The London Marathon is undoubtedly an amazing event to be a part of, which is why it is so massively oversubscribed. Each year thousands of people are disappointed not to have received a place in the ballot for entries. The results of the ballot for the 2024 edition, taking place on 21 April 2024, have just been announced. If you’re one of the lucky ones, congratulations! But if you’re going to have to miss out, we’ve got fourteen alternative races to the London Marathon that may just be of interest to you.
It’s impossible to find a race that’s exactly like the London Marathon, but it is possible to find races that have elements of what makes London so special. At the time of writing, all of them have places available. Some are spring marathons like London, and others take place this autumn, giving you options of when to run. Please note, these aren’t endorsed by Lonely Goat Running Club, and we don’t get any kind of commission if you enter. We’re just sharing these as they’ve caught our eye, or are popular with the Lonely Goat herd, and we think they might be of interest to you too.
A marathon in London
There are other London marathons…
Vanguard Way Marathon, 06/08/23
An undulating trail race in the middle of summer is not going to offer a PB, but the Vanguard Way Marathon does promise great views. It starts in Croydon, so just about counts as a London marathon.
Richmond RUNFEST, 10/09/23
OK, it’s not the London Marathon, but it is a London marathon – albeit one that takes place away from the city centre in the western suburbs. The race starts in Kew Gardens and takes in Hampton Court Palace, so its a good-looking, scenic course.
Big event atmosphere
No other UK races are quite as big and exciting as London, but there’s a few that get close, including:
Loch Ness Marathon, 01/10/23
A fairly small race, with a big buzz, taking in the shores of Loch Ness. General entries close on 17 July.
Yorkshire Marathon, 15/10/23
Mostly flat, one lap, and combining York’s picturesque city and surrounding villages.
Brighton Marathon, 07/04/24
After looking like it was going to disappear, when the previous organisers ran into financial difficulty, the Brighton Marathon has been taking over by the company that runs the London Marathon. So expect a well-run event and a seafront course.
Manchester Marathon, 14/04/24
It’s the second biggest marathon in the UK and gives London a run for its money: cheering crowds, a fast course, and welcoming all runners from the speedy to the first time finishers. At the time of writing, public entries are closed, with another allocation ‘released later this year’. Charity places are available, too.
A race with history
Isle of Wight, 08/10/23
For many in the UK, London is the only marathon that matters. But it isn’t the longest running 26.2 miler – not by a long way! One of the longest continually run races in the world is the Isle of Wight Marathon, first run in 1957. It’s also the site of Dale Greig’s ground-breaking run, as she became the first woman to run a marathon under 3:30 hrs. Expect a small-scale event, with a tight-knit, grassroots feel.
The marathon is often considered the “everyman’s Everest”. If you’re missing out on the challenge of running the London marathon, why not dial up the difficulty even further by heading off road?
Clarendon Marathon, 01/10/23
Run between the historic cathedral cities of Salisbury and Winchester, this race follows the ancient Clarendon Way on country tracks and paths.
Endurancelife Giant’s Causeway Marathon, 13/04/24
Technically, the course is a smudge over 20 miles, but with around 700m of climbing on climbing, we doubt you’ll miss the final 10K. If you take the time to stop suffering for a moment, you’ll be able to take in the scenery, including Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s first UNESCO Heritage Site.
Snowdonia Trail Marathon Eryri, 14/07/24
Is this the toughest marathon in the UK? With 1,685m of ascent it might just be! For those who want to use it as a qualifying event for bigger races overseas, it’s also part of the XTERRA Trail Run World Series and a UTMB Index race.
Fast and flat
Though the London Marathon isn’t the fastest marathon course in the world, as it has a few twists and bumps to deal with, it is still a great race to try and run a personal best in. If you’re a PB hunter, check out these alternatives:
Chester Marathon, 08/10/23
Starting and finishing on Chester’s racecourse, the course weaves its way into Wales and back on a flat, fast route. It also hosts the England Athletics Age Group Masters Marathon Championship.
Abingdon Marathon, 22/10/23
For many, Abingdon is the autumn race to run fast times in the UK. If the course isn’t enough to get you running quickly (very few tight turns, almost completely flat), the 5 hour cut off will!
Newport Wales Marathon, 2024 date TBC
Created to give South Wales an event with that big marathon vibe. They claim that 70% of all finishers have run a PB on the course.
Rotterdam Marathon, 14/04/24
Part of the excitement of the London Marathon is that it brings together thousands of runners from all over the world. The other ‘World Marathon Majors‘ – Tokyo, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York City – also have that level of global reach, but are just as difficult to get places in.
Alternatively, you can head to Rotterdam: A fast, flat course; a 40+ year history; and a high percentage of international runners converging on a major European city for a well-organised race. Plus, you can get there by train in under 4 hours from London – avoiding the need to fly.
No need for FOMO
It can feel like the whole running scene in the UK is centred on the London Marathon, but there are loads of other races to choose from. We’ve only shared fourteen here, but there’s a lot more we could have included. Hop into the Lonely Goat Running Club chat group on Facebook, and ask your fellow members for their recommendations.
And if you still want to run the London Marathon in 2024, remember that there are still charity places available if you want to raise money for a good cause.