Best First Time Marathon

Hi all,

I am determined to run my first marathon next year and was wondering if anyone can advise on what is the best first-time marathon (not the London marathon). I live in Scotland and was interested in running the Edinburgh marathon but have read so many bad reports about it. I would be willing to travel anywhere in Britain but would prefer something closer to home.

Thanks in advance for your help.



  • What kind of thing are you looking for - big city, quiet, fast, scenic etc ?   I did the White Peak mara as my first and it was excellent - it's off road on a former railway turned cycle path so not a fast course but by no means a particularly slow one either.  I'd recommend it but it's not going to give you the big city marathon experience of London.  

    Nottingham might be an option - that has crowds on the first half because it shares the route with the half marathon which is very popular.  The second half is a bit more deserted with much fewer runners and supporters.       

  • Loch Ness image.

    Heard good things about Dublin as a first marathon too - though no expeirence of that myself.
  • Popsider,

    I had looked at Nottingham. I think for my first I would like to do a big city marathon. The selection of marathons in Scotland is quite poor. I can't believe after the success of the glasgow half marathon they haven't went for the full distance.

    As for the Dublin marathon, I know my wife would be delighted with a weekend away in Dublin but I would prefer something closer for my first.

  • ToucsToucs ✭✭✭

    Loch Ness image

    One of my favourites.  Sponsored by Baxter's and Gore, lovely soup at the end.  Point to point marathon.  Scenic with a finish in the Inverness stadium.  Thinking of doing this one again next year.

  • I did Edinburgh this year after 9 years of London.

    It was fine for me.

    Start was well organised into pens so no problem getting away and up to pace. I thought the route was quite good - bit of city, bit of coast, bit of country. The road round the country house at the turn was a bit broken up but nothing serious. Was windy though - but hey - its britain.

    Finish wasn't brilliant - but I got my bag after a short wait, and I didn't have spectators there with me so it was just a case of walk to the bus and back to the city. No bother. Not much razzamatazz at the finish but I wasnt really after that.

    Good luck !
  • Cougie,

    I'm glad to hear you liked Edinburgh because this is the one I would like to do but I have read so many negative reports about the whole event. I suppose I shouldn't look into what other people think so much. One issue I have which you may be able to help me with is the finish is supposed to be quite far away from the city centre and it is difficult to get a bus at the end of the race.

    I am glad you have had positive things to say about the Edinburgh marathon because I am sure this is the race I will opt for.

  • my first marathon time was 4h21 at Blackpool 7 years ago ran non stop for 22.5 miles
  • ClagClag ✭✭✭

    I think Edinburgh depends on your finishing time to quite some extent. Cougie is faster than I, as are some other folks I knew who did it and got through the finish area no bother. This year I was 4:19, and the amount of folks finishing at this time being funnelled into a small area was just way too many, hence the problems.

    The previous year the finish moved a lot quicker although there were some other niggles. They tweak it a little every year so this year it'll be something else at fault. image The start is very smooth and well organised though. The course is rather boring but if you want a big race in Scotland you're limited as you say.

    I have heard great things of Loch Ness although I've not done it. My first was Amsterdam - you can get there cheaply, it's very well organised, quite a large number of runners and an Olympic Stadium finish. Oh, and Lochaber, although small is one to do - the scenery is fantastic!

  • I've done Loch Ness and Edinburgh (twice each), and think that Loch Ness is generally nicer. The scenery is great and the atmosphere is quite charming. On the downside, October weather in Inverness could be dodgy.

    Edinburgh is mostly fine, and I can't imagine that they will mess up with the finish line logistics this coming year. Getting away from the finish area isn't that bad if you take the train. The scenery isn't much to write home about.

    I have heard really good things about Lochaber, and that might be my spring mara next year.
  • I have wondered about the Lochaber marathon. I climbed Ben Nevis last year and loved it and thought Fort William was great. Would it be a good first marathon?  Isn't there usually only around 1000 entrants each year?
  • Loch Ness was my first and still one of my favourites.  Torfasson - quite a lot have mentioned Loch Ness but you haven't responded - are you particularly set against this one?

    Lochabour is an out and back course....  i've done it in great weather but if the weather is grim as it often is in April on the west coast then it can be a real challenge.  Straight into horizontal hailstones for 13 odd miles is not pleasant! 

  • Only you can answer the question, but if you want an idea of what you think is important for your first marathon - try doing some half marathons of different kinds (city, rural) and deliberately screw up e.g. don't eat or sleep properly before the race, go off way too fast, wear the wrong shoes etc.

    How you feel in the last four miles or so and how you react to the race environment *then* will give you a good guide to what *you* really want!

    Basically the thing is, soooo many people screw up in their first marathon that you are more likely than not to screw up (somehow) in yours. (Even the elites are not perfect - if you heard Jo Pavey's interview on MarathonTalk a while back, clearly she should have gone off slower and had more gels... and she does this sort of thing for a living!).

    Unless your plan is to do the first 20 miles at your best pace for a 20 mile training run "and then see", the chances are that the last 6-10 miles will feel, at *best*, very tough (at worst, several shades of grim).

    So you want something that makes you feel better when you're feeling ghastly. That may be the beauties of nature, in which case you're well served in Scotland. If it's music, drums, and throngs of screaming spectators, then go for a real big-city one (and if you do the arrangements right, one in Europe can be about the same cost as a UK one).

    A very late spring or autumn marathon would have the advantage that training is less likely to be interrupted by bad weather or illness, also.
  • Fido2Dogs wrote (see)
    Only you can answer the question, but if you want an idea of what you think is important for your first marathon - try doing some half marathons of different kinds (city, rural) and deliberately screw up e.g. don't eat or sleep properly before the race, go off way too fast, wear the wrong shoes etc.

    Is that serious advice F2D or tongue in cheek?  image It doesn't have to be that way for a first marathon!

  • I know it was out of scope, but Paris marathon entries open up today. It's a relatively flat course, scenic, a doddle to get into and usually a place that a non-running partner is willing to come along to. well organised and about 20% of the runners are from the UK. First or 2nd week of April so the weather is normally pretty pleasant (I've had two mild and one warm to hot race there).


  • Manchester
  • Hiya Torf,

    I did my first marathon this year in Edinburgh. Like you I had heard and read a load of bad stuff but apart from the odd gripe it was nowhere near as bad as people make out.

    It IS a big city marathon

    It IS quite a fast flat course

    It IS near where you live

    It's big enough to feel special but not so big that you feel overwhelmed

    just go for it and get on the 2012 forum for loads of help and support

    Good luckimage

  • Can't imagine doing a city marathon, not for me.

    I've done a few off road ones and find them great fun (even came 1st in the pairs category recently at one which was nice). Hard work but less impact on the body than the road ones imho.
  • Did Wolverhampton mara as my first 2 weeks ago.  It was cheap, understated, with only about 300 doing the full mara, & 500 the half. 2 laps of non-descript city centre with a few hills.

    You'll have no problem getting in. Could be an ideal race to cut your 'mara teeth on'?image

    Oh, and I came 10th in 3:00:29.

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