The 9 best UK Half Marathons you need to sign-up for this season
The half marathon – 13.1 miles (21.1km) of running that’s guaranteed to challenge you physically and mentally. That said, not all half marathons were created equal and every half marathon has its own challenges. From steep roads to muddy trails, one thing is clear – crossing that finish line is always a huge achievement.
While the pandemic has put a stopper on races for the past year, we’re feeling confident that their return is on the horizon – which means you can be, too. Check out some of the best half marathons in the UK, that will give you the perfect goal to train for.
The Great North Run is one of the most popular races in the UK – and rightly so. Combining coastlines and steep ascents, it starts in the middle of Newcastle and ends back at the famous Tyne Bridge. Expect aching calves and a real community spirit this year, as it’s the Great North Run’s fortieth anniversary.
If you like your races to be visually appealing, look no further than the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Hosted by Limelight Sports, the course takes you through four of Central London’s Royal Parks: Green Park, St James’s Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It’s a great flat run with lots to distract the eyes and take your mind off the pain.
For runners who prefer things a little less urban and a little more adventurous, the Sheffield Half shouldn’t be missed. It’s a hilly one, kicking off in the centre of Sheffield before climbing up to the Peak District for glorious panoramic views. Make sure you practise uphill trails before signing up, because this race will be a real calf burner.
Sticking with trails, the Ras Dewi Sant Half Marathon is great for more advanced runners after a gruelling, yet beautiful challenge. Guiding you through the Welsh countryside, it passes along the Coast Path and features beaches, mountains and bridleways. It might be tough, but trust me, the views will be worth it.
I ran the Leeds half marathon back in 2016, and it definitely wasn’t easy. The route starts on the Headrow and ends in Millenium Square, with plenty of gruelling hills and a mentally tough long stretch at the end. But, there’s a great sense of community with friendly crowds handing out sweets and water all the way round to keep your motivation high. The incline makes it a great half for those looking for a challenge, while still being doable for less experienced runners.
Set in the South Downs (one of our top UK spots for trail running), the Queen Elizabeth Off-Road Half is a truly stunning half marathon. But, with less steep inclines than the Sheffield Half or the Great North Run, this half marathon is great for runners of all levels and those looking to try out trail running. The race will see you stomping along tree-lined trails with impressive views throughout.
If you like your races with a bit of added history then look no further than the Oxford Half. Passing Trinity College and following the River Cherwell, the Oxford half combines nature, culture and flat roads, making it a great race to aim for your PB. This half marathon is well-regarded for its vibrant, festival-like atmosphere. The popularity, however, means you’ll have to go through the ballot to get a place at this event.
The Brighton Half Marathon is one of the UK’s highlights of the season and the sea-breeze provides some much needed respite for runners. In classic Brighton fashion it’s a real crowd pleaser, with a bubbly community spirit and lots of entertainment. Expect a fast, flat one with cliff tops, sea views and colourful beach huts, followed by a post-run splash in the sea.
Ok, so this one is a bit quirky. Not only is it not technically in the UK, but it’s also not technically a half marathon. The Gaelforce Sky Run takes place in the rugged wilderness of the Maamturk mountains, Ireland and, at 22km, the course is just a tad over the Half Marathon mark. Nevertheless, it looks too good to not include in this list, and we love a wildcard. With vast panoramic views of Connemara, Killary Fjord and the offshore Atlantic Oceans, this is certainly one for your bucket list.