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UK ALTERNATIVES TO WORLDWIDE RUNNING ROUTES


Staying home this summer doesn’t spell death for your adventure plans. Sure, they may look a little different, but the UK is a lot more diverse than it gets credit for. Coastlines, forest, rolling hills, mountains, steep ascents and long, sweeping off-road trails – long story short, it’s a runner’s paradise, and more than stands up to its global competitors. We asked Run The Wild’s Simon James to choose his favourite UK alternatives to international running routes, and he didn’t disappoint. Time to rewrite that bucket list.

The Alps - head to Snowdonia

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Steep ascents, breathtaking balcony trails, knife-edge ridges and up-close glaciers: the Alps are a trail runner’s playground, whether it’s local races or the Mont Blanc Marathon, and let’s not forget all the checkpoints featuring local cheese. Think you can’t find all this in the UK? Think again.

 

Snowdon may pale in comparison to Mont Blanc’s height, but there’s no shortage of ridges up to the summit and sweeping trails back down, as well as the alpine flowers and views for miles on a clear day if you’re slowing the pace down a little. And if it’s extreme racing you’re after, look no further than the Welsh 3000s, a challenge to complete all of the 15 mountains in Wales over 3000ft in some 30 miles and around 4000m cumulative ascent.

Marathon des Sables, Morocco – head to Gower, Wales

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The Marathon of the Sands – or, as you may know it, the toughest footrace on Earth. The gruelling event covers 250km in 7 days through the unforgiving Sahara desert, and for many, presents the ultimate challenge. Where, then, can you find such a thing in the UK? 

 

Wales, that’s where. No, really. With 5-mile-long beaches and sand dunes to sap all your running energy as much the MdS, the Gower Peninsula offers plenty of opportunity for all the sand running you can handle with all your kit on your back. As the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and with low light pollution revealing a stunning night sky, the views along the way won’t be bad either.

Great Wall of China – head to Hadrian’s Wall, England

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The annual Great Wall Marathon follows a section of China’s iconic landmark to East Beijing, and features PB-killing climbs and steep descents the whole way through. Built with the same intention in mind, Hadrian’s Wall is a decent substitute, covering 73 miles that can be comfortably achieved in 3 days. Starting in Newcastle, you’ll pass dramatic scenery and all sorts of Roman ruins as you make your way to the finish just beyond Carlisle.

The King’s Trail, Sweden – head to West Highland Way, Scotland

The King’s Trail or Kungsleden, - a stunning 440 km trail that winds from the south to the far north of Sweden, passing Sweden’s highest mountain Kebnekaise. And closer to home, Scotland. With towering mountains reaching up from broad valleys, rugged landscapes and lakes, it’s not far removed from Sweden at all. The West Highland Way opened in 1980, it’s Scotland’s first long distance route and offers spectacular scenery as well as a true trail challenge: the 154 km route stretches from just north of Glasgow to Fort William, in the Highlands. It’s also run as a pretty tough race, taking in 4,300m ascent with the record at just over 13.5 hours. 

New York Marathon, USA – head to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England

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Say “New York Marathon” to any runner and they’ll all say the same thing: it’s the bridges that make it so tough. So why go all the way to the USA, when we’ve got a bridge-packed city of our own in the form of Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Featuring a total of seven bridges and as many eye-catching sights as New York, the finishing stretch into Exhibition Park is sure to impress.

The Big Sur, California – head to the Jurassic Coast, England

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One of the greatest coastal routes on Earth, the Big Sur stretches north from Los Angeles up to San Francisco and enchants runners with its high cliff tops, sandy beaches and epic vistas that wait just over every hill. It’s only fair, then, that equal appreciation is given to our very own dramatic coastal path – the Jurassic Coast. Stretching from Exmouth to Studland Bay, the 115km route takes in famous sights like Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and Chesil Beach, a 29 km bank of shingle which protects The Fleet Lagoon. The path drops down to the beaches before climbing back up to the cliff tops, making for a challenging but rewarding trail adventure.

Routeburn Track, New Zealand – head to the Lake District, England

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Featuring forests, mountains, lakes and waterfalls over its 39km, the Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s 9 great trails and famous the world over – but there’s somewhere much closer to home with all that and even more. No trail running manual would be complete without the Lake District, which packs a serious punch when it comes to wilderness in such a relatively small area, and can really test your boundaries with its ever-changing weather. Go prepared, that’s all we’ll say.

Marathon du Médoc, France – head to the South Downs, England

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Marathon du Médoc is often called the longest marathon in the world thanks to its 23 wine tasting stops along the way, and if running and sampling wine sounds like a winning combination to you, all you need to do is head to the South Downs. Start at the Three Choirs, this vineyard in Wickham, on the southwest tip of the South Downs National Park, one of the oldest in England. From here you take in the Hambledon Vineyard, Jenkyn Place and Nutbourne Vineyard before finishing at one of the largest wine producers in England, Denbies Wine Estate. Sounds pretty dreamy to us.

The Otter Trail, South Africa – head to Cornwall, England

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This trail along the Garden Route coast of South Africa, in the Tsitsikamma National Park, is celebrated across the world for its incredible rugged cliff tops, steep climbs and beaches. But at first glance, the mind could be deceived into thinking it was Cornwall; it’s not just all about pasties and Saint Piran. The route from Lizard Point to Lands’ End offers enviable views of rugged cliffs and enough unpredictable (and occasionally rough) weather to keep you on your toes, on top of enough ascents from beach to cliff to rival even the toughest mountain routes.

Maisels Fun Run, Germany – head to the Chiltern Hills, England

Each year in Bavaria, in the town of Beyruth a fun run is organised by Brauerei Maisel on the final day of its Weissbierfest, a four-day beer festival - and is a sell-out every year. For the same experience but substituting Bavarian beer for the British craft stuff, Run the Wild offers a Brewery Trail in November of each year - a10 km guided run in the beautiful Chiltern Hills followed by a brewery tour with tasting at their local Tring Brewery. The Chilterns mark the maximal point of the ice cap in the last ice age and offer varied terrain across their chalk escarpment, ancient woodland and canal paths, all topped off with chilled one.