We’re into the second week of January, which means we’ve passed the ‘enthusiastic in theory’ stage of your new year’s plans and are well into the ‘guess I need to actually follow through on this’ stage.
You’re not bored of all that fresh fruit and veg in your diet just yet, and you’ve got a full 2% of the way into learning that new language.
But those other things you had planned – a gym membership, regular five-a-side football, no beer during the week – are already looking pretty fragile.
Sure, you haven’t given up just yet, but you know it’s only a matter of time, so it’s round about now that you’ll start bargaining with yourself.
That bargaining can mean signing up to a race a few months down the line, to the point where you’ll need to sort yourself out when the time comes to train for the thing.
Now, we’re not expecting all of you to be ready to run a marathon straight off the bat, but other long-distance races are far more manageable than you might think.
If you’re preparing for your first 10k, most experts suggest you’ll probably need eight weeks or so to train, whereas 15 weeks’ training is a good guideline when it comes to running a half marathon.
For this reason, most of the races we’ve included here are in March at the earliest. However, if you’re a more regular runner with a good general fitness level, we’re not going to stop you getting out there and posting a time a little sooner than that.
1. Heaton Park 10k – Manchester, 4 February, 10am start time
If you find yourself bored by long runs, it can help to have a picturesque setting to distract you from the fact that you’re actually running. This Manchester race, with a Grade 1 listed building on the premises, fits the bill, while there’s also a 5k run on the same day for those not quite ready for the longer distance.
2. The Dash for the Splash 10k – London, 25 February, 9.30am
Located on Wimbledon Common, the Dash for the Splash isn’t the sort of experience you want if you’re going for a fast time. However, with its all-terrain course – and yes, that might mean you’ll get a little wet – it gives you a chance to explore new parts of London while getting a good amount of exercise in.
3. Queen Elizabeth Park 10k – London, 3 March, 9.30am
If you wanted a chance to look at the Olympic Stadium in a new light, and if you don’t especially fancy watching West Ham United play football, a 10k run around the thing could be the answer. Part of a year-round 10k series, split into Winter and Summer, it gives you an up-close view of all the sights you remember from when you half-watched random Olympic events in the office in 2012 as a break from actual work.
4. Mornington Chasers 10k – London, 4 March, 9am
The Mornington Chasers running club put on a series of timed events in Regent’s Park throughout the winter, and they’re as welcoming for regular runners as they are for beginners. The March event is the last of the winter series (there’s also one on 4 February), but the park’s summer series will also continue in 2018, meaning we’ll get races on the first weekend of every month.
5. Draycote Water Winter 10k Series – Warwickshire, 11 March, 8am
If you’re not too keen on 9am starts, the Draycote Water Winter Series events could offer the perfect opportunity to pop your 10k cherry this year. This run around a reservoir is more affordable than some of the London races on this list, and ticks a few boxes for any running newbies based in and around the West Midlands. Oh, and it’s a monthly thing, in case you want to get started even sooner.
6. Adidas City Runs Fulham – London, 18 March, 9.30am
This West London run claims to be the capital’s flattest 10k route, so if you’re the sort of person who likes to get their running over and done with as quickly as possible (and who doesn’t?), this could be for you. There are likely to be further adidas runs later in the year, but this is the only one with entries open at the time of writing.
7. Liverpool Half Marathon – Liverpool, 25 March, 9am
If your half marathon prep is going ahead of schedule, or if you started your prep at the end of last year, this will come at the perfect time. Oh, and if you wanted an extra incentive, you’ll be taking part in the 25th anniversary of the race, which encompasses Liverpool’s parks and marina, and you’ve got the chance to spend the rest of the day in Liverpool once the run’s over and done with.
8. London Easter 10k – London, 2 April, 10.30am
It’s another Regent’s Park 10k, sure, but it’s one that gives you an extra hour and a half in bed, plus an Easter egg after you finish. There’s also a fun run and a children’s race on the day, in case you have kids and want to them a chance to get involved, while those taking part in the main race can shoot for the course record of 35:02… or just take it easy and get round in one piece.
9. Frenchay 10k Road Run – Bristol, 15 April, 11am
An 11am start, now that’s more like it. This Bristol run is one of the UK’s oldest of its kind, and is a genuinely scenic route with plenty of green space and natural light. If you’re based in the west of England, or if you just fancy a weekend in Bristol, this could be the one for you – especially with general public entries for this year’s Bath Half selling out in record time.
10. Peckham 10k – London, 5 May, 10.30am
When it comes to running in London, the south east of the capital is often overlooked. However, the Peckham 10k – run around Peckham Rye Park – fills the gap for many folks living south of the river. It costs just £14 to enter, too, so this could be a good pick for one of your first crack at this sort of distance.
