The marathon starts on Sunday - where else to see a marathon around Britain
The streets of London are expected to be packed with enthusiastic fans on Sunday for the London 2012 Women’s Marathon. Vast stretches of the route are free for spectators (the start/finish on The Mall is ticketed) and the runners will pass iconic attractions en route including historic pubs, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace. The men’s race takes place on 12 August.
But London is by no means the only place where you can see large groups of runners testing their endurance and pounding the streets for mile after mile.
Marathons and half-marathons are hugely popular in Britain, taking place around the country, and attracting large numbers of runners (they are often oversubscribed) as well as spectators. Many of the events raise millions of pounds for charity, and runners are often dressed in colourful and comic outfits, giving a festival atmosphere.
The Great North Run in NewcastleGateshead claims to be “the world’s most popular half marathon”. From just 5,000 runners in 1981, the event now attracts more than 54,000 participants each year, with representatives from over 40 countries, and with world-class distance runners as well as enthusiastic beginners. The course takes in the iconic Tyne Bridge and finishes in the coastal town of South Shields, with live music, refreshment and thousands of cheering supporters keeping the runners motivated en route. This year the event takes place over the weekend of 15 and 16 September – as well as the half marathon there is a shorter 5km route taking in the Quayside, including the Sage Gateshead, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the Millennium Bridge.
The Great Manchester Run was set up as part of the legacy of the Commonwealth Games held in the city in 2003, and also attracts a good mix of runners. The route passes Old Trafford, home to Manchester United, and the iconic buildings of the Imperial War Museum North and Lowry Arts Centre. The next Manchester Run takes place in May 2013.
Arguably the most scenic of all the British events is the Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running, held this year on 30 September. The runners pass along the shore of the famous Scottish lake before heading into the centre of the city of Inverness . As well as the mountain views, there is always the chance of glimpsing the legendary monster, Nessie….
The London 2012 football city of Cardiff is getting into the spirit of the Games by extending the number of entries to 20,012 for the Cardiff Half Marathon. It takes place for the tenth time, on 14th October, beginning in front of Cardiff Castle, then heading down into Cardiff Bay, past the new Dr Who Experience and the Norwegian church before heading back into the centre of the city.
If you fancy a World Heritage Site to go with your run, try the Bath Half Marathon – the next one takes place in March 2013. The start and finish is on Great Pulteney Street, in the heart of Georgian Bath, and the route covers a two-lap, traffic free course on both sides of the River Avon.
The London2012 Marathon route starts and finishes in the Mall, and athletes complete a first loop of 2.2 miles, which takes them to the River Thames, south to the Houses of Parliament, and back up to The Mall past Buckingham Palace. After this they run back to the river, and this time head east, towards the City of London and beyond to the Tower of London, in an eight-mile loop that is repeated three times before crossing the finishing line. Fancy a drink in an historic pub near the route? Try the Sherlock Holmes just off Northumberland Avenue – the upstairs room is furnished like the legendary detective’s consulting rooms; or maybe the Blackfriar pub in Queen Victoria Street in the City, a narrow wedge-shaped building with Art Nouveau interiors and decorated with laughing friars.
If you prefer more of a bird’s-eye view of the route, try climbing the 311 steps of the Monument, which commemorates the Great Fire of London, built close to the seat of the fire, or the 528 steps to the Golden Gallery at the top of the Dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
And if you enjoyed this one - there’s always the annual London Marathon, next taking place on 21 April 2013. Firmly established as one of the leading events on the sporting calendar it is shown on TV in more than 150 countries in the world, and over 800,000 runners have completed the course since the first event in March 1981.
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