1. Virgin London Marathon
Where? London When? April
The London Marathon has a reputation for being 'the big one' in British running, and with good reason. The numbers are staggering – a whopping 746,635 runners have completed the race, it’s broadcast in more than 150 countries and an estimated one million people lined London’s streets to cheer on runners in last year’s race. With a field of over 35,000, the presence of the world’s best elite runners and a huge crowd roaring support, taking part in the London Marathon is an experience that’s hard to beat.
"My first marathon, and what a way to start! I knew it would be a struggle, but the day was just amazing. Superb organisation, fantastic crowds, a day I won't forget in a hurry." SazzaG
2. Bupa Great North Run
Where? Newcastle When? September
The Bupa Great North Run is the world's biggest half-marathon and arguably one of the north-east's most famous exports. It's probably best to leave your PB ambitions at home for this raucous tour of South Shields, and just revel in this much-loved race's unique atmosphere. Described by one runner as '13.1 miles of party', all 54,000 runners are treated to a hero's welcome from the community - local people pour out onto the streets, offering jelly babies, orange slices, drinks and even beer to the annual invasion of runners.
"This is such a great event and the support from the spectators is fantastic. The buzz of the whole event seems just the thing to get any beginners hooked on running." Martin Connor
3. Trionium Picnic Marathon
Where? Surrey When? June
Dubbed the hardest marathon in the UK, the Trionium Picnic Marathon is staged every two years (so you can fully recover before race day rolls around again) and covers 6,000 feet of climbing in 26.2 miles. Thanks to this sense of epic adventure, the race is brimming with camaraderie and you’ll have plenty of company on the two-lap out-and-back course. Throw in a post-race communal meal, memento and medal too and completing the Picnic Marathon will make you feel part of something truly special.
"Something special and worth the two-year wait. An event surrounded by good marshals, scenery and a cheerful bunch of determined runners setting out to do (probably) their worst marathon time ever. I've got to go back and beat my time in 2011!" Christopher Norton
4. Mull of Kintyre Half-Marathon
Where? Argyll & Bute When? May
The Mull of Kintyre Half-Marathon isn't so much a race as a weekend-long festival in Cambeltown and the Mull of Kintyre. As well as the main event, the organizers lay on a dizzying array of events - many of them free. There's an open-top bus tour of the route the day before the race, free swimming, boat tours and an excursion to watch the sun set over Northern Ireland. Once the racing's out of the way, round off your feel-good weekend with the event's much-loved ceilidh.
"All in all, what a great weekend! Brilliant organisation, T-shirts fab and activities planned throughout weekend were superb. A race not to be missed!" Jennifer Martin
5. Stadium Runners Woodland Challenge
Where? West Yorkshire When? October
The Stadium Runners Woodland Challenge is a cracking cross-country fixture - challenging and muddy enough to force you to dig deep but with several faster stretches to get your heart racing too. In six miles, you'll canter along riverbanks, over walls and stiles, up steps, across a stream, and through charming woodland and meadows. Factor in a brass band to see off runners at the start and welcome them across the finish, live music playing in the woods (last year's tune of choice was Chariots of Fire) and a well-stuffed goody bag and here is a race brimming with fun.
"Fantastic! I can not imagine you will find better. The organisation, fun run, goody bags, music, unbelievable spot prizes and scenery made it a great day. Highly recommended." Willneverlearn
6. Trionium New Year Box Hill Knacker Cracker 10K
Where? Surrey When? January
The New Year Box Hill Knacker Cracker 10K packs in four 'ruddy great hills' including a lung-bursting series of steps and a thrilling final descent to the finish line. But whatever race pace you reach on January 1, you'll have plenty of company - runners set off in groups, slowest first. A madcap parade of wild, woolly and weird fancy dress costumes adds to the race's carnival atmosphere, and runners are certainly well looked after. There's a free run-through of the course, and all finishers walk away with a medal, mug and technical long-sleeved T-shirt having refuelled on sandwiches and soup.
"You are rewarded for 9K of blood, sweat and tears with a fantastic (and extremely gratifying) vision of the finish line. Take it at your lesiure or embrace the oppurtunity to hurtle into the New Year giving it all you've got! I even managed a PB in fancy dress - I love this race and will be back for the hat-trick in 2010!" Andy "Roadrunner" Southern
7. Beachy Head Marathon
Where? Sussex When? October
There's no denying the Beachy Head Marathon is one of the UK's toughest off-road marathons, taking in around 3,500ft of ascent - complete with gates, stiles and steps - in its tour of the cliffs over the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. But the beautiful coastal scenery and solidarity among the runners is enough to lift the spirits of anyone finding the climbs tough. If you're flagging, just make it to the next drinks station for a cheering spread of chocolate, hot drinks, hot cross buns and sausage rolls.
"Even the weather couldn't spoil this exhilarating experience. The atmosphere was great, the participants were all so friendly, and I couldn't believe the cheeriness of the marshals! Tough course, but unique, challenging and an experience." Little Monkey
8. Guy Fawkes 10
Where? North Yorkshire When? November
Taking in forest trails, bridleways and plenty of hills, the Guy Fawkes 10's multi-terrain course makes for one fun-packed lap. The hills might have you gritting your teeth and digging in, but they're balanced by the thrilling descents. The finish, in the courtyard of historic Ripley Castle lends a touch of the epic to crossing the finish line and if that doesn't lift your spirits, the famously generous goody bag pressed into your tired arms soon will.
"Every year, this race just gets better and better. A true "feel good" race that I'd encourage anybody to enter!" Simon Smith
9. Eridge Park 10
Where? Kent When? September
Grab this rare chance to explore a private estate with a course that winds through a historic deer park and ancient woodland - the traffic-free course is packed with treats for the discerning runner. And if the surrounds don't keep you entertained, then the terrain surely will. Runners are treated to rutted, steep tracks and woodland trails - all garnished with lashings of mud. The views around the single-lap course are as varied as the terrain, but don't worry - they're always breathtaking.
"What Sunday mornings were made for - this is an excellent race in every department. Hills are fantastically long and always rewarded with a suitable downhill!" Tom Campbell
10. Race the Train
Where? Gwynedd When? August
The idea of a band of runners racing the Talyllyn Railway on a trip to Abergynolwyn and back might sound madcap, but its devoted followers just keep coming back - 2009 was the 28th staging of this much-loved event. Following the train on foot means pitting yourself against 14 steep and muddy miles of roads, fields, hills, stiles, tracks and farmland in this quiet corner of North Wales. Make sure your family and friends have booked train tickets for the return journey so they can shout encouragement from the train.
"A race you must do at least once in your lifetime! There was a smile on my face all the way to the finish, once I'd known I'd beaten the train, that is..." Go-KL
How the results were calculated
This list was calculated using 2009 race ratings given by respondents on www.runnersworld.co.uk after they took part in the races. We worked out the average of the 'atmosphere' 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 (PB Potential, Beginner-friendliness, Scenery to follow later this week), it was only included in the chart where it had the highest ranking.