Many runners who live outside of the UK only think of the London Marathon when it comes to conjuring up a list of the best marathons in the UK.
However, while the London Marathon is indeed a fantastic race experience, and a bucket list marathon for many runners, there are also some other excellent marathons in the UK aside from the London Marathon that are well worth looking into.
Opening your mind to some of the other best marathons in the UK will give you an opportunity to either race a marathon on your home turf if you are local or travel to an amazing new destination marathon for an unforgettable experience.
London Marathon or not, there are some wonderful marathons in the UK to choose from. Here are our top picks:
9 Great Marathons In The UK Well Worth Training For
The London Marathon saw about 48,000 finishers in 2023.
The World Marathon Major is not only one of the biggest marathons in the world but also the hardest to get into.
Therefore, even if you have every intention or dream of running the London Marathon, you may have difficulty securing a race bib, especially for the 2024 London Marathon as registration is now closed.
Although the London Marathon course is notoriously flat and fast, there are some other fast UK marathons with blissfully flat courses to help you run a marathon PR.The Greater Manchester Marathon fits the bill as it is known as the friendliest, flattest, and fastest UK marathon, so it’s one of the best UK marathons for a PB (maybe you’ll get a BQ time!).
Aside from one small hill, you’ll enjoy virtually no change in elevation over the entire 26.2 miles or 42.195 km of this popular UK marathon.
What also makes the Adidas Manchester Marathon one of the best marathons in the UK is that it’s very well organized, has great crowd support, and has a friendly and energized atmosphere.
The course is all on closed roads and finishes outside Old Trafford Stadium.
Interestingly, although it is known as the Edinburgh Marathon, you spend very little of the 26.2 miles in Edinburgh.
But this fast UK marathon course still allows runners to see some of the nice outskirts of the city as well as enjoy the finish line in lovely Musselburgh.
The course is fast with a net downhill, so it is one of the best marathons in the UK for a PB.
The Yorkshire Marathon has to make the list of the best marathons in the UK.
It’s one of Britain’s most popular marathons aside from the London Marathon, usually drawing a field size of over 7,000 runners.
This should be one of the best marathons in the UK for a PB, as the field size is large enough to find fellow marathoners to race with yet not too congested that you’ll get slowed by a sea of runners.
The Yorkshire Marathon course itself is also inherently rather fast—again another reason this may be one deserving to be a “UK fastest marathons list” and certainly one of Britain’s flattest marathons with the highest point on the course only 40m above sea level.
You also get to enjoy some of York’s quiet country lanes and historic sites.
If you want to have a quaint marathon experience with a charming course and surprisingly diverse terrain, the Cybi Coastal Marathon on the island of Ynys Cybi off Anglesey may be the best marathon in the UK for you.
It is usually held in early August, so race temperatures may be a bit warm, but the coastal breeze should help keep you cool.
The course follows the coastline of the small island in a clockwise direction, giving runners an opportunity to cover some of the miles on roads, beaches, paths, and fields.
There are some surprisingly tough little hills on the course. For example, near the end of the marathon, after you run past the beautiful South Stack Lighthouse, you run up Holyhead Mountain.
If you are looking for one of the most beautiful marathons in the UK, the climb is worth the effort because the views at the top are breathtaking (and that’s not just from panting after the 220m elevation gain to the top).
Rather, you get to see the crystal waters of the Irish Sea, and on a clear day, you can sometimes even see the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland.
The good news is that the rest of the marathon route is downhill to the finish line in Holyhead.
If you are looking for one of the best trail marathons in the UK and you love a little bit of history, you will likely find that one of the best UK trail marathons is the Farnham Pilgrim Marathon.
This challenging marathon has some road miles, but much of the route is off-road as a good part of the 26.2 miles takes you along the Pilgrim’s Way, which starts in Winchester and ends in Canterbury.
Between Farnham and Guildford in the Surrey Hills, the Farnham Pilgrim Marathon course is mostly on off-road terrain (and a hilly route at that!).
However, although this is certainly not an easy UK marathon, it is a beautiful and peaceful one; the countryside is lovely and the atmosphere is friendly, supportive, and low-key.
This is a perfect first trail marathon for UK runners for anyone who wants to have the best foray into the world of trail marathon running in the UK.
For those who are looking for the best trail marathons in the UK, you should check out the Beachy Head Marathon, one of the largest UK off-road marathons.
This October half marathon was formerly known as the Seven Sisters Marathon, and follows a challenging course that starts and finishes in the town of Eastbourne.
You’ll follow the windy South Downs Way, or an all-trail marathon with no road miles at all.
This is one of the best UK trail marathons for beginners, as Rees organizers even allow walkers, which means that you can run/walk your way to the finish and just enjoy the beauty surrounding you as you work your way through your first trail marathon.
There is even an ultramarathon at the event now which follows the same Beachy Head Marathon course and tacks on an additional 10k route.
It’s definitely a low-key event yet still draws a pretty big crowd every year, which, in many ways, is the best of both worlds when looking for one of the best UK trail marathons.
#8: Kielder Marathon
The Kielder Marathon is self-described by the race organizers as Britain’s most beautiful Marathon.
And, while, of course, there is going to be some inherent bias from the race organizers, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t one of the most beautiful marathons in Great Britain.
The Kielder Marathon is so named because the course takes you around Kielder Water—the largest man-made lake in the UK. The views are stunning and it really is one of the most beautiful marathons in GB.
Aside from getting to enjoy Kielder Water, the Kielder Marathon also has some luscious woodlands and quite a variety of terrain to keep you engaged throughout the entire race.
The course is surprisingly tough because there are some decent climbs, but it draws a good mix of first-time trail marathon runners, annual returners, and seasoned marathoners alike.
Ultimately, runners agree that the atmosphere is jovial and supportive and the course is one of the best scenic marathons in the UK.
Outside of England, one of the best marathons in Wales is the Great Welsh Marathon. It is also the oldest Wales marathon event.
The Great Welsh Marathon is probably the fastest marathon in Wales (skip the gorgeous Eryri Marathon in Wales if you’re looking for one of the flattest marathons in Wales, though it is stunning!).
The Great Welsh Marathon course not only has stunning views of the sea as you run along Llanelli’s Millennium Coastal Park, but the route is also very flat and closed to traffic.
Runners soak up the picturesque Welsh coast and cute Burry Port harbor with the start and finish at Pembrey Country Park in Carmarthenshire.
It’s definitely one of the best marathons in the UK for those looking to explore the beauty of Wales.
Hopefully, at least one or two of these suggestions of the best 2024 marathons in the UK either sparked your wanderlust to head to the UK to run or be a worthy consolation prize (that may even end up being far better than you ever could dream!) for not getting into the 2024 London Marathon.
Did you find a UK marathon that you want to train for in 2024?
Check out some of our free marathon training plans here.