Deciding when and where you race is set to get even harder this year, thanks to a tantalising line-up of new events. From exclusive private locales to innovative multi-activity ideas, we’ve picked seven teasing highlights to give you a taste of what’s in store over the months ahead.
Don’t despair if you can’t get to the fixture you fancy - cast your eyes beneath each event and you’ll find a handful of links to similar races. OK, so they might not be new, but they’re still part and parcel of British racing history...
Leith Hill Half-Marathon (Surrey, March 9)
"Not the toughest, but tough enough" reads the strapline to the latest addition to Trionium’s punishing fixture list – news that will come as music to the ears of fans of the relentless hills and rough terrain for which the organisers are known. Starting from the historic market town of Dorking, the route heads west along footpaths and bridleways to the neighbouring village of Westcott before climbing toward the peak of Leith Hill.
Don’t be fooled by the mention of this single incline: as the highest point in the south-east, Leith Hill offers runners a quad-crunching ascent of more than 200m. Staggering views over the capital and South Downs are the reward at the summit, while the downhill return leg will see you flying home for lashings of hot grub back at race HQ.
More hardy half-marathons...
Steyner Stinger Half-Marathon (Sussex, March 2)
Midsummer Munro Half-Marathon (Surrey, June 21)
Yorkshire Off-Road Half-Marathon (West Yorkshire, September 14)
1000 Mile Oulton Park Half-Marathon (Cheshire, March 9)
Such is the demand for races in the north-west, that this calendar newcomer ignited interest almost as soon as it appeared in our listings. And with other local events now selling out weeks before race-day, this is definitely one to earmark if you’re on the lookout for an early-season PB.
Three laps of the historic Oulton Park motor circuit certainly promise a turbo-charged affair, not least thanks to its pancake-flat contours and wide open roads. F1 fans are sure to be in their element too – Grand Prix icon, Stirling Moss, is a five-time Gold Cup winner at this very track.
Still looking for an incentive to enter? A free pair of high-tech sports socks is included in the race fee...
More super-flat racing circuits ...
The EAS Castle Combe 10K (Wiltshire, March 9)
Dunsfold 10K (Surrey, April 6)
Yorkshire Keevil Airfield 10K (Wiltshire, May 10)
One Day In History! (Bristol, April 27)
Most of us are used to calling on mind tricks when the going gets tough, but it’s not often we come away from a race feeling our brain has been exercised as much as our brawn. Cue the introduction of mental racing: physical activity combined with mental agility. Entrants are set a wide range of puzzles – think Su Doku, word searches and spot-the-difference games – over a course of roughly eight miles, the answers to which reveal a historic date. Only when you’ve established this date can you turn back to the finish and collect a time bonus for every correctly-solved riddle.
The race start promises to be a hub of activity as runners run to and from the various checkpoints - providing ample entertainment for spectators or family in tow - while the grounds of Blaise Castle offer an inspirational backdrop to this mind-and-matter workout.
More quirky highlights...
CaniCross Series (Various venues, February - May)
Tough Challenge - Wendover Woods (Buckinghamshire, March 16)
Hog Run! (Suffolk, November 2)
Helen's Trust Golden Gate 10K (Derbyshire, May 18)
Best dust down your running finery for this multi-terrain fundraiser - set in the imposing Chatsworth House Deer Park and Woodland estate, this is regal splendour at its best. Run along well-maintained trails amid the beautiful gardens, there’s just one incline of note as the route winds its way up to Dobb Edge. From then on, you can look forward to nothing more testing than a gentle canter, before a strategically-positioned fast, flat finish. Discounted entry to Chatsworth House is included within the race fee - as is a complimentary food voucher - while a 3K fun run is sure to be a hit among families.
Good news for the less quick-footed too: you don’t need to set your sights on a podium place to run away with a prize. Rewards for most sponsorship raised and best fancy dress are also up for grabs, while a spot prize of helicopter transport to and from the event for advance entrants could be your chance to feel like royalty.
More royal fixtures...
Sherborne Castles 10K (Dorset, March 16)
Raby Castle 10K (Durham, May 25)
King Alfred's Torment 7 (Wiltshire, September 21)
Richmond Castle 10K (North Yorkshire, October 19)
Saab Salomon Turbo X-Trail series (Various venues, May - November)
There’s a reason military vehicles come armed with traction steering and treetrunk-thick tyres: to cruise over the sand, mud, hills and bogs that typify army training terrain. Pit a trail-blazing group of off-road runners ploughing against similar landscapes however, and it’s anyone’s guess how wet, dirty and utterly exhausted they’ll emerge at the finish.
All the events in the series offer runners the opportunity to race on exclusive government-owned sites, but don’t expect a relaxing rural setting. Acres of protected heathland, pine forests or wide open trails there may be, but that won’t keep organisers from staging a gutful of stomach-turning climbs and watery surprises. Of course, that won’t sound taxing enough for some of you, which is why there’s always the prospect of an additional race-day challenge – a mile-long time trial over the toughest, wettest, muddiest section of each course.
More off-road highlights...
The Terminator (Wiltshire, February 24)
The Hanham Horror 6 (Gloucestershire, March 23)
Offas Orror 20K (Monmouthshire, April 27)
TrailPlus: Hellrunner: Hell Up North (Cheshire, November 2)
TrailPlus: Hellrunner: Hell Down South (Hampshire, November 16)
Dundee Running Adventure Marathon (Dundee, September 20)
Should your Scottish neighbours invite you to join them for a wee dram this autumn, we’d advise you confirm their intentions first. For on the penultimate weekend of September, Dundee plays host to a DRAM with a difference – a 26.2-mile rough and ready course along the city’s popular Green Circular cycleway. Taking in parkland, wooded areas, and a lengthy stretch along the northern banks of the River Tay, the route’s mix of terrain has the potential to make for a rocky (yet rewarding) ride.
Throw in obligatory tagging at checkpoints and the occasional traffic-crossing hotspot and it’s unlikely the undulating course will play to the advantage of the competitive clock-watcher. Most though, are sure to enjoy the excuse to take a momentary breather and soak up the view. Plus, with plans afoot to re-use the Green Circular the following day for a family-focused cyclathon, the weekend should shape up to be a fantastic leisure getaway.
More Scottish marathons...
Lochaber Marathon (Highland, April 27)
Point 1 Callanish Stones Marathon (Western Isles, May 24)
Edinburgh Marathon (Lothian, May 25)
The North Harris Trust Marathon (Western Isles, May 26)
Moray Marathon (Moray, September 7)
Run To The Beat (London, October 5)
Unplug yourself from your MP3 player for a moment if you will – the latest initiative to get Londoners pounding the pavements promises a 13.1-mile live-music soundtrack. Winding its way through Greenwich, Charlton and Woolwich, the route will be lined with an assorted mix of bands and artists hammering out stride-setting rhythms.
There’s more to this carnivalesque performance than pure entertainment though. Researchers from Brunel University are scientifically selecting music that will "match the physiological and psychological demands of the half-marathon event". Such a novel event is sure to pull in the crowds, so expect a large field and welcome camaraderie, not to mention the inevitable kudos of saying you were part of London’s pioneering musical half-marathon.
More large-scale urban halfs...
Sheffield Half-Marathon (South Yorkshire, April 27)
Great Eastern Run (Peterborough, October 12)
Cardiff Half-Marathon (Cardiff, October 19)
Want to shout about another new event you know? Then drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.