Bolton 10K (Greater Manchester, April 13)
Bolton 10K, April 13
While 40,000 runners head to the capital for the Flora London Marathon, another 1,000 will be travelling to the north-west for this fast and friendly road race. Be prepared for a fair stretch of uphill running, though locals claim the course presents nothing too arduous for the 10K first-timer.
Rotary Shakespeare Marathon (and Half-Marathon) (Warwickshire, April 27)
Enjoy a dose of Olde England in this predominantly flat, long-standing race that combines the medieval delights of Stratford-upon-Avon with the beautiful Warwickshire countryside. This is just one of several events commemorating the playwright's birthday weekend, and the town will be buzzing with spectators to cheer you on.
Llanelli Waterside Half-Marathon (Dyfed, March 2)
Llanelli Waterside Half, March 2
Securing the future of a new race can often be a daunting prospect for event organisers. Not so for Llanelli Triathlon Club. Attracting near on 1,500 competitors last year - a sixfold increase on its 2006 debut - its annual out-and-back half now enjoys a reputation as the largest ever road race in West Wales.
Winding its way along Camarthenshire's award-winning Millennium Coastal Path, the predominantly flat course is sure to prove popular among the hill-averse, though gusty headwinds and the occasional shale stretch may thwart those chasing fast times. Panoramic views over the Burry Estuary and Gower peninsula also offer a welcome distraction from your watch; given the unanimous praise that characterises previous race reviews however, it's unlikely you'll be in a hurry to head home in any case.
More Welsh highlights...
San Domenico 20 (Merthyr Tydfil, March 9)
Rhayader Round The Lakes 20 (Powys, March 16)
Carmathen Mayor's 5K (Camarthenshire, March 24)
Cloud Nine Hill 8.75 (Cheshire, March 2) |
Fell running is frequently believed to be the preserve of the hardy, veteran athlete, but in contrast, this upland fixture is a great introduction for those wishing to get a feel for the sport. Climbing from the small market town of Congleton to the summit of Bosley Cloud (a gritstone ridge on the Cheshire-Staffordshire border) the eight-mile-plus course nevertheless offers a challenging opponent. Not least thanks to a wide variety of conditions underfoot. Previous entrants have met with icy rocks, trainer-sucking bogs and ankle-deep puddles as they hurtle through gates and clamber over fences towards the finish.
Its glorious rural setting (weather permitting) goes almost without saying, while the chance to lay eyes on the county's infamous Bridestones (dated c.2000 BC) adds a mystical touch to this heavenly fixture. Hearty servings of soup at the finish are the perfect pick-me-up for weary legs.
More hill-ridden highlights...
Trollers Trot 24 (North Yorkshire, March 1)
West Wight Three Hills 8 (Isle of Wight, March 24)
Exe to Axe (Devon, March 30)
Fradley 10K, March 9
Fradley 10K (Staffordshire, March 9)
City-centre spectaculars and adrenaline-fuelled mudfests may always go down a storm among punters, but sometimes it's hard to beat a no-frills classic road race. And there are certainly no extravagant trappings to this rural 10K on the northernmost tip of Lichfield.
Two pancake-flat laps along quiet country roads are ideal for taking a shot at an early-season PB, while beginners will enjoy the chance to stretch their legs over such a smooth course. An encouraging turnout of locals lends the fixture a friendly village feel, and thanks to the well-designed route - that brings runners past race HQ three times in total - family or friends in tow are unlikely to feel short-changed.
Exposed sections can make for a bracing dash in inclement conditions, but the loudening hum of rousing music as you approach the finish is sure to put a spark back in your engine for one final sprint.
More 10K highlights...
Devizes 10K (Wiltshire, March 9)
B&Q Eastleigh 10K (Hampshire, March 16)
City of Lincoln - Jackson Building Centres 10K (Lincolnshire, March 30)
Wimbledon Audi 10K (London, March 30)
Tough Challenge Marathon, March 16
Tough Challenge Marathon - Wendover Woods (Buckinghamshire, March 16)
There's much to be said for multi-lap courses: knowing what lies in store around each corner, stealing more than one glimpse of your loyal supporters, and the familiarity of the homeward stretch for starters. For entrants to this hilly trail race however, recognising the twists and turns of previous laps is likely to feel less like a blessing and more like a curse.
