Great British Ultras
OK there are sooooo many ultra marathons in the UK now it will take me longer to write a list of them that it would take someone to finish the Piece of String run. Plus that job is done much better by ultramarathonrunning.com so I suggest having a look there to find out the details about every ultra in the UK and the world.
There is another great Ultra Calendar on Beyondmarathon.com. It has a map and everything. You have absolutely no excuse for not finding an ultra in your area this weekend.
So instead I am going to write a summary of what I regard as the “Best of British Ultramarathons”. I have a moustache and am smoking a pipe as I write this.
Obviously this is based on my own opinion which is very heavily influenced by the races I’ve run, the races I’ve read race reports on and the race directors who have bought me beer.
So, my complete and biased opinion on the best UK ultra marathons and a load of others stories about them.
Oh and I should probably tell you about the FANTASTIC ULTRA CHALLENGE WITH INCREDIBLE TROPHY – Basically inspired by similar money grubbing schemes I have picked 6 races for no reason whatsoever to be part of the challenge. I have a trophy and the person who racks up the biggest cumulative time running these races will win and I'll put your name on a website. I might even do a blog about it.
Do you think you have what it takes to be the FUCWIT champion? To enter you have to send me a non-refundable bottle of nice beer to be in with a chance to win.
Oh and another thing. If you want to read much more about runners experience of ultras then ULTRA TALES is the best way you can possibly do this.
January, the trains don’t work you are freezing your balls off and you are fat. Unless you are a lady of course, in that case you have lovely curves. Well there is no point moping about it now, Christmas is over and until you go on holiday or that one sunny day in May comes you are stuck here and might as well get some ultras done.
Hardmoors 30 - 1st Jan Why not run an ultra on New Year's day? You get a free day off work and a hangover to burn off.
Hardest Ultra in the UK – Contender – The Spine Race
So this will be the third year running of the Spine race, 268 miles non-stop over the Pennine way. Yes it’s still January. It will be snowy and dark and pretty cold. Not a lot of people finish this race and the course record is something like 5 days. Race Report Richard Lendon.
Best First Ultra – Contender – Country to Capital 11th Jan
Four times I have run this race and I still get lost every time. This is perfect for first timers and the in the first 200 meters of the race wou will see exactly how NOT to run an ultra as half the field sprint the first 200 meters flat out to get to the first turning. The more I do it the more other people I take with me. This is a great start to the year for seasoned ultra runners and a great intro to ultra running for someone starting out. It’s perfect, 43ish miles in total, half on the Chiltern trails and then half of a canal towpath. Finishes at a nice pub too. Race Report James Adams, James Elson.
Endurance Life Anglesey 18th Jan - A great race in a spectacular location. I did this 32 miler a couple of years back and the mountain certainly is an experience, one you get to do three times.
February - This is the month we are expected to express our love by buying useless shite for our other halves. Why not do what he/she really wants and just get out of the house for a whole day (or two) by running one of these races?
Best Intro to Multi-day – Contender – Pilgrims Challenge 2x33 1-2nd Feb
Nice and simple 33 mile each way jaunt along the North Downs way. I have done this event a couple of times and really enjoyed each time. XNRG have become the standard for multi days in the UK so if you want to run all day then enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow runners over dinner and then run again the next day then this is a perfect way to start. Reports - James Adams. Sam Robson. Andy Bruce.
Endurance Life South Devon 8th Feb 32 miles - This is quite a tough race, lots of hills and stunning scenery.
March - This is my birthday month. I always try to do something epic on this day. Previously I have done the Trans Gran Canaria, The Northburn 100, The Thames Path 100, The Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra and the Berkhamstead Half Marathon. Not sure what to do this year?
Endurance Life Northumberland - 1st march 32 miles - A great run way up norf Kris Duffy's win. I think this has sold out already but worth noting Beyond Marathon and their events, this is a 38 mile run on the Millenium Way on March 2nd.
Hardmoors 55 - 22nd March - I Don't know a great deal about this race except that everyone who does it loves is, as with all in the Hardmoors Series. The St Peters Way 45 miler 2nd March is from a new but highly recommened organisation Challenge Running. Endurance Life Sussex - 22nd March 32 miles -Wonderful run along the coast of Sussex taking in the Seven Sisters and Beach Head.
Oh and on the 22nd there will be another race for you to consider. The WORLD MOST UNFAIR RACE. Yes it was my idea and yes it will be evil. Watch this space.
April - If you are proper hardcore you'll be running "The" Marathon. But if you are looking to avoid the crowds you could find something much easier to do, like one of the below.
Best 50 miler – Contender – South Downs Way 50 - April 2
Guaranteed to be rubbish weather but have a great field of runners. If you are looking to "step up" to a 50 miler then this could be the one. The course is challenging but not impossible and you have the great support of Centurion Running. Just don't be an idiot and forget the compulsory kit like some idiots often do.
