5 GREAT UK TRAIL RUNNING CHALLENGES
Hitting the trails is the ultimate way to take your run to the next level. Heading off the roads and into the forest, the hills or the mountains is guaranteed to and turn every run into an adventure - but there are plenty of official challenges waiting to test your limits. Get on your trail shoes, rack up those off-road training miles and get involved with one of these UK trail running challenges.
1. Off-Road Races
From first-time challengers to seasoned champions, the UK's abundance of year-round off-road races has something to suit everyone. The Trailscape Rail to Trail Series offers races 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 organise some of the country's most gruelling and spectacular coastal trail contests.
Tip: Expect a 10K trail run to take about 30 minutes longer than a 10K road run. Some argue that it's tougher than a half-marathon on the road - but it's also undeniably more fun.
2. Endurance Events
Been there, done that with trail races? Endurance events are next for you. Think races with obstacles - which can range from crawling under trenches and scaling barriers, to swimming in icy water or running through a trail of electric wires. Adrenaline Rush offer city-accessible 5K and 10K endurance races, while Tough Mudder provide longer 18-20K courses.
Tip: Train until you can run the length of your chosen event and lift your own body weight - and then train some more, if you're in a solo race rather than a team event.
3. Adventure Racing
Adventure racing combines trail running with navigation and extra challenges like mountain biking, kayaking and climbing, giving participants/teams multiple routes to find as many checkpoints as possible before the end of the event. 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.
Tip: Keep your load as light as possible - think an ultralight pack big enough for just the essentials, like hydration 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. If that seems a touch too far, plot a short route which bags a few Lake District or Peak District mountains for a challenging run with incredible vistas.
There's 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 absolutely essential. The record, held since 1988, is 4 hours 20 minutes.
Tip: Fell running is notorious for unpredictable weather, so bring kit for absolutely every eventuality, including a head torch.
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.
Experienced mountaineers can also attempt traversing Skye’s spectacular Cuillin Ridge in under 24 hours, a 12km challenge which demands excellent scrambling, navigation and cardio, not to mention perfect weather and knowledge of how best to negotiate this alpine-style route. Finlay Wild broke his own speed record in 2013, running the ridge in just 2 hours 59 minutes.
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