11. The Great Birmingham 10k – Birmingham, 6 May, 9am
It feels like there aren’t enough long runs around England’s second-largest city, but this – from the organisers of the Great North Run (more on that later) is perfectly placed towards the midpoint of the year. It involves a city centre course, taking in plenty of Birmingham’s most recognisable attractions, including a lap of Edgbaston Cricket Ground.
12. Hackney Half – London, 20 May, 9am
Four months’ prep for a half marathon is the recommended 15 weeks and then some, so why not enter now and give yourself something to work towards? You’ll get to run on mostly flat streets, while there are live bands and DJs throughout the course, because it’s Hackney and that’s how things work there.
13. Edinburgh Half – Edinburgh, 27 May, 8am
If you live too far from London to fancy travelling down for a half marathon, maybe Edinburgh is a better fit. It’s just one week later, and is a similarly fast, flat course. The redesigned course will take you past plenty of the tourist attractions in the centre of the city, including Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Bobby, and you’ll be able to enjoy the Scottish capital once you’re done – providing your legs still have a bit of walking in them.
14. Worthing 10k – Worthing, 3 June, 9.30am
Sure, scenic routes through wooded areas or along the river are great, but running alongside the literal seafront might be even better. If you fancy heading down to the south coast and catching some rays, the Worthing Seafront 10k ticks all the boxes, while it’s near enough to Brighton to spend the rest of the day hanging out in the city centre.
15. Men’s 10k Glasgow – Glasgow, 17 June, 10am
If you’re looking for some Father’s Day entertainment that’s a little different from the norm, look no further. This 10k route takes you along the banks of the river Clyde, past the city’s iconic buildings, before finishing in George Square. With a couple of tasty inclines over the course of the race, this should act as a good test for anyone building up their endurance throughout 2018.
16. Richmond Summer Riverside 10k Run – London, 21 July, 9.30am
There aren’t too many chances to run timed races alongside the river Thames in the height of summer, but the Richmond Riverside 10k – one of a handful between Richmond and Kingston throughout 2018 – does just that. If you wanted any encouragement to go faster, just imagine how warm it will be the closer you get to midday in the middle of July.
17. London Spitfire 10k – London, 1 September, 9am
Not only is this an opportunity to get another 10k under your belt, but it’s a chance to raise money for the RAF. The London event will take place around the RAF Museum in Colindale, and if you’ve been looking for an excuse to visit for ages then why not kill two birds with one stone. There’s also a family run at 8.30am on the same day, for those who just want to use this one as a day out.
18. Cardiff 10k – Cardiff, 2 September, 9am
There are a fair few running opportunities in September, and for good reason: the weather’s getting a little cooler, but we’ve still got the tail end of those long summer days. The Cardiff 10k route goes through the centre of the Welsh capital, while there’s also a shorter 2k route for any families and fun-runners looking to get in on the action.
19. Great North Run – Newcastle, 9 September
The ballot for the Great North Run is open until 5 February, and entry into this race comes with one thing the others don’t – the possibility of friends and family seeing your face on TV. One of the most popular half-marathon routes in the UK, it will likely feature some runners you’ve heard of from their international exploits. Oh, and did we mention there’s free pasta for all competitors?
20. Ealing Half – London, 30 September, 9am
The Ealing Half is one of the UK’s newer half marathons, but has also been voted its best on multiple occasions. It was created by a group of runners from the area, who have designed a course that’s traffic-free and pretty inviting for anyone who decides September is far enough away to get training in search of a properly fast time.
21. Cardiff Half – Cardiff, 7 October, 10am
Early bird entries for this year’s event have already sold out, which probably tells you all you need to know about one of the UK’s most popular races. Cardiff held the World Half Marathon Championship event in 2016, so it’s clearly a well-respected venue, and the 2018 course takes in both the picturesque Cardiff Bay and the city centre.
22. Manchester Half Marathon – Manchester, 14 October, 9am
If you’ve completed some of the earlier 10ks, you might be ready to up the distance by October, while if you opt for one of the year’s earlier half marathons then you can use this one to get an even faster time. It’s one of the flatter courses around, making it perfect for anyone who has set out to run more in 2018 and actually stuck to that promise all year round.
23. Richmond park Christmas 10k – London, 9 December, 10am
As the year winds down and you panic about never getting round to those other races you wanted to do, you’ll still be able to head down to Richmond Park for a swift 10k. Of course there’s nothing stopping you from doing it even if you have run elsewhere – hopefully by December you’ll have been fully bitten by the running bug and are using this as prep for your 2019 marathon push.
(Images: Alexander Redl/Jenny Hill/iStock/Rex)