Hardest Race in the UK - Contender - The Viking Way Ultra April 13/14th
What better way of spending Easter than doing a race that is hard as nails. Into it's third year now and always promising difficult weather you are expected to navigate the 147 miles of the Viking Way trail from Hull to Oakham. Low finishing rates in both years so far and I don't expect that to change this time. No support crews or pacers or GPS devices, this is a running race afterall. Mimi Anderson. Neil Bryant. Charlie Sharpe
Highland Fling 26th Spril 53 miles - I have done half of this race before and that was awesome. I have signed up again to do the whole lot. I can't remember whether they still do that thing where the girls get a 2 hour head start and the old men get a one hour head start. Looking forward to this one.
May - The snow will probably be over by now. The Daily Express will no doubt have a headline that the winter we just endured was the "SOMETHINGEST" winter ever and we are now braced for the "SOMETHINGEST" summer on record. Brace Yourselves.
Honourable Marathon - Three Forts Marathon 4th May - I thought I'd thrown in a few marathons that I know that don't "count" as ultras but do really because they are quite hard. One is the beautiful marathon on the North Downs Way. Also the same weekend the Endurance Life - Pembrokeshire 3rd May 32 miles
Best Multi Day race - Contender Pony Express 30x2 miles - 3-4th May
I absolutely love this race. Two days of running in the New Forest which is quite flat and full of great scenery. XNRG have carved a great niche as the providers of enjoyable multi-day races in the UK. Race reports James Adams
Thames Path 100 - 3rd May - The weather always tries to stop this event from happening. As a result it has been moved into spring. Put money on it snowing on the 3rd May, it WILL happen. This is the first 100 from Centurion and comes with all the great stuff you'd expect from their events. Apart from big hills. Race Reports James Adams. Paul Ali. Jen Bradley. Sam Robson.
The 100k (and 50k) National Championships are being held in Kent for those who want to run a quick time in those distances (and perhaps rub shoulders and share lube with the cream of UK ultra running).
Now if this were not a week before the GUCR I would be all over this. The Apocalypse 100 on the 17th May from Beyond Marathon looks pretty awesome. Only 60 places and pretty cheap so I would get in there. There is a 50 mile version too.
North Downs Way 17th May - This will possibly be one of the most competitive 50 mile races in the UK.
Endurance Life Flete - 25th May 32 miles - A great long run through some lovely trails with lots of water crossings.
Hardmoors 160 and 110 - 25th May - I've heard the 110 miler is a bit of a beast and now they go and make it even longer.
I can't say enough about this race, I've already written about 50,000 words on it in my various experiences with the race from running it, crewing a runner and helping with the checkpoints. There is nowhere I'd rather be on a bank holiday weekend than either running along the side of a canal or getting moaned at by someone else who is. Race Reports James Adams 2008, James Adams 2009, Debbie Martin Consani (winner 2011) , Rajeev Patel, Paul Ali, James Elson (winner 2013), Mimi Anderson (double 2013), Jany Tsai 2013, James Adams (Helping 2013), Paul Ali 2013, Rob Pinnington
If you want to run your first 100k and perhaps are lacking the courage to do it then perhaps raising money for charity would help? Action Challenge have set up a series of events in the UK with fairly low entry fees and very realistic charity targets and a choice of charities to raise money for. I certainly think they are worth checking out and the first is on this bank holida weekend in May from London to Brighton.
June - The world cup starts this month. You will probably be contained in a wave of delusion that England can actually beat some other good football teams and win this trophy. You know there is a magic formula that predicts whether England will win the world cup? It's this - England always win the world cup 900 years after the Battle of Hastings. It's 100% true. Anhyhoo, stop being deluded and do something realistic like run 100 miles.
Shires and Spires 35 - 1st June I love this little jaunt in the Northamptonshire countryside. On Sat/Sun the 14/15th June if you want to see how far you can go in 24 hours then you can run around a track in Gloucester.
Best First 100 miler – Contender – South Downs Way 100 14th June
If you have a place in this race you are very lucky indeed. Last year I was supporting this race in the glorious sunshine and watching Robbie Britton rip up the course in under 16 hours as wells as many many more runners coming in before the 30 hour cut-off. If you are looking for an inspiring first 100 miler and perhaps were not picked out of the Western States hat then come here and do the next best thing.
Best race in the UK - Contender - West Highland Way Race - 95 miles - 21st June - I have not done this race before but really want to do it one day. It sells out faster that Usain and Mo when doing those Virgin ads. An epic route along the length of the West Highland Way in Scotland and usually with a very competitive field.
Round the Island 33x2 miles - 22-24th June from XNRG this is a pretty tough run around the island. Also on the same weekend is the Wall Ultra which is two days of running about 33 miles a day along that wall that keeps all those terrible footballers out of England.
