Best Running Races
We’ve put together a selection of our favourite races, with a mixture of UK races and for those looking to travel a little further afield, grab your passports as we have some incredible suggestions for you!
Zevenheuvelenloop (translating Seven Hills) is a 15k road race in Nijmegen, Holland. Yes Holland has hills! Seven Hills was one of my first races overseas and it didn’t disappoint, so much so I’ve been back a further three times over the years. This race stands out to me for a number of reasons. We rarely get chance to race over 15k, which in itself is a bit of a novelty. As the name of the race suggests, the course is undulating, but still the world 15k record is on this course, so if you pace it well, you can definitely run fast. Nijmegen is situated on the German border and is surrounded by an amazing forest, perfect for a pre race shakeout jog. The race itself runs through the roads that pass through the forest and given the Autumn date makes for a really picturesque route. Finally as well as a world class elite field, there’s always a lively atmosphere with spectators lining the streets.
- Date: Normally November
- Location: Nijmegen, Netherlands
- Event Website: https://www.nnzevenheuvelenloop.nl
- Entry Fee: € 21,95 (As of 2022)
- Nearest Airport: Eindhoven, Rotterdam or Amsterdam with good train links from all with many low cost airlines flying from the UK.
New York Marathon
I feel no bucket list is complete without the New York City Marathon. I was fortunate to run New York in 2018 and loved the experience. The marathon course winds it’s way around one of the most amazing cities in the world. It’s one of the most popular marathons in the world, attracting the world’s top athletes and a vast range of recreational runners. Passing through the different boroughs of New York, each section is very different with varying live music and entertainment along the way. Starting in Staten Island gives you incredible views over to Manhattan in the first mile, but make sure you take spare clothes for the start as it can be cold! I remember looking to my left over the first bridge and just seeing the famous skyline and thinking, ‘wow’ I’m running New York Marathon. Queensboro Bridge marks the half way point and is one of the only quiet sections of the race as spectators aren’t allowed on the bridges, however once you’re over Queensboro Bridge, you turn right onto First Avenue. The noise here is absolutely deafening and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, it’s very difficult not to get carried away here, but you’re still only at the 16-mile mark with a lot of running ahead of you. The finish in Central Park is a fitting way to finish the hardest marathon course I’ve ran, but quite possibly the best! One of my favourite cities and races!
- Date: November
- Location: New York, USA
- Event Website: http://www.tcsnycmarathon.org
- Entry Fee: $ 295 (As of 2021) One of the best but one of the hardest to get in… Your best chance is often through a charity partner or International Tour Provider.
- Nearest Airport: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and LaGuardia Airport.
UK Option – Ribble Valley 10k
Whilst London Marathon is the obvious candidate (and deservedly so) I thought it would be good to share a different race in my top three for some added variety. My recommendation is Ribble Valley 10k. Looking back at my Pof10 profile, it’s a race I’ve done many times now over the years and I’ve always really enjoyed it. I really like racing over the Christmas period and it often fills a gap during that awkward time between Christmas and New Year. With my birthday falling on the 27th I’ve also ran it twice on my birthday as an added bonus! The race starts in Cltheroe in Lancashire and while it’s certainly not the fastest 10k I’ve ran, it’s still possible to run fast (a bit like Seven Hills) as most of the hills are rolling. Despite a nasty hill with 400m to go, the crowds down the home straight really bring you home. It’s a race that still has a real club feel to it rather than some of the larger commercial events out there and always attracts a strong field at the front end given it’s often the Northern 10k Championships.
- Date: December
- Location: Clitheroe, Lancashire
- Event Website: https://www.ribblevalley10k.co.uk
- Entry Fee: £ 19 (As of 2021)
- Travel: Near to Burnley & Blackburn so easy access from M6 and M65
Honourable mentions for Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon, Armagh 5k, Course de l’Escalade (Switzerland) and Great Scottish Run.
Great North Run
One of the biggest Half Marathons in the UK and the race does not disappoint. I was lucky enough to have the Great North Run 2021 in my race calendar and it was an amazing experience to be a part of. A tough course traditionally point to point taking in some sights from the city and finishing on the sea front. From the masses of runners on the start line all waiting to get their race underway to the thousands of supporters lining the streets to cheer on the athletes every step of the way makes this event so special. Steeped in history and attracting some of the biggest names in the sport it can be a great day for not just those running but any family or friends interested in seeing you race.
