A well-established and competitive race taking just over 1000 runners in a looped course around the Oxfordshire town. With a tough, 5hr cut off and not much support, this race is mainly made up of wiry club runners gunning for a PB.
Where: Oxfordshire, south England
When: October (since 1982)
Size: Approx 1100 runners
Hills: fairly flat
Official race website here.
- There is a maximum cut off of 5 hrs so don’t enter unless you are a confident runner.
- Don’t expect the sort of support you get at a big city marathon and be prepared to rely on yourself and dig deep
- Listen to music if you can to keep the motivation going on the quiet bits of the run
- Bring your own energy drinks
What’s the organisation like?
This is a race organised by a committee of running clubs across Oxfordshire and has been going since 1982 so is a well organised race.
It’s not like a big city marathon with thousands of runners and lots of spectators and it has a very grass roots feel to it.
The event incorporates a number of championships: Oxfordshire County Marathon Championships, Berkshire County Marathon Championships, Middlesex County Marathon Championships and Army AA Marathon Championships and so is run very smoothly.
Once you sign up online (it normally sells out by March) it’s all done by email. On the race day the race village is in a local athletics stadium where it starts and finishes which is great for spectators and a good place to leave your kit. There’s plenty of parking at local schools about 10 mins walk from the stadium.
Out on the course, there are lots of marshals on road turns directing people the right way. There aren’t water stations every mile but every few miles and they only serve water so bring your own sport drinks and energy gels.
The roads aren’t closed which is quite unusual but the marshals make sure people stick to pavements and cross the roads safely.
What’s the course like?
The course has short scenic sections through the town and along the Thames but it’s mostly on the quiet rural back roads and an industrial estate. It’s a 2 lap course which is an unusual set up for a marathon but makes it easier to marshal.
It starts off with a 3 mile run to the main loop section. Runners start in the stadium then to centre of town through the shopping area then onto River Thames before runners join the main running route which consists of 2 laps of residential roads, industrial estates etc. The running surface is mainly tarmac pavements.
The highlight of the course is the river the second time as the crowds are picking up by then and there are great pockets of people outside their houses.
What’s the atmosphere like?
The atmosphere is sort of small-town supportive. It’s a big local event so lots of people gather outside their houses in the front gardens. Amongst the runners the atmosphere is less fun than during a city marathon as most of the competitors are focused club runners looking for a PB. There’s a cut off of 5hrs (from 2013) so don’t expect many first timers or fancy dressers!
The atmosphere is therefore quite unique which makes runners feel like this is ‘the real deal’ of marathons – low support and a fast, focused pack.
How difficult is Abingdon Marathon?
It’s probably a medium difficulty race. The course is flat but it’s tough when you are in the thin end of the runners and out on the course on your own. You can’t rely on cheers and support in this marathon.
The hardest part is probably mile 15-20 where you are on the second lap and still have the same bit to do again. You feel like you’ve joined the ranks of serious runners once you’ve completed Abingdon though which makes it feel like even more of an achievement.
What is there to do Apres Race?
After the race the stadium is a great place to meet family and friends and supporters but Abingdon doesn’t have many sites to take in. Best bet – grab a pub lunch afterwards!
My Race Diary
By Paul Nathan
Finish time: 3hrs 30mins
My race went pretty well. I was aiming for 3hrs 25mins but I had a cold the week before so I was worried I would struggle. I still got round in 3:30 so I was really pleased. My pace dropped off in the last 5 miles but it was quite steady and I pulled across the line in a time I was pleased with.
When I crossed the line I was a bit hard on myself but I really felt that I’d joined the ranks of some serious marathon runners.