28-29th June there is a very popular 24 hour trail run near Reading. Don't let that put you off. You can do it in teams or solo and it is a really great place to meet other runners. The Endure 24 is a very popular race. Action Challenge have another in their fundraising series from London to Bletchley in the Grand Union 100k Challenge (with 50k option too).
July - The one week of summer creeps menacingly into the ultra running schedule and threatens to derail the efforts of the Goldilocks runners. Will it hit any of these racesR
Saffron Way Ultra - 70 mile - 12th July - This looks like a really nice way of pushing towards a 100 miles. If you are looking to bridge that gap then this could be a great place to do it. This is the first running of this event and I am sure that it will be a hit.
On the 12/13th weekend the second running of an event that was a success last year the 12 Labours of Hercules.
I have not done this race yet. It seems I go to the toilet just as entries open and then when I get back they are full. (I was feeling a bit ill). I have heard so many epic stories of good runners getting brutalised by this race it has to be in consideration for the really tough UK event.
Lakeland 50 - 26th July - the 50 mile version of the above, so perhaps the hardest 50 miler? I think we need a list.
Oh and Save the Date for THE WORLDS MOST PARANOID RACE. On the 19th/20th July. Oh yes, it will be evil.
August - Is summer over yet? Phew. Bring back the rain. And some tough ultras.
This is a really packed month, so much to do such a small month. It kicks off witplenty of action such as the Grimsthorpe Ultra, a choice of 40/70/100 miles starting on the 1st August.
Best race for getting a 24 hour personal worst - The Marmot 24 hour Mountain Ultra. This looks interesting. Want to run a 24 hour race but can not bear the thought of running around a track? This could be your event. There are 6 hour and 12 hour versions too.
Toughest race in the UK - Contender - C2C Ultra 2/3rd August
The coast to coast trail is a popular walking route. Walkers often give themselves two weeks to complete at a leisurely pace, perhaps a week if they are hooning it. Completing it in 40 hours however might just be out of many peoples reach. That is the point and the Race Director does not want to put on events that can be finished by mimbling. I would expect to be able to count the finishers of this race on one hand.
Best 100 in the UK - Contender - North Downs Way 100 9th August - I would say this is a tougher course than the South Downs Way 100 though having not done both I don't really know but last year the course was smashed by two guys, Ed Catmur and Anthony Forsyth. Beautiful hard course and loaded checkpoints. Race Reports - Kelly Lucas, Anthony Forsyth, James Adams, Robbie Britton,
Best 100k in the UK - Contender - Stour Valley Path 100k - 16th August - There are not enough non-commercial 100k races in the UK but this one is really great. I was "helping" out at this last time and everyone I spoke to said they really enjoyed the event and would consider coming back. it is a little earlier in the year now so there will be more daylight to get it done faster. - Race reports - Sam Robson, James Adams (helping), Richard Cranswick
Best 100k in the UK - Contender - The Plague 100k - Sounds lovely doesn't it? This is a very challenging run around coastal paths of Cornwall and recieved rave reviews last year and was even voted best race in Runners World. Don't expect an easy run though, but then again that's not why you would do it in the first place? Race Reports Mimi Anderson.
Best/Toughest Multi-Day race in the UK - Ring O' Fire - 135 miles in 3 days 29th-31st August - This will be in the third edition and from what I have heard the first two gave many a seasoned ultra runner a good beasting. Taking in the 135 circular route of Anglessey with it's tough rocky and hilly terrain expect this to be a challenging three days. Race Reports Rich Ashton (winner 2013),
The Ridgeway 85 - 23rd August is one of the most tresured UK races. Taking in the entire length of the ancient Ridgeway path on what is usually a lovely August weekend with lots of food to keep you going.
On the 23/24th August you can take part in a 100k around the Isle of Wight in a charity challenge. The Isle of Wight 100k (and 50k).
The T184 - 22nd August - A new event which looks like it might be quite tough. A self supported run along the entire length of the river.
September - Not much confirmed for the month yet.
Trans Britain 175 miles - 6-12th Sept Probably the only week long multi-day in the UK.
Gritstone Grind is a 35 mile trail up around the peak district on September 7th.
On the 13th and 14th September you could raise money for charity by running the Thames Path Challenge, 100k or 50k.
on the 19th-21st September there is an interesting multi-day from Beyond marathon. The Double or Nothing race is 10 miles followed by 20 and then by 40.
October Not much confirmed in October yet but save the dates for..
The Round Rotherham 50 - Exactly what it says on the tin.
The Dusk Till Dawn ultra has you running from erm... dusk until dawn. On the 25th.
Honourable Marathon - Greensands. I am not just saying this because I have run all 5 of them so far but this is a really really nice event where you are forced to sing like an idiot at the start.
November - Nothing lasts forever, even cold november rain. It's true, after 30 days it changes it's name to December rain.
Save the Date - Winter 100 - Late November
The Piece of String race :)
Look out for
The Hill Ultra - assuming no one dies this year
The Brecons 45 miler