Marathon season is in full swing by the time the month of May begins, and the UK and Ireland host dozens of races that challenge all types of novice and experienced runners. Best of all, every one of these running races offers participants unforgettable scenery ranging from London's most prominent city landmarks to the white coastal cliffs of Sussex.
BUPA London 10,000 - May 30
The BUPA London 10,000 meter race is ideal for anyone who is looking for an entry-level marathon experience. The race starts and ends in St. James' Park and provides a tour of London's most famous landmarks in between. Runners visit Westminster Abbey before going up along the embankment and into the city of London, where runners will see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Millennium Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral and Admiralty Arch. The return route to St. James' Park makes a quick pass by Trafalgar Square before the runners finally get to the finish line in front of Buckingham Palace.
South Downs Marathon - June 11
The South Downs marathon is run in the middle of summer through the chalk trails that line the countryside northwest of Portsmouth. The race starts in Slindon and snakes its way through fields, farmland and small ridges before finishing near Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Runners make their way past seven drink stations and complete a total elevation gain of 5,728 feet during this trail marathon.
Beachy Head Marathon - October 22
The Beachy Head Marathon is one of the UK's toughest cross-country runs, attracting 1,500 participants every year. The 26 mile course in East Sussex hardly has a single stretch of flat trail and is composed almost entirely of hills and coastal cliffs. The difficulty of this marathon is clearly illustrated by its 150 meter climb at the start. Despite the challenging elevation, the Beachy Head is certainly one of the most scenic events to experience, as a good portion of the run takes place on the white cliffs overlooking the sea.
Trionium Greensand Marathon - October 23
This running race is as scenic as it is demanding. Runners start at the small town of Dorking, Surrey and are guided through the rocks of Lower Greensand, which is comprised of bulks of sandstone 110 million years old. The course features plenty of successive summits exceeding 223 meters that provide an extraordinary view of the surrounding hills and valleys. In total, there is over 1,500 meters of incline and decline to tackle on the trails. The run's halfway point is Winterfold Hill, where participants can grab a drink before turning around to run the course in reverse, making their way back to Dorking. The race rewards anyone who manages to finish with a free full English breakfast.
Dublin Marathon - October 31
Visitors sampling Irish hospitality in Dublin should make note of the Dublin Marathon, which always brings in a mixture of local and international runners for a total of over 13,000 participants. The course is ideal for flat runners, as there are only a few 50 meter climbs on this single lap adventure around the city of Dublin. Racers work their way through a host of 18th century Dublin streets and even cut right across the large and beautiful Phoenix Park. The course is always expertly managed, and there's no place better than the Dublin city center to participate in post-race pub celebrations.
If you're looking to enter or see any of these races in the UK and Ireland, and need a hotel to stay in, check out Jurys range of hotels in Ireland and the UK.