My beloved hometown of York, bears a striking resemblance to Chester, so I was excited to run the MBNA Chester Marathon to see how they compare. These two historic locations share more than just a scenic resemblance; each proudly showcases Roman city walls, captivating architecture, is home to a Huntington School, and they both host fantastic marathons. I even managed to pick up a bit of Welsh on this marathon!

I had put long-distance running aside for the past 18 months, but eager to regain my fitness and return to my pre-pandemic form, I set my sights on an Autumn marathon. When Chester Marathon reached out to invite me, I said yes!

The MBNA Chester Marathon was voted the UK’s best marathon (up to 5,000 runners) at the 2019 & 2018 Running Awards and it’s easy to see why!

With a spectacular start at Chester Racecourse, the route passes all of Chester’s iconic landmarks, before heading out into Cheshire & North Wales (yes, you run in both England AND Wales), before returning along the banks of the River Dee for an unforgettable finish in Grovesnor Park. Sounds good to me – let’s take a spin around the city for marathon number 11!

Before the race

I tend to get lost. Surprisingly, I navigated the Welsh road signs with ease, arriving at the starting point without any stress. The racecourse was accessible via a well-marked one-way system, and there was plenty of parking, eliminating one potential worry.

For runners, the toilet situation at races is crucial. Rest assured, there were plenty of facilities with no queues! Leading up to the race, the weather forecast had been a concern. I religiously refreshed my weather app, but on the day, the weather was kind, maintaining a cool atmosphere with occasional showers.

This year, there were no pacers (to prevent congestion pre-pandemic). However, the starting pens were labelled with estimated finish times. I had no specific time goal for this race; my main aim was to enjoy the experience. I positioned myself near the 4.30 mark and awaited the 9 am start – right on time!

During the race

I don’t know Chester very well, so even though I had looked at the route, I still had no clue what to expect. Let me start by saying that it’s an undulating course! Exiting the racecourse, we entered the city, greeted by enthusiastic spectators who cheered us on, creating an emotional atmosphere. The route took us through the Roman walls and across the Old Dee Bridge before departing Chester.

From there, we ran along traffic-free rural roads, passing the Duke of Westminster’s estate, Pulford, and crossing into Wales through Lavister and Rossett. Despite the rural setting, there was never a dull moment. I had my Shokz earphones handy, just in case, but I chose to soak up the atmosphere and engage with fellow runners. The volunteers were the real heroes, being very motivating at water stations and marshal points.

The majority of the challenging inclines appeared in the second half of the course. Mile 24 featured a memorable steep hill back into Chester. Despite the hill, the unwavering support from the crowd kept us going. As we entered Grosvenor Park, the course split into two paths – one for the marathon finish and the other for the metric marathon finish. With one final push to the finish, I crossed the line in 4:31:26.

After the race

The finish line area was impeccably organised, with no queues. We received medals, a long-sleeved running shirt, and a generous goody bag with enough snacks to keep me satisfied for days.

Final thoughts

The Chester Marathon is a fantastic event – affordable, welcoming, superbly organised, with enthusiastic crowd support, and an impressive goody bag. Despite sharing the date with the London Marathon, this event shouldn’t be overshadowed; it’s definitely one I would participate in again!

If you’re considering participating next year, click here for more information.

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Entry Cost: (my entry was kindly gifted)
£39.75 Until 23:59 on 10th October.
£49.75    Until 23:59 31st July 2021
£55.00    From 1st August 2021
Water stations: around every 3 miles – sports bottles
Parking: Plenty at the racecourse – £4
Photos: Yes, AWOL
Baggage Facilities: Yes – but I didn’t use it
Post-Race Goodies: Long sleeved top  / medal / goody bag
Highlights: Friendly, well organised
Low points: I could say the hill but I’ll file that under character building!