the race organisers who’ve brought London-based runners top fancy-dress opportunities including the Great Gorilla Run (and the forthcoming Nun Run). Entrants even get to keep their Santa costume – perfect for delivering presents later in the month!


3. Harvel 5
Where: Kent When: June 6

The Harvel 5 has everything a beginner could want, with a huge range of terrain over the five-mile course, and free beer waiting at the water station for thirsty runners.

Beginners still sporting shiny white running shoes may want to reconsider their footwear though, as this race will see them get seriously muddy - the course crams in woodland, rocky slopes, roads and of course lots of mud. This challenging run is set in stunning Kentish surroundings, and race HQ is Harvel’s quintessentially English village green.

Finishers will enjoy the village-fete atmosphere at the finish, with beer and ice creams on sale, plus the local Women’s Institute on hand with tea and cake to reward hungry runners.


4. Leeds 10K - Jane Tomlinson's "Run For All"
Where: Leeds When: June 21

The late Jane Tomlinson, an indomitable runner, Ironman finisher and cancer sufferer, inspired people all over the UK with her incredible sporting achievements, and the 10K race in her name is testament to this.

The people of Leeds have entered into the spirit of this city-centre charity race with gusto – its first staging saw over 6,000 entrants complete the flat course running, jogging and walking. A supremely inclusive event, the Leeds 10K is bursting with a carnival atmosphere and sense of camaraderie among the entrants.

Its popularity has spawned the launch this year of a new Jane Tomlinson 10K race, to be staged in York’s city centre.


5. BUPA Great Manchester 10K
Where: Manchester When: May 17

A quintessential city-centre 10K, the Bupa Great Manchester run is big, bustling and a fab first race for beginners.

Join entrants from Manchester and all over the north-west in a sea of runners on a flat road route around Manchester’s vibrant city centre. If you’re used to training to music, the entertainment along the route – from drummers to brass bands – will help you keep your rhythm and energy levels up. In another form, the route would scream ‘PB’, but this mass-participation race is better suited to soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the huge crowds of supporters cheering runners along the route.


6. Buntingford Brewery Boxing Day 3.2
Where: Hertfordshire When: December 26

Work off Christmas excesses with a lap of the fairly flat fields near Buntingford on Boxing Day morning. Its pretty, rural setting will blow away the cobwebs if you had a sedentary Christmas Day, and with children’s fun runs also laid on by race organisers it’s ripe for becoming family tradition.

If novice runners need any incentive to start entering races, the Buntingford Brewery Boxing Day 3.2 comes complete with a bribe courtesy of its title sponsor – a welcome bottle of beer at the finish.

The Buntingford Brewery 3.2’s suitably Christmassy friendly atmosphere and intimate local feel provides a warm welcome to racing for first-timers in a small field limited to 500 entrants.


7. Market Drayton Muller 10K
Where: Shropshire When: May 10

Possibly the only race to present finishers with a memento tray of yoghurts, the Market Drayton Carnival 10K stands out from the 10K crowd in many ways.

The race was revived by enthusiastic members of the Muller running club just a few years ago, and has grown to become one of Shropshire’s biggest 10K events, with over 800 runners attracted by its carnival atmosphere and family-friendly events.

Finishers of the race, which leads through the centre of Market Drayton, are showered with goodies, from a medal to a well-stuffed goody bag and of course, those yoghurts. The race is an all-day affair with fun and games laid on for loyal spectators.


8.Woodley 10K
Where: Berkshire When: May 17

If it’s your first race or your 50th, the Woodley 10K is the perfect opportunity to set yourself a benchmark PB you’ll struggle to beat.

With chip timing and a flat road course, it’s PB heaven and perfect for newcomers to the 10K distance. Entrants to the Woodley 10K will be well looked after, with three water stops on the single-lap route and a medal to take home. The race is a friendly and very local affair, organised for charity by the local Scout group and attended by enthusiastic spectators cheering on the 600-strong field.


9. BUPA Great South Run
Where: Hampshire When: October 25

This 10-mile race from the Great Run stable of mass-participation races is a classic. You’ll be refreshed by the sea air – or even sea spray – as you run along the coast on this fast, flat course through Southsea and Portsmouth.

The varied route will keep you entertained as it tours Portsmouth’s historic docks for a glimpse of Britain's naval heritage, including HMS Victory and the Mary Rose. The final two miles take runners along the seafront for a breezy and atmospheric home stretch.

With a crowd of 21,000 other runners in 2008, you’ll be carried along by the Great South Run’s infectiously upbeat atmosphere, sterling crowd support and vibrant music to keep your legs pumping.


10. Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon
Where: London When: October 11

The Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon is an unusual beast – a race in the very centre of the capital, featuring sights from Buckingham Palace to the London Eye and taking in four verdant parks.

Staged for the first time in 2008, the race starts and finishes in London’s iconic Hyde Park before heading out on a tour by road and path of the stunning autumnnal leaves of St James's Park and Green Park.

Lucky entrants will be close up to London’s landmarks at a faster pace than the hordes of tourists – runners will pass Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Royal Albert Hall, the Albert Memorial and Marble Arch.


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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