Bournemouth Marathon Festival 2016

PUBLISHED: 15:33 26 September 2016 | UPDATED: 15:35 26 September 2016

Bournemouth Marathon by Andrew Moss ( via

Bournemouth Marathon by Andrew Moss ( via


Elite athletes and Couch to 5k runners alike are signing up for the fourth Bournemouth Marathon Festival which takes place on 1-2 October. Sophie Beal put on her running shoes to find out more

The Bournemouth Marathon Festival is “Running as it should be!” declares its organisers. Their aim is to include everyone in a set of fun, high-quality races which take in the areas spectacular coastline. Set up three years ago, the Bournemouth Marathon Festival (BMF) has become firmly established in the UK race calendar. It has even earned a Bronze award from the IAAF (International Athletic Association Federation), a stamp of approval shared with only three other marathons in the UK.

The man who established the event is Martin Yelling. He moved to Dorset with his wife, Liz, eight years ago. While Liz is best known as an Olympic marathon runner, Martin has won British duathlon and triathlon championships and competed in the gruelling Ironman race. Martin wanted to bring the best ideas from those races to Bournemouth and Poole, so he teamed up with GSI events which run the very successful Edinburgh Marathon Festival.

The BMF hosts six of the most scenic road races in Britain. As well as the marathon, there are half marathon, 10k, 5k and two children’s races. “People come to see the sea,” says Martin. “You can stand at Bournemouth pier and see five different sections of the marathon. I don’t know another race that goes up and down two piers and out to sea. It really is unique.”

It was important to Martin that the weekend had a festival spirit and that there was a race for everyone who wanted to take part. “Having a range of options makes the whole thing much more inclusive,” he says. “Running 26 miles might be daunting for most people, but they’ll enjoy running 5k along a course set with twinkling fairy lights which is run at dusk. And they can come back year on year. They might start with a 5k, then think ‘maybe I’ll progress to something more’.”

The timing of the festival also gives a boost to the local economy as it extends the tourist season by a couple of weeks. Last October, it attracted 11,000 runners, 72% of whom came from outside of Bournemouth or Poole. “There aren’t many marathons on the South Coast, and only a handful of them in October anywhere in the UK,” says Martin. “And, so far, it’s been sunny every year but awful the day after.”

But it’s not only those at the weekend who benefit. The organisers estimate £600,000 was raised for good causes in 2016 and over £1.5m for good causes since the event started. Macmillan Cancer Support is the official charity, but there are more than 200 other charities affiliated with the event, including Julia’s house. The Dorset and Wiltshire children’s hospice is especially close to the Yellings’ heart, as Liz is one of its patrons.

Bournemouth Marathon Festival facts

• The Men’s 2015 BMF marathon was won by Kenyan, Boaz Kiprono in 2 hours 16 mins. The Women’s race was won by Joan Kigen in 2 hours 36 mins 47 seconds

• Kerry Whitney ran the whole 26.2 miles blindfolded, part of a challenge running 15 marathons in 15 months to raise money for Sense, a charity supporting children with both sight and hearing loss

• At least five people have run all four adult races in one weekend, a total of 44.5 miles for each

• Steve Way, who broke the veteran marathon record in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, ran the BMF half race later that year, and was fast enough to get back to the start to fire the gun for the full marathon

• Their oldest runner was 101

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