Beachy Head Marathon
Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex
Distance: 42K/26.2 miles
Ascent: 1,066m total ascent
Find out more: beachyheadmarathon.org.uk
One of the UK’s most popular offroad marathons is now in its 32nd year. The course, which starts and finishes in Eastbourne, takes you through the scenic South Downs via three punishing hills, before rewarding you with panoramic sea views from the iconic Seven Sisters.
Location: Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland
Distance: 42K/26.2 miles
Ascent: 368m total ascent
Find out more: kieldermarathon.com
Living up to its billing as ‘Britian’s most beautiful marathon’, the course takes you around the shoreline of Kielder Water. It’s a mix of road and trail so a good option if you’re primarily a road runner, and there’s a 10K version if you don’t feel ready for the full 26.2-miler.
La Course des Templiers
Location: Millau, France
Distance: 71K/44.4 miles (other options: 9K-106K)
Ascent: 3,250m total ascent
Price: €65 (£51)
Find out more: festivaldestempliers.blogspot.com
The Festival des Templiers weekend offers nine different distance options, of which the undisputed star is La Course de Templiers. Inspired by the Knights Templar, the 71K route follows ‘secret’ paths, passing through hidden tunnels and ruined castles. But if that sounds like too much hard work, the other course options – starting at just 9K – are all excellent, too.
Original Mountain Marathon (OMM)
Location: varies each year,
Distance: 35-80K/22-50 miles
Ascent: variable total ascent
Price: £110 (team of two)
Find out more: theomm.com
Though the course changes every year, the OMM is always a classic, testing navigation, mountain fitness and self-reliance. Armed with a map, compass, tent and enough food for 36 hours, you and your partner – and 3,000 others – run across fells, mountains and valleys before camping overnight to do it all again the following day.
Location: Ingleton, North Yorkshire
Distance: 98K/61 miles
Ascent: 3,350m total ascent
Find out more: fellsman.org.uk
As featured in RW’s September issue, Britain’s ‘best value race’ may also be its toughest. Incredible scenery, a lifetime of bragging rights and three UTMB (see opposite) qualifying points are on offer, but you need to be proficient with a map and compass to self-navigate across 61 miles of rugged moorland.
Location: Seaton, Dorset
Distance: 32.2K/20.1 miles
Ascent: 418m total ascent
Find out more: axevalleyrunners.org.uk/races/grizzly.htm
Nearly 2,000 runners flock to the Dorset coast to fling their weary bodies up and down dozens of hills. A combination of shingle beaches, mud, hills, bagpipes and the gentle waft of incense makes
this an absolute classic.
Location: Gran Canaria, Spain
Distance: 24K/15 miles (other options: 42-123K)
Ascent: 1700m total ascent
Price: €50 (£39)
Find out more: transgrancanaria.net
If you’re brave/unhinged enough, the full 123K Transgrancanaria with 11,000 gruelling metres of ascent is always an option, but we think the ‘starter’ version at 24K and 1,700m of ascent is quite challenging enough. With 1,400 competitors, it’s now one of the major races on the trail running world stage.
Yorkshire Three Peaks Race
Location: Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire
Distance: 37.4K/23.3 miles
Ascent: 1,608m total ascent
Find out more: threepeaksrace.org.uk
After 58 years, this is still a race that every fell runner wants to tick off the list. The spectacular summit hat-trick of Pen-y-Ghent (689m), Whernside (723m) Ingleborough (722m) is breathtaking in more ways than one.
Lakeland Trails Marathon
Location: Coniston, Cumbria
Distance: 42.2K/26.4 miles
Ascent: 685m total ascent
Find out more: lakelandtrails.org/marathon
The course follows beautiful trails around Coniston Water, the third largest lake in the Lake District. They’re so beautiful in fact, that Runner’s World readers rate it as ‘the most scenic trail marathon in Britain’. Less competitive runners enter the ‘Challenge’, while quicker runners start two hours later in the ‘Race’. There’s also a half marathon option if you’re not ready for the full.
North Downs Run
Location: Gravesend, Kent
Distance: 30K/18.8 miles
Ascent: 430m total ascent
Find out more: isteadandifield.org.uk
Location: Sierre, Switzerland
Distance: 31K/19.3 miles
Ascent: 2,200m total ascent
Find out more: sierre-zinal.com
The oldest mountain race in Europe is known locally as the ‘Course des Cinq 4000’ in honour of the five classic 4,000m peaks it follows (including the infamous Matterhorn). It’s obviously a serious undertaking and attracts the world’s top trail runners, but it’s been described as ‘the perfect mountain race’ and there’s also a walkers’ class, which starts four hours ahead of the elites.
Location: Davos, Switzerland
Distance: 42K/26.2 miles (other options: 10K-78K)
Ascent: 2,370m total ascent
Find out more: swissalpine.ch
Nestled 1,560m up in the Alps, the winter sports Mecca of Davos makes the considerable charms of its mountain surroundings open to runners with this annual trail running extravaganza offering seven different distances. From the 10K all the way up to the 78K, there’s something for all levels to sink their outsole lugs into.
Trail Marathon Wales
Location: Coed y Brenin Forest, Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Distance: 42K (26.2 miles)
Ascent: 1,022m total ascent
Price: £25 (full) or £20 (half)
Find out more: trailmarathonwales.com
When 700 entries sell out eight weeks in advance, you know it’s a winner. With full and half marathon options, it attracts seasoned trail runners and offroad newbies alike, and it’s set up so you can bring the family and make a weekend of it.
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB)
Location: Chamonix, France
Distance: 168K/105 miles
Ascent: 9,600m total ascent
Find out more: ultratrailmb.com
Not many races require you to carry your passport. But the UTMB is no ordinary race. This is the pinnacle of European trail running.
If you can acquire the necessary qualification points to enter, you’ll follow the world’s trail running elite for over 100 miles of intensely demanding and aesthetically sublime Alpine scenery around Mont Blanc, passing through France, Italy and Switzerland.
Hugely popular, enormously tough and limited to 2,300 runners, it’s the ultimate challenge. Though if you’re not quite ready for it, there are shorter race options available.
A swaggering mudslinger that can lay claim to the title ‘The toughest race in the South East’. Challenging hills, exhilarating trails, scenic views, excellent marshalling and a decent swag bag make it a favourite on the RW forum. The 2013 race marks the 30th anniversary, so get your entry in sharpish.
Visit our essential trail running hub to discover the best offroad races, essential kit and how to blitz your trail fears.