- Date: 11/9/22
- Location: Newcastle
- Event Website: https://www.greatrun.org/events/great-north-run/#route
- Entry Fee: £59
This race will always be a good one for me as I ran my personal best here. The course is 2 loops along a disused tarmac railway line with some small inclines to mix up the running but overall being a fast course. It brings the challenge of a fast start downhill for the first 800m, so pacing and sticking to your race plan is key. As it’s only a bike path width then the racing is intimate with the spectators on the course which spurs you on the whole way. At only £12, with hotels right on the course start line then this can be a good option for a winter 10km. Finding races at this time of year can be tough but this is one for the calendar.
- Date: 11/12/22
- Location: Telford
- Event Website: https://mandyjgarrott.wixsite.com/telford-ac/telford10k
- Entry Fee: £12
Mid Cheshire 5km
The country roads of Cheshire are put to good use in this race. Providing a fast course with hedges on either side to help create a wind block then this race is perfect for chasing your PB. Runners of all abilities will enjoy this race and the race only boosts PB potential with plenty of competition on the road to pull you on. Again at a very reasonable £16 with loads of start line spots available then its one for the calendar. One race in the Spring and a second in the Autumn, so if you enjoy it so much the first time around you can have another crack a few months later.
- Date: 29/4/22 + 26/8/22
- Location: Kingsley, Cheshire
- Event Website: https://www.runcheshire.com/run-cheshire-gogledd-cymru-races/
- Entry Fee: £16
De 4-mijl van Groningen is a 4-mile road race held in the northern Dutch town of Groningen. I first raced at Groningen in 2014 and have competed a total of four times so far in my career, racing in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2019. Given the date in mid-late October it would usually serve as our first race of the autumn/winter season, which makes the distance of 4-miles quite appealing as you don’t need to be in PB 5km shape, or similarly PB Half Marathon shape – you just need to be generally fit which at that time of year is perfect. I love this race as it’s a really friendly and lively atmosphere with crowds lining the entire 4-mile route, as well as bands and music playing along the way. Groningen is also a great little town with some lovely bars and cafes to grab a drink in over the weekend as well as the Stadspark Groningen for some pre and post race easy running.
- Date: October
- Location: Groningen, Netherlands
- Event Website: https://www.4mijl.nl
- Entry Fee:
- Nearest Airport: Amsterdam and then train to Groningen.
The BOclassic is an annual 10km road race held on New Years Eve in the Italian town of Bolzano. The race itself takes you on a lapped 1200m circuit through the old town, and through all of the Christmas markets. The entire lap is filled with spectators around 3 deep so the atmosphere really is something else and more like running inside a stadium than out on the roads. This was a bit of breakthrough race personally for me in 2015, as I started to realise what could be possible in terms of Olympic qualification the following year. I rolled the dice and ran with some of the leading Africans until about two laps to go but still managed to take some good scalps including an Olympic bronze medalist from the London 2012 games. Given its New Years Eve date the race has an air of celebration about it, and I also like that it maintains some focus and purpose with regards to training through the Christmas period. Once the race is finished it’s almost dark and the celebrations for the New Year can finally begin in some of the quaint bars and restaurants around Bolzano.
- Date: New Years Eve
- Location: Bolzano, Italy
- Event Website: https://www.boclassic.it/en/
- Entry Fee:
- Nearest Airport: Milan or Innsbruck.
Falmouth Road Race
The Falmouth road race has a place in history with regard to American distance running. First run in 1973 it quickly became one of the most popular races in the country, especially through the running boom of the 1980’s and has a decorated history of past winners including legendary American runner’s Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Craig Virgin and Joan Benoit Samuelson. The race itself is an iconic 7-mile seaside course on Cape Cod and draws a strong international field as well as thousands of recreational runners from across America each year. I ran here in 2018 and absolutely loved it, it’s definitely one I want to get back to before my running career winds down. A unique feature for the elites running the race is that, rather than staying in a race hotel, athletes are billeted with locals from around the town who volunteer to host. I and Callum Hawkins stayed with a lovely family who couldn’t do enough for us and were extremely accommodating. We had some fantastic home cooked meals and they showed a genuine interest and enthusiasm for us running their local race.
