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Written by
Tim Knighton
Life, health and income protection insurance expert
Last Updated
11 JANUARY 2024
4 min read
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The Best Locations in the UK for Runners

Running is a versatile sport, offering a range of mental and physical health benefits for everyone; from casual joggers to seasoned athletes training for their next marathon. This got us wondering: which areas of the UK are a real runner’s paradise?

We analysed the 50 most populated UK cities and towns to find out, researching factors like the number of running events, running groups, air quality, and average rainfall to reveal the top locations for people to enjoy the many benefits of running.

The top 10 UK cities for runners

Our research ranks London as the best location in the UK for runners. The capital boasts the highest number of running trails (506), as well as the most running events available (123 at the time of writing). With races including the world-famous London Marathon, alongside plenty of others, covering distances from anywhere between 5k to 55k, there’s no shortage of events for runners of all levels to enjoy.

London also has lower than average rainfall levels of only 690 millimetres, compared to the national average (1,090mm), which is good news for runners who prefer to stay dry.

Manchester secures second place on the list, with 48 running groups available to join. The northern city also offers better air quality than London, with a score of 50.5, as well as 444 trails to explore.

Wigan follows in third, compensating for its lack of official running events with an impressive 63 running groups operating in and around the town. Runners here can also enjoy the excellent air quality index of 87.5, which is matched only by Sunderland out of the other locations analysed.

Leeds and Cambridge round off the top five, with Cambridge promising the best conditions thanks to the lowest average rainfall of only 673 mm per year.

Rank City Number of running routes Number of running events Number of running groups Average rainfail per year (in mm) Air quality (out of 100)
1 London 506 123 22 690 37.1
2 Manchester 444 16 48 1,047 50.5
3 Wigan 27 0 63 1,020 87.5
4 Leeds 65 12 46 809 54.1
5 Cambridge 58 0 21 673 69.8
6 Oxford 41 3 16 708 78.6
7 Reading 80 3 15 709 72.2
8 Sunderland 12 0 8 718 87.5
8 Sheffield 148 7 17 864 69.6
10 Luton 16 1 12 696 77.50
11 Newcastle upon Tyne 26 9 12 718 71.55

With only two running groups, three routes and zero running events available, Birkenhead in Merseyside ranks as the least favourable place in the UK for runners. The town also sees an average rainfall of 1,173 mm per year, which is higher than the national average and bad news for fair-weather runners.

Doncaster follows as the second least favourable location to be a runner. The Yorkshire city has slightly more running events (2) and trails (11) on offer, but unfortunately is also home to the worst air quality in the country with a score of just 15 out of 100.

Swansea, Glasgow, and Blackpool round out the bottom five.

Rank City Number of trails Number of running events Number of running groups Average rainfall per year (in mm) Air quality
1 Birkenhead 3 0 2 1,173 N/A
2 Doncaster 11 2 0 776 15.00
3 Swansea 69 2 0 1,321 80.00
4 Glasgow 118 5 0 1,228 65.18
5 Blackpool 7 4 23 1,324 70.00

Does being a runner affect my life insurance policy premium?

It’s important to be aware that your lifestyle and life insurance costs could be connected. This is because life insurance premiums are partly based on how likely you are to make a claim. When you apply for life insurance, you’ll be asked questions about your lifestyle, and a provider may also ask to see your medical records to help them assess your application in more detail and to ensure you get the right level of cover.

So while runners don’t automatically qualify for lower rates, some life insurance policies may ask for information about your exercise habits and fitness, or offer discounts and rewards for getting active. Running has many physical health benefits, including reducing the risk of many long-term illnesses, burning calories, and improving muscle strength and stamina.


We analysed the 50 most populated cities and towns in the UK, excluding London boroughs, to find out the best locations for runners. The ranking was based on the following metrics:

Each metric was given an individual ranking, which were then added together to determine the overall score for each city.

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