Challenge yourself to your own UK adventure and explore off the beaten track with one of these glorious running challenges.
Scale mountains, discover historic trails and battle the elements in a race against yourself to discover just what you are capable of. This list has been curated to push you beyond your limits with your running and introduce you to some of the UK’s best running challenges.
1. The Wainwrights, the Lake District
A breathtakingly brutal challenge set in the Lake District National Park, the goal is to ‘bag’ as many of the Wainwright peaks as possible in one fell swoop, excuse the pun… The rules follow that runners must start and finish at Keswick, taking any route they wish across the peaks, all but one of which sit at over 1,000ft including big, friendly giants like Scafell Pike and Helvellyn.
Typically, this feat traverses a distance of over 500km with most adventurers taking on choice sections. Originally grouped together as such in Alfred Wainwright’s meticulously illustrated books on the Lakeland Fells, the challenge is inspired by the area’s natural beauty, which is now known as a fell-running mecca.
The last couple of years have proved groundbreaking. In 2019, Windermere’s Paul Tierney broke the men’s record by finishing in six days and six hours, while last year saw Ambleside’s Sabrina Verjee become the first woman to run all 214 Wainwrights in one go.
2. The Welsh 3000ers, Wales
This ultra-running challenge sees you scale all 15 mountains in Wales that sit over 3,000ft within 24hrs. The terrain will keep you on your toes with bogs, rocks and steep climbs including the scraggy Pen yr Olwen and relentless Elidir Fawr.
Though under 40km, the main challenge is navigation in unpredictable conditions. Many decide to start with the sun by a bivvy sleep atop Snowdon, finishing at the summit of Foel Fras. thewelsh3000s.co.uk
3. South West Coastal Path, England
The South West Coastal Path passes through countless nature reserves and areas of outstanding natural beauty including the iconic Jurassic Coast. The vast 1,014km stretch of rugged coastline commences in Minehead in Somerset and finishes at Poole Harbour, meandering through Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.
Only have a couple weeks to spare? Don’t worry – the entire path was ran by Damian Hall in an astonishing 10 days and 15hrs in 2016. southwest coastpath.org.uk
4. Ramsay Round, Glen Nevis, Scotland
One of the infamous ‘big three’ ultra-running round challenges in the UK, the Ramsay Round involves circuiting all of the Scottish Lochaber mountains of the Glen Nevis range within 24hrs, including the mighty Ben Nevis.
First attempted by Charlie Ramsay in 1978, this round includes a total of 23 Munros, which are mountains over 3,000ft, across a distance of approximately 90km.
5. The Taff Trail, Wales
This trail covers 88km of stunning welsh countryside from Cardiff Bay to Brecon following the winding river Taff.
Runners will encounter the Glamorganshire canal path, follow an abandoned branch of the Taff Vale Railway and wind along countless quiet forest roads on National Cycle Route 8.
6. The Montane Spine Race, England
This is an absolute classic of a running challenge. The long-running event has a number of variations offering different distances or conditions, but the headline option is the full Spine Race. There’s an option to do it in summer or winter, the latter being the original Montane Spine Race.
Both full-distance options demand a spectacular feat of endurance, with competitors tackling all 268 miles of the Pennine Way non-stop and self-supported, though there are safety teams and pit stops along the way.
The men’s course record is 77:34:52 and is held by Eoin Keith (IRL), while the current women’s record is 80:28:35 and is held by Anna Troup (GBR). Think you can beat them? Find out more here.
Key fell-running gear
The cornerstone of any rural adventure, a durable hydration pack with extra pockets to stash gels, a compass and extra layer is essential. Our choice is the ergonomic Phantom 12 (£100) from OMM.
Think trail shoes, but on steroids. A sturdy pair of fell shoes, designed to endure rough ground, sharp rocks and water-clogged flats, are a wise investment for adventure running. We like Inov-8’s Mudclaw range.
For a cutting-edge rain jacket with dual-dry material and those all-important taped seams, look no further than the Odlo Dual Dry (£220). In terms of practicality, the secure hood and breathable fit make this an easy choice.
Top image credit: Inov-8