Ever have problems setting your trail running goals? How to decide what’s for you
If you are looking for something to get your teeth in to in 2018, perhaps you can start by looking back at the previous twelve months and decide what inspired you. Was it the views from the trails? The camaraderie? Or discovering new limits, you had thought were off the chart? Maybe it was trying a new sport combo like cycling, swimming, adventure racing?
Pitting yourself against your own perceived limitations at the whim of nature, will surely bring its own rewards. But so will teaming up with a mate or a partner to motivate each other and share the journey on a multi-dayer. There are still many epic challenges to be had across the UK, which will have you gazing out beyond the winter’s frost, all glazy eyed and reaching for the calendar. Be warned as you write your bucket list though: It could be the start of an emotional journey!
Why? Multi-day events are still few and far between in the UK, probably because of laws governing environmental protection and the complex logistics required to make it happen. The Dragons Back, The Spine (It’s a bit late in the day to enter this year’s race but you never know! And there’s always next year) The Transalp and The Grand Union Canal Race are some of the better known heavy weights, which will challenge your endocrine system to come up with a new cocktail of hormones, just to get through it! They will give you a huge sense of satisfaction and are guaranteed to revive the dormant journey gene.
How much training? Preparation will include time spent on feet (try to get at least six hours in, walking or running) as well as getting your diet right. This one is all about mind over matter and diet. So experiment with different fuels and choose non saturated fats over sugary carbs and a little bit of caffeine for when times get really tough. Practise running in the cold and therefore packing a lightweight backpack.
The Grand Union Canal Race: Takes place mid May and involves strict rules which say you can not stop at any one checkpoint for more than fifteen minutes. A temptation may be the many pubs you’ll pass along the way as you run, walk, stagger from the centre of Birmingham to the centre of London.
The Transalpine: If you are looking to find a trail event on foreign soil, you could take on the Transalp from September 4 to 10. This involves three countries, eight days of running and one team of two. You will cover more than 270 km across Alpine foothills, mountain passes and wooded valleys.
Why? A trail marathon beats a road marathon hands down in terms of your own recovery time, and having an awareness about what you are running through. Although you may not have applause ringing in your ears, if you experience some connection with your surroundings other than the enforced pit stop, you’ll probably be hooked.
How much training?
Going off road means becoming a generalist. Include some multi sport combos like swimming, cycling or core work at least once a week, as part of your racing or training cycle. Balance and strength are key, as well as recovery.
Billing itself as Britain’s most beautiful marathon, (it all depends how much you like conifers), this trail race, which takes place at the start of October, follows an almost entirely off-road and slightly hilly course around northern Europe’s largest man-made lake, Kielder Water, in Northumberland.
Endurance Life Coast Series (South Devon): If you can get past the steep entry price, you may want to try one of Endurance Life’s coastal series marathons. If for no other reason than they will give you an excuse to look out to sea without having to worry about navigating.
Perhaps the jewel in the crown for its coastal series. Now in its tenth year, is the South Devon stage, which is billed as Severe. So you will want to practise on those hills and get used to the narrow, occasionally rocky trails. The course is contained within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), so you may also want to bring a camera! The event on February 6 sells out every year.
Snowdonia Marathon: Although it’s technically a road race, it shares many of the elements of a trail race. It’s hilly, the scenery is spectacular, especially heading up the Pen Y Pass and there are some off road sections and your finishing time is of little consequence. Also the atmosphere is worth savouring. Takes place at the end of October. http://www.snowdoniamarathon.co.uk/
The fell race
Why? It’s a chance to visit almost any of the National Parks around the UK and to be self sufficient with a map. Entry fees are low, you can often enter on the day and who can say no to a pasty and orange juice at the end? The real grass roots of the sport.
How much training? You may have to cultivate a dislike of tarmac and a love of navigation. But always keep an eye on the forecast and learn to interpret it. There are no junk miles on the fells. So just get out there in all weathers whenever you can. When you lose motivation, jump on a bike or go swimming. Most fell runners have a formidable base fitness.
Ennerdale Horseshoe: The Ennerdale round as it is known, is perhaps the jewel in the crown of the Lakeland Classics.
Starting at a scout camp by Ennerdale Water, the most westerly lake in the national park, the route will take you up some monstrous climbs like Red Pike, Green Gable and Pillar and is at least 21 miles. Be warned though, this is an FRA A race, which means an element of navigational competence is required. If you think of retiring at the half way point, it is a long way back to the start. Don’t expect to be picked up in an ambulance! Takes place on June 9th.
