“A small, new race set in the famous roundabout town of Milton Keynes but with a lot more to see than traffic control. A varied course takes 3000 runners along roads, canals, parks and woodlands and ends in the town’s incredible football stadium.”
Where: Milton Keynes, south England
When: Early May (reviewed May 6th 2013)
Size: Approx 3,000 runners
Official race website here
- Park at IKEA or book VIP parking (costs £6 but is worth it as parking on the day can be stressful)
- Write your name on your t-shirt big and bold as your race number name is printed too small for supporters/ spectators to read and call out
- In the 2nd half of the race be aware that there are about 5/6 small climbs over canal bridges which can reduce runners to walkers so save some energy
- Get to the stadium nice and early to enjoy the experience and all the atmosphere of being in a big football stadium for the occasion. Whilst you’re there try and visualise getting across that finish line!
- Get spectators along – there won’t be many photo-finishes like this one!
What’s the set up like?
Despite being quite a new race (first one was in 2012) the organisation here is excellent and as good as some of the more established races. The pre-race information is all sent out in a race pack with everything you need to know including your race number and timing chip.
On the day the parking isn’t great. If you don’t pre-pay for VIP parking (£6) right in the stadium then you had to take your chances with either the local Asda with threatened clamping after 2 hrs or IKEA which seems to be fine but could be a risk!
The stadium is a brilliant venue and is open early on the day with lots of stands and charities tents to peruse. It’s also a great place to shelter from the rain if it’s a wet day! Spectators are welcome in the race village right up until the start.
Out on the course there are lots of water and gel stations (approx. every 3 miles) and there are also 2 gatorade stations.
What’s the course like?
Milton Keynes doesn’t exactly fill your imagination with amazing or iconic images (unless you have a thing for roundabouts!) but the course is surprisingly varied and at times quite pretty! It’s mostly run on urban streets but there are parks, canals, woodland and estates to go through which mixes it all up nicely.
The best bit is the amazing stadium finish but another highlight is at Mile 16 where you come through a park with a big lake and there are lots of people picnicking (weather permitting!) and there to support runners.
All the roads are closed off which makes it all stress-free too. The only bad point would be the start which is set on a narrow road so creates a slow start for runners as they make their way to the start line but it can also be a positive as it gives people a chance to get into their stride.
How difficult is MK Marathon?
Overall it’s pretty flat. No real hills so it’s a great place for a PB. The toughest part is in the second half towards the end where there are 5/6 canal bridges to get up and over. So save some juice for that.
If you’re going for a time then look out for the plentiful pacers in the bright orange t-shirts as they’ll keep you on course and help spur you on if you need it.
What was the atmosphere like?
The atmosphere is very good. Lots of spectators come out to support runners along the route. Wherever there was possibility for crowds they’d be there but it isn’t the sort of 3-person-deep support you get from other races like Manchester or London.
Amongst the runners it’s quite a focused event. Lots of running clubs use it as a big calendar run so it seems most people here are set on a certain time and there aren’t many fancy dress fun runners at all.
The atmosphere in the stadium at the end is incredible and a real goosebump moment as you run in after 26 miles!
What is there to do after the race in the local area?
The stadium is a bit out of town although MK doesn’t have much of a town centre as such. Immediately near the race village, you are in an out-of-town shopping area so there’s an Asda, McDonalds (yes!) and plenty of food and drink places.
Local tourist website here
Another good race review from a running mag here.
My Race Diary
Gary Dixon – future marathon centurion
Marathon No. 49
Time: 4hrs 13
This was my 49th race and came in the middle of a busy spring of marathons with London, Manchester the week before and Windermere soon after. I’m raising money for Macmillan and had a great race here. I absolutely loved the stadium aspect of it. I got a bit bored during the run at about mile 16 so made a few phone calls to family and friends to keep me going but ended 4:13.