- Date: August
- Location: Falmouth, MA, USA
- Event Website: https://falmouthroadrace.com
- Entry Fee:
- Nearest Airport: Boston Logan International Airport
There is no other country in the world where the cheers during your race will be as good as in Spain. And who doesn’t want a good trip towards the Spanish coast in February. I can speak for Jonny and myself that Seville marathon holds a special place in our hearts. In 2020 we both raced the marathon and Jonny came away with an Olympic Qualifying time and I made my debut over the magical distance. During the 26.2 miles you run past several beautiful buildings and old buildings. You can fly directly from multiple airports in the UK. Afterwards you can reward yourself with a nice drink and explore the city of Seville by bike.
- Date: February
- Location: Seville, Spain
- Event website: https://en.zurichmaratonsevilla.es/zen-inscripciones
- Entry fee: around 70 euros
As being from Holland we can’t have the Amsterdam marathon not in this list. Running the marathon is the ultimate tour guide through the city. It is a completely flat course so there is no reason not to go for your personal best. I personally never ran Amsterdam marathon yet, but it is definitely on my bucket list. With only an hour flight away Amsterdam is easy to get to. During the race you ran under the iconic building of the ‘Rijksmuseum’ and you get an fantastic finish in the Olympic Stadium.
- Date: Third Sunday of October
- Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Event website: https://www.tcsamsterdammarathon.nl/
- Entry fee: 72 – 95 euros
Night of the PB’s London
Being an athlete who is both active on the roads and on track I will put this 10,000 meter here as well. Every year a lot of people come to London to spectate this incredible event where the best 10,000 meter runners from Europe compete. Special about this race is that the crowd is allowed to cheer from lane 4 instead of the track begin completely empty. They have put up two massive tents as well where the runner’s go through during each lap. Even though not everybody can enter this race, there is always room for even more people to come and watch some incredible athletics performances. This is one of the races where competition meets a very good night out enjoying a beer.
- Date: 14th May 2022
- Location: Parliament Hill, London
- Event Website: https://www.nightofthe10kpbs.com
- Entry fee: Unknown
Christleton is a quiet little village located near to Chester and home of the popular Christleton 5k. It was always a highlight of the local racing calendar and a race we all looked forward to as a group as it offered a fantastic opportunity to run a fast time before transitioning onto the track. The course is a lap and a half around quiet countryside roads and always has a nice feel to it with being ran on a Friday evening. The post race fish and chips on the way home was always an extra treat.
- Date: May
- Location: Christleton, Cheshire
- Event Website: https://www.runcheshire.com/run-cheshire-gogledd-cymru-races/
- Entry Fee: £16
Armagh has a fast growing reputation as one of the fastest events in the UK. Whilst I’ve never personally ran the 5k, the 3k is a brilliant race to break up the monotony of winter training. Armagh is located in Northern Ireland, with the locals and organisers always so friendly and welcoming. It’s ran around a 1km loop in the town centre with spectators lining the whole course so it really does feel like you’re in a track race. Ran in the dark, lights line the course and there’s always some top class athletes racing so was a good opportunity to be pulled around to a personal best time! There’s always a lively atmosphere post race and another race we often trained towards as a group with Liverpool Harriers, which made the experience even better racing with your friends and training partners.
- Date: February (Cancelled in 2022 sadly)
- Location: Armagh, Northern Ireland
- Event Website: https://www.armagh5k.com
- Entry Fee: TBC
- Nearest Airport: Belfast International or Belfast George Best
Trafford BMC/Open Meets
If you live in the North West the chances are you’ve ran or have at least heard of Tuesday nights at Trafford. Whilst track running often feels like it’s reserved for just the elites at the top of the sport, Trafford feels very accommodating for everyone with time graded races over the course of the evening. Whether you’re dashing from work to beat the traffic for an early 3,000m or waiting around until late at night for a fast 1500m Trafford always offers a really nice opportunity to run a fast time and run with runners of a similar ability to yourself.
- Date: Throughout the Summer
- Location: Stretford, Manchester
- Event Website: https://www.traffordac.co.uk/php/index.php?script=openMeetsFixtures&menu_id=18
- Entry fee: £7 in advance or £9 on the night
If you’d like any further information on any of the races above or looking for training advice please get in touch today!