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The UK’s best races and marathons

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Looking for a fun race to help you raise money for charity? Wondering which marathons have the toughest or most scenic course?

This is your definitive guide to this year’s best racing events around the UK. Most races are just around the corner or a quick train ride away, so now’s the time to book your place, do up those laces and start tackling your training regime. Ready, set, read!

Novelty and themed races

Everybody knows that a marathon, or even a 5k, is physically demanding. But it can be mentally challenging to stay focussed and motivated while running mile after endless mile as well.

If you have a tendency to get bored, some of these races promise to inject some fun into your race:

• Run to the Beat

Where: The race starts and finishes at the O2 arena in London.

What: The idea is that music helps runners get their personal best (PB), so Run to the Beat starts and finishes with live acts on the stage with even more live music to catch along the way. Previous acts have includes the likes of Calvin Harris, Tinie Tempah and DJ Bobby Friction.

Get there: Hop on a train to London, get another train to Charlton railway station and catch the 468, 472 or 161 bus to the O2. Alternatively, get the underground to North Greenwich (zone2).

• 2.8 Hours Later zombie run

Where: Nottingham, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool.

What: It might not be the most physically taxing race, but it sure is one of the most fun. You’ll make your way around various locations dotted around the city. But watch out – actors dressed as zombies are out to catch you, giving you a real incentive to get moving.

• The Great Gorilla Run

Where: London

When: 21 September 2013

What: This 7km run has one twist: all the runners are dressed up as gorillas to raise money for their favourite charity.

Get there: Make your way to the Tower Hill or Monument underground stations once you’re in London.

• Backwards running

Where: Heaton Park, Manchester

When: 11 August 2013

What: You may be able to run a mile in your sleep, but how good would you be running backwards? The record is a super-fast 6 minutes and 58 seconds, which is a tough act to beat. Great fun.

Get there: Take a train to Manchester Victoria or Piccadilly and hop on a Metrolink, heading to Heaton Park station.

Most scenic routes

Take in Britain’s best-looking spots with these races.

• Brathay Windermere Marathon

Where:The Lake District

When: 19 May 2013

What: Voted the second most popular UK marathon by readers of Runner’s World in 2011, the course takes you through the stunning Lake District and circuits Lake Windermere (England’s largest lake).

You’ll start and finish at Brathay Hall, talking in the charming village of Hawkshead, Newby Bridge, Bowness-on-Windermere and Ambleside along the way. Just remember to pay attention to your pace and not get too distracted by the pretty sights if you’re looking for a PB.

Get there: Most trains will stop at Oxenholme station, where you can catch a connecting train to Windemere.

• The Edinburgh Marathon

Where: London Road in Edinburgh, Scotland

When: 26 May 2013

What: If you’re looking to run your personal best, you’ll be interested to know that this course was voted the fastest marathon in the UK by Runner’s World in 2008. Don’t just stare at your feet, you’ll go past Edinburgh’s best-looking stretches like Holyrood Park and the coastal towns of Cockenzie and Port Seton before finishing in Musselburgh. For the perfect post-race treat, rehydrate with an ice cream from legendary ice cream shop S. Luca of Musselburgh.

There are also half marathon, 10k and 5k events on the day if you’re not ready for the full distance.

Get there: Take the train to Edinburgh Waverley and catch a bus (the 26 or 44) up London Road.

Toughest races

Are you up for a real challenge?

• Dragon’s Back Race

Where: Conwy County Borough Council main building in Conwy, Wales

What: Got a few marathons or triathlons under your belt? Feel ready for something that will push you to your very limits? The Dragon’s Boat Race is regarded as the toughest mountain runs in the world.

Covering 200 miles and 8 ½ of ascent over five days, be prepared for a lot of blisters and tears, but also fantastic views and great camaraderie amongst participants.

Get there: Take the train to Conwy rail station and the council building is within easy walking distance.

•Tough Mudder

Where: Edinburgh, London and unconfirmed locations in Yorkshire and the North West.

What: Organisers bill this as ‘probably the toughest event in the planet’ and they’re not exaggerating.

The 10-12 mile course is designed by ex-Special Forces and includes obstacles which require teamwork (and a lot of character) like underwater tunnels, passing through freezing cold water and a whole lot of mud. Then, right at the finish line when you think the worst is over, you get jolted by an electric shot. Seriously?

Are you tackling a race this summer? Tell us all about where you’re doing it and how your training is going by leaving a comment below or taking the conversation over to our Twitter and Facebook page. Good luck!

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