Its exhausting one-mile circuit takes in copious amounts of mud, water and stony terrain, as well as an incline that has been known to reduce even the toughest of runners to an undignified scrabble. No wonder then that completing upwards of 20 loops - totalling around 6,000ft of ascent and descent - over the full marathon distance poses a punishing physical and mental challenge.
Half-marathon and 10K options are available for those looking for a more digestible alternative, though even the prospect of eleven or six loops (respectively) might prove difficult to stomach for some.
More long-distance highlights...
Duchy Marathon (Cornwall, March 9)
Sub-4 Stafford 20 (Staffordshire, March 9)
Oakley 20 (Bedfordshire, March 16)
Asics Kingston Breakfast Run (Surrey, March 30)
Hastings Half-Marathon, March 16
Hastings Half-Marathon (East Sussex, March 16)
Those on the lookout for a pre-FLM event that closely mimics race-day conditions in the capital could hardly do better than this popular seaside half. Its 5,000-strong field is perfect for those seeking experience of running in crowds, while its outstanding atmosphere, rowdy spectators and course-side entertainment can certainly be said to rival those at London.
Granted, the course includes more challenging contours. A long upward stretch to the halfway point - allegedly retracing in the footsteps of William the Conqueror - is followed by a quick loop around the town, before descending towards the picturesque fishing port and sea-front. Not that this mix of ups and downs should deter half-marathon first-timers. "Whistles, whoops and roars of support"guarantee you a wholly rewarding day, whatever your ability or ambitions.
More half-marathon highlights...
Brentwood Half-Marathon (Essex, March 9)
Newton's Fraction Half-Marathon (Lincolnshire, March 9)
Lydd Half-Marathon (Kent, March 9)
Wilkinson Ackworth Half-Marathon (West Yorkshire, March 16)
Hogweed Hilly Half-Marathon IV (Gloucestershire, March 30)
The Stowmarket Striders Joe Cox Half-Marathon (Suffolk, March 23) |
Also acutely aware of the demand for more spring marathon build-up races are the Stowmarket Striders in Suffolk, whose fifteen-year-old 10-miler is to be extended into a half-marathon for the first time this year.
The new distance heralds an entirely new course too. From the pretty market town of Stowmarket, the route charts south-west through the villages of Buxhall, Rattlesden and Brettenham taking in the beautiful Suffolk countryside. Except for a couple of undulations to keep you on your toes, the course otherwise promises to be a relaxing, rural affair, unless that is, you find yourself at the front of the field.
One of seven fixtures included in the new Eastern Region Grand Prix Road Race Series, expect stiff competition among those looking for a fast performance in the Joe Cox Half. Not that the promise of regional athletic rivalry should detract from the race's original purpose. Commemorating a local runner killed in a motorbike accident, organisers are keen to stress all race proceeds go to a charitable cause (MS Society).
More eastern highlights...
The Wymondham 20- and 10-Milers (Norfolk, March 2)
Broadland Half-Marathon (Norfolk, March 16)
Norwich Union Trowse 10K (Norfolk, March 23)
Thorney 10K (Cambridgeshire, March 30)
Hanham Horror 6 (Gloucestershire, March 23)
Ask a handful of runners to describe a race profile and one person's molehill is sure to be another's mountain. Place them all at the base of a climb strung with firmly-secured rope however, and there can be little doubt as to the challenge ahead.
Hauling oneself up muddy scree is just one of the obstacles facing entrants to this six-mile slog along the woodland trails beside the River Avon. A 100-step climb at the finish is another. Organised by the "same sadistic bunch" behind the Sodbury Slog, this is definitely one to earmark if you like your races rough and ready. Its winning mix of fatigue-inducing workouts and friendly camaraderie guarantees to get the endorphins flowing, just in time to take advantage of a free alcoholic drink at the finish.