For keen runners, a marathon can be the ultimate test of their skills and endurance – just look at “Run, Fat Boy Run” where Simon Pegg’s character decides that the only way to win back his lost love is to run the London Marathon. But why does it always have to be the London Marathon that turns up in these kind of stories? True, it’s iconic but it’s also horribly overcrowded and, apart from the start and finish, pitifully short on green space. It’s not the healthiest workout for your lungs.

If you want to run a marathon, there are plenty of other options in the South. An intriguing option is the Beauty and the Beast Marathon, which takes place in September, near High Wycombe. The “Beauty” of it is obvious from a look at the course – gorgeous green hills and lakes, all surrounding the grand manor house at West Wycombe Park (as featured in “Downton Abbey”). The “Beast” refers to the extremity of the course – it’s off-road and follows the hills of the Chilterns and goes through densely wooded areas. It’s described as a challenge “for real heroes only”, so it’s not an easy option but it is a rewarding one!

Equally rewarding is the New Forest Marathon, one of many things to do in the New Forest for runners. Again, the course is hilly, varying from 24m above sea level to 60m and dipping up and down at regular intervals! The event is classed as “multi-terrain”, but most of it is on the road and the off-road sections are on pathways. So, not quite as extreme as the Beauty and the Beast! But the scenery is just as beautiful and you’ll get a huge burst of fresh air as you pound through the Forest.

Another refreshing course is the Bournemouth Marathon. A newcomer on the scene, this marathon takes place in October and is part of the Bournemouth Marathon Festival. There are races from 1.5K for children right up to the 26-mile marathon (the dusk-time “Speed of Light” 5K sounds particularly interesting). The races take place close to the sea, so the runners get the benefit of the sea air, as well as stunning views. And all that exercise will definitely justify some fish and chips once you’ve recovered a bit.

So, it’s not all about London. Forget the cliché and look at some of these more interesting marathons. It will definitely be worth it.