trail running challenge


Whether it’s on familiar paths in the country or around fields, parks and commons in the city, trail running is a great way to push yourself on more demanding terrain. If you’ve already invested in trail shoes and completed some off-road training, here are 5 great trail running challenges to test your legs in the UK:

1. Trail Running

Britain has an abundance of year-round off-road races, whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro. The Trailscape Rail to Trail Series offers trail runs ranging from 10K to marathon-length slogs, all within easy access of a mainline train station. Brutal 10 organise cold and warm weather 10K events with plenty of muddy slopes and steep inclines, while Endurancelife provide some of Britain’s most gruelling and spectacular coastal trail contests.

Tips: Expect a 10K trail run to take about 30 minutes longer than a 10K road run. It’s arguably tougher (but much more fun) than a half-marathon on the road! Your training should include regular runs on the trails, not just on the tarmac.

2. Endurance Events

If off-road running isn’t enough, endurance events with added obstacles could be the perfect step up. The obstacles you must negotiate include anything from crawling under trenches and scaling barriers to swimming in icy water and running through a tunnel of wires ready to deliver a sharp electric shock (pictured).

Adrenaline Rush offer city-accessible 5K and 10K endurance races, while Tough Mudder provide longer 18-20K courses. Tips: make sure that you can run the distance of your chosen event and that you can lift your own body weight (to heave, jump and pull yourself over the obstacles), especially if you’re running solo rather than in a team. If you’re concerned about or unable to do a certain obstacle, you can of course skip it!

3. Adventure Racing

Adventure racing combines trail running with navigation and outdoor disciplines including mountain biking, kayaking and climbing, giving participants/teams multiple avenues to find as many checkpoints as they can before the end of the competition.

Haglöfs Open5 Series caters for first-timers and veteran runners alike with one-day, National Park-based trail running/mountain biking events (you can arrange bike hire if you don’t have one), plus the epic Coast to Coast Adventure Race: three days of running, off-road cycling, kayaking and swimming from St Bees Head to Robin Hood’s Bay. Tips: Keep your load as lightweight as possible. We recommend an ultralight pack, just big enough to squeeze in essentials like hydration, fuel and a waterproof.

4. Fell Running 

For bigger views and tougher climbs, test your legs on more mountainous territory. In 2014, Berghaus’s Steve Birkinshaw ran a continuous circuit of Alfred Wainwright’s 214 Lakeland hills in a record 6 days 13 hours, covering a huge 512km in distance and 36,000m in ascent. Instead, plot a short route which runs atop a few Lake District or Peak District mountains for a challenging run with incredible vistas.

There is also the Welsh 3000s Challenge: 15 peaks over 3,000ft in 24 hours. The task involves 30+ miles with 13,000ft of ascent and some dangerous rocky sections over the likes of Crib Goch and Tryfan, so confident scrambling and navigation is vital. The record, held since 1988, is 4 hours 20 minutes. Tips: For any fell run, prep for mixed weather and pack a head torch for bad light.

5. Extreme Challenges

The Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race is a 5-day, 300km behemoth with 16,000m of ascent from Conwy to Carreg Cennen Castle. Runners must excel in mountain running, ultra running and multiday racing, not to mention have some serious map skills to navigate the course’s many unmarked climbs and trails. Steve Birkinshaw won the second ever Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race in 2012 in 43 hours 25 minutes (2015 marks the race’s third year).

Experienced mountaineers can also attempt traversing Skye’s spectacular Cuillin Ridge in under 24 hours, a 12km challenge which needs excellent scrambling, navigation and cardio, not to mention perfect weather and knowledge of how to best negotiate this alpine-style route. Finlay Wild broke his own speed record in 2013, running the ridge in just 2 hours 59 minutes.

Related Articles