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Another year, another few hundred thousand rejections for runners desperate to take on the London Marathon.
People wait years to tick London off their bucket list – but if you got an email rejection this week don’t despair – there are plenty of brilliant spring marathons worth training for.
From beautiful hills in Scotland to fast and flat events perfect for getting that PB – get over the rejection of London with these superb alternative races.
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1. Brighton Marathon
If the draw of London is the atmosphere, Brighton is one of the most supported marathons you’re likely to find. Add to that some of the most impressive coastal views of any road marathon and you’re onto a winner.
Don’t expect it to be easy though. The main section that everyone knows is the long stretch down the seafront which is by far one of the most enjoyable marathon locations in the UK. Outside of that, you’ve got a fair few miles that cover the outskirts of the city. That includes winding streets, hills and a few crowd-free areas.
Still, there’s nothing in London that will match the satisfaction of eating fish and chips on the beach after tackling 26.2 miles.
When: 19 April 2020
Number of runners: 12,000
Price: TBC - Register your interest to receive updates
2. Greater Manchester Marathon
Manchester is famous for many things: Coronation Street, The Hacienda, two football clubs, Oasis and, most importantly for us runners, one of the flattest marathons in the country.
What’s more, the route has been amended for 2020, with more time in the city centre, which should help match up to London for throngs of spectators.
The lack of elevation is by no means the only reason to take part. Expect fantastic support as you pass Old Trafford, the Manchester Opera House and the Albert Memorial Hall – and a cracking night out afterwards.
With around 20,000 runners it’s one of the biggest on our London alternatives list. So if you’re looking for something large-scale like London, it’s well worth a look.
When: 5 April 2020
Number of runners: 20,000
Price: £55 - Head to the website for more
3. Edinburgh Marathon
Edinburgh Marathon may well be a little bit further afield than you were hoping to travel for a marathon. But trust us, a trip to Auld Reekie is much more than just a Sunday morning desperately trying to get to the end of 26.2 gruelling miles – and it’s currently offering a place to anyone that fails in the London ballot.
In terms of elevation, Edinburgh is a surprisingly flat marathon – which may come as a surprise to those that have visited the city before.
What’s more, the first 5k of the route is all downhill from a starting altitude of 100m - so as far as we’re concerned it’s a 37k race.
We probably don’t need to tell you about the historical and scenic joys of a trip to Edinburgh, but if you’re going to turn your 2020 marathon into a tourist trip you’re not going to pick a better place - and there’s always the option of a deep-fried Mars bars after the race as well.
When: 24 May
Number of runners: 16,000+
Price: From £62 - Head to the website for more info.
4. Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon
The Rock and Roll marathon company is famous for putting on races in cities with a reputation for rock, so it’s not really surprising that Liverpool has been chosen alongside Las Vegas, Nashville, Seattle and more.
The Liverpool route takes in some of the most famous landmarks around Liverpool including the football stadiums, Stanley Park, the John Lennon statue and the Kings Parade waterfront. And as you might imagine, there’s plenty of music along the route to keep your mind off the miles.
There are a fair few hills dotted across the route though, so don’t get too comfortable as you’ll need to dig a bit deeper to get across the finish line before heading down to the Cavern Club to celebrate your achievements.
When: 24 May 2020
Number of runners: 20,000+
Price: From £42 - Head to the website for more info.
5. Paris Marathon
Okay, we know it’s in another country, but thanks to the handy invention of the Eurostar traveling to this marathon is easier than getting to most of the UK marathons in the list.
If you’re looking for an event that has the same sort of lure as London, takes place around the same time, and has a similar spattering of beautiful landmarks – Paris is just about worth the steep entry price.
There’s something special about big city marathons – 50,000 runners descending on one place – that offers a sense of occasion that smaller events just don’t seem to possess.
But it’s not all rosy as a London alternative. It’s slightly more undulating than London (but not by much), and there are large sections with minimal crowds, something that’s pretty much unheard of at the London Marathon these days.
But if you’ve got your heart set on a marathon weekend city break in spring, Paris tops the list for us.
When: 5 April 2020
Number of runners: 49,000+
Price: From €110 - Head to the website for more info.
6. Milton Keynes Marathon
If your heart was set on running London then Milton Keynes isn’t going to cut it. But hear us out. If, however, you’re a Southerner desperately looking for a spring race to focus on then this may well be just what the running coach ordered.
Although Milton Keynes may not have the scenic value of London, the route actually passes through a large area of the Buckinghamshire countryside which includes some quite impressive landscapes and lovely villages. It’s actually one of our favourite 26.2s in the UK.
And when it comes to racing it’s extremely flat, so if you’re PB hunting it’s a prime candidate. And given the mere 35 minutes on the train from London, so you can be sat happily on the sofa eating pizza as your new medal hangs on the wall.
When: 3 May 2020
Number of runners: 1,800
Price: £46 - head to the website for more info.
7. Shakespeare Marathon
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, set your sights on Stratford Upon Avon. While Shakespeare wasn’t known for his endurance running, that hasn’t stopped the marathon being dedicated in the Bard’s honour.
And much like a rendition of his sonnets, the route is far from easy to tackle. The race starts and end in the narrow streets of Stratford, but quickly head out into the Warwickshire countryside along the Greenway, where things get hilly pretty quickly.
The final part of the route is the most enjoyable as runners head back alongside the river before heading back through the town for medals and mead.
When: 26 April 2020
Number of runners: 3,000
Price: £36 - Head to the website for more info.