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The Abingdon Marathon

Abingdon Marathon Course

The Abingdon Marathon is a great alternative to big city marathons like London. It’s run at the end of October every year and a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a fast flat UK Autumn marathon.

Background note:

This original review was written in 2016 after the third time I ran the event, which I thought continued to improve each time.

I ran the Abingdon marathon before I had any idea I would one day live nearby and be a member of Abingdon AC. In recent years I have been involved in the Committee and organisation. I’ve left this post as I wrote it as a runner, but have added a couple of additional notes from the perspective of also seeing the organisational side, in italics.

Positive reasons to run

The Abingdon Marathon comes across very much as a race set up for runners. It’s run entirely by volunteers, most of whom are runners themselves from Oxfordshire running clubs, and proceeds go to local charities.

Entries sell out fast in February every year for the 1,200 places. Very unusually for an official event, there is a waiting list system, and runners are able to transfer places to those on the waiting list until the end of September.

On the day

Runners praised the excellent organisation before and during the event. From parking available less than a mile from the start, to helpful and friendly marshalls at the start, finish, and along the course.

Abingdon Marathon Start
Getting ready to start. Photo credit Julian Moore

The marathon starts and finishes at Tisley Park track in Abingdon which is a great venue, providing pre and post-race shelter, along with loos and showers. Runners could leave their bags in a well-organised bag tent. All of this is right next to the start and finish on the track, no need for the long walk you get at some of the larger events.

The course

Many runners commented on the mini excitement you get from starting and finishing on a track. It somehow makes you feel just a little bit pro! It’s also great for spectators who can watch at the trackside or under covered tiered seating.

With around 750 runners starting, it’s much less congested than big city marathons, and you can find your own space to run your pace. There are miles markers, water every 3 miles, usually 2 sports drink stops and a sponge station you pass twice (run by the local Abingdon parkrun).

The course is pretty flat. The first 3 miles lead to a 10 mile loop which you run twice, then a final 3.2 miles back to the finish up a very gentle incline, (although this does feel more noticeable if you are running at your limit as I was!) Anecdotally, lots of runners get a PB and get under time barriers for the first time.  Every year an impressive number of runner finish under 3 hours.

Minor downsides

Abingdon Marathon Course
Autumn runners, Autumn colours. Photo credit John Harvey

The minor downsides are the flipside of it not being a mass event. There are no pacers. There aren’t spectators along every inch of the way, but you will be well-cheered through villages, and by marshals the whole way round. Water is in small plastic cups, which some people find it hard to drink from (a good idea to practice first!) Some people comment that it’s not very scenic. It does go through an industrial park twice, but it also goes along a beautiful stretch of the Thames and some lovely villages.

There are some road closures at the start and finish which are very helpful, but roads aren’t shut the whole way. This means you run on pavements in some sections. However, the route is fairly quiet and starts at 9am on Sunday morning, so traffic isn’t too much of an issue. Under UK Athletics rules for a non-closed road event, headphones aren’t allowed. Due to logistics, there is also a 5 hour cut off.
Update for 2024, bone conducting earphones will be allowed and the cut off will be 6 hours – both for the first time.

Give this Autumn marathon a go!

Finish Line Abingdon Marathon
Finish line joy. Photo credit John Harvey

Overall this is a perfect event if you are looking to run an Autumn marathon with great organisation, friendliness and no fuss. You may well even join all those who get a PB. It’s definitely one I’ll be returning to many times. The picture below is me delighted to be finishing, hand in hand with my husband, in 2016, 2nd lady overall.

Find out more about the Abingdon Marathon, and how to enter on their site here

For my tips on how to prepare for a marathon, as a runner or spectator, read on here

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