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The Proven Five Best UK Marathons for Beginners & Hitting PB

Woman running a marathon

This article is perfect for anyone who is new to marathon running or someone looking to hit that all important personal best time. The marathons in this list are statistically the ‘easiest’ (if you can ever call running 42km easy)!

How have we calculated the difficulty?

  1. By calculating the route profile we’ve been able to objectively compare key figures; uphill percentage, total ascent, steepest uphill section and the longest uphill section. We have evened out all inclines/declines below 5%.
  2. We’ve conducted interviews with runners who often run these routes, plus we’ve included testimonials to understand other aspects of the marathon that affect the difficulty; congestion, weather, how well organised and the crowd turnout, etc.

Edinburgh Marathon

Edinburgh Marathon Route Profile
  • Uphill: 10.17 km (24.1%)
  • Total ascent: 153 m
  • Steepest uphill: 6.70%
  • Longest uphill: 1.17 km

Our number 1 spot is (no surprise) held by the Edinburgh Marathon; rated as the fastest marathon in the UK by Runners World and probably the most well known race for runners looking to hit a PB. It’s almost entirely downhill or flat, and in the right conditions can be the perfect route for achieving a fast time. Keep in mind, you’re still in Scotland so the conditions certainly cannot be guaranteed, and much of the course is exposed to the elements. In the last few years alone we’ve had 28°C scorchers, vicious headwinds and washout days. This race kicks off in Edinburgh’s beautiful old town and at around 5km you’ll start to leave the city, run along the bottom of Arthur’s Seat, before heading down to the coast road for the rest of the route. 

It’s worth noting there haven’t been any pacers in previous years so unless it’s a new addition this year, be prepared to plan your splits ahead of time. Also the journey from the finish line back into Edinburgh can be a slog, and you may end up waiting a long time to get on a coach.

This race has also sold out every year since 2008 so you definitely need to book far in advance to secure a place for either the full or half marathon.

The Shakespeare Marathon- Stratford-Upon-Avon

  • Uphill: 11.16 km (26.5%)
  • Total ascent: 190 m
  • Steepest hill: 6.70%
  • Longest hill: 2.07 km

The Shakespeare Marathon is our number two! As you can probably guess, this race is hosted in Stratford-Upon-Avon and has a number of references to their most famous resident. The race begins outside Shakespeare’s old school in the charming centre of Stratford-Upon-Avon and you’ll als pass by The Holy Trinity Church (where his grave lies). You’ll run out of the town and through classic English countryside, complete with quaint villages and thatched roofs. The Shakespeare Marathon is a two lap course and, as the majority of runners are doing the half-marathon, you might get a little lonely in the second lap. This race is pretty much as flat as they come, with only one hill per lap and only a few minor inclines. Therefore in terms of PB potential; this is an uncongested race, organised with military precision with huge opportunity for a quick time.

The Greater Manchester Marathon

The Greater Manchester Marathon Route Profile
  • Uphill: 12.06 km (28.2%)
  • Total ascent: 158 m
  • Steepest uphill: 2.2%
  • Longest hill: 1.62 km

The Greater Manchester Marathon is the second largest marathon in the UK, hosting 25,000 participants each year. Another PB hotspot, there are very few bad words to say about this one. This one-of-a-kind event has a pumping atmosphere, is very well organised, is notoriously flat and relatively uncongested. Plus you have the benefit of tonnes of all friendly Mancs to chat to in your starting pen and at the pre-event.

You begin in front of the historic Old Trafford Stadium and loop 42km through Greater Manchester and city centre. You’ll see (and hear) the finish line from half a mile out, which never fails to spur on that final push to the end.

The Blackpool Marathon

The Blackpool Marathon Route Profile
  • Uphill: 11.43 km (27.1%)
  • Total ascent: 184 m
  • Steepest uphill: 5.60%
  • Longest hill: 1.26 km

Blackpool Marathon is another two lapper, starting around Blackpool North on the Seafront and running south past the Golden Mile to Lytham St Annes. Then you turn around, run back along the seafront as far as Bispham, before turning back once again to the starting point. Blackpool has been described as a ‘no-frills marathon’; friendly, yet subdued support from the limited crowds who turn out for the occasion.

The route profile might look intimidating, until you realise most of these hills are no more than 10m incline. You sadly won’t receive too much in the way of free goodies after the race; the Blackpool Marathon organisers aren’t known for being the most generous. This being said, if you’re looking to hit that all important PB on an uncrowded and well organised race, Blackpool could be the one for you.

The Brighton Marathon

  • Uphill: 11.97 km (28.4%)
  • Total ascent: 193 m
  • Steepest hill: 5.60%
  • Longest hill: 1.26 km

Arguably the best party atmosphere from out of any of the marathons in our list. Enthusiastic supporters cover the majority of the Brighton route, and aren’t just waiting at the finish line like we see at a lot of races. Brighton is a fairly flat route with a few small hills in the first half of the race, and therefore a perfect race for beginners or those looking to hit a new PB. Most of the route is along the seafront and you’ll have great views of the marina on your return leg.

In keeping with Brighton’s style, once you cross the finish line you’ll be flooded with generous amounts of goodies, in an eco-friendly reusable bag, of course!

If you disagree with our selection or have a quicker marathon in mind, let us know in the comments section below!

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