The Fellsman: This is a high level traverse held in April, which covers more than 60 miles of very hard rugged moorland path from Ingleton to Threshfield in the Yorkshire Dales. The event climbs over 11,000 feet and most of the route is over privately owned land, secured by the organisers for the weekend. So you may not get to experience the likes of it at other times.
Because the route does not follow well defined footpaths, entrants’ navigational skills with a map and compass need to be up to standard, as well as their physical fitness. Some people do elect to walk it however as originally the Fellsman was a classic hike, and there are numerous checkpoints manned by hardy scouts.
The Isle of Jura Race: Another classic, which takes place at the end of May, although for many people, it requires a feat of endurance just to get to the start line, on this Inner Hebrides island.
The race features seven mountain summits over 28 km, (including the Paps of Jura) with 2370 m of climbing. http://www.artxraykishorn.co.uk/juraaspnet/travel.aspx
Practise on the hills, get yourself some fell shoes and learn to read a map, if you can’t already. A certain tolerance of whisky is also required for this one.
Why? Along the way, you will visit places you will be forced to return to, in your mind if not your body! You will recalibrate your tolerance levels. And it’s miles not kilometres we’re talking!
How much training? The difference between this and a day time ultra, is you’ll be running when your body wants to shut down and sleep. So get used to running in the dark and try to practise cat napping in the day, perhaps once or twice a week!
Dusk Till Dawn: Derbyshire, October. The concept is simple. Runners have to try to complete the 50mile, 9,000ft ascent.race, which starts and ends in Buxton in the Peak District, before sunrise.
Starting at sunset, entrants have exactly 14 hours and 13 minutes to navigate a challenging circuit along the Limestone Way and taking in the Cat and Fiddle, Shining Tor and Cat’s Tor. Anyone who is caught by the Grim Sweeper at the back, will have to retire!
The organisers have been kind enough to include half marathon and marathon courses, which are fully marked.
Lakeland 50: Part of the infamous Lakeland 100 route. There is a 24 hour limit on this event, so it is possible to walk it and many do. The route starts from the Northern end of Ullswater and visits Kentmere, Ambleside, Langdale and Tilberthwaite before the final climb and descent to the finish at Coniston. There are six manned checkpoints where food and drink is available. A fleet of coaches will arrive to take you to the start line, leaving your car, tent and personals waiting for you at the finish!
The Raidlight Arc of Attrition by Mud Crew Events. February 2018. A much heralded aficionados must-do in the ultra calendar for this Cornish classic.
The Two Moors Ultra and Castle to Coast 50: September 29th and 30th, 2018. Organised by Wild Running Events Ltd, his is a new ultra from 50 to 100 miles, which follows the Two Moors Way for its duration. A hidden gem in the ultra running calendar, we think!
The Cotswold 24 Hours: This is a 24 hour individual or team relay race held in the beautiful Bathurst Estate in the heart of the Cotswolds. The race is run over an off-road 9km mixed course including forest trails and open tarmac paths.
You can enter as a solo runner, as a pair or as a team of 3, 4, 6 or 8 runners, and the aim is to complete as many laps of our 9km course as possible in 24 hours. Make sure you choose running buddies who can set their alarm and who you can spend time with. Running in the dark can be disconcerting so get used to it.
Why? If you’re doing this for egoistic reasons you’ll struggle more than most. By the end there won’t be much left of your ego as along the way, nature will impose its own priorities and your own small struggle in the universe will be boiled down to the elements.
How much training? When you go for a run along a lake or river, or along the coast, run in a wetsuit and jump in. Or swim with a dry bag swim buoy. Swim out and back or parallel to the shore but mark your route when you go in. Get out and repeat until you’re done.
Swim Run UK Lyn I Lyn Snowdonia: Based on Sweden’s famous Otillo, this wild event takes place in August. A 38km run and 8km swim.
Swimrun Scotland, Loch Gu Loch: Loch Gu Loch Swimrun Scotland arrived in Loch Ness in October a couple of years ago. This monster brings a new slant by utilising Lochs and the mainland instead of Islands. Incredible landscape, tough terrain and a few islands thrown in for good measure.
The BRECA Swim Run in Buttermere: Breca Buttermere is an epic swimrun race across rugged wilderness, the Western Fells of the Lake District. Over 17 consecutive legs, teams of two will complete a total of 6km of lake swimming and 38km of trail running, including 1,900m of vertical ascent and the infamous Honister Pass. Entries are limited to 100 teams of two. August.
The Wild Dart Swim and Aquathlon: September 1, 2018
NB: Look out also for Wild Running Events Ltd’s swimrun marathon and half marathon in 2018. Details to be confirmed shortly.