Missed out in the Virgin Money London Marathon ballot? Here are some alternatives in the great British countryside
Adidas TERREX 50km Trail Race Ultra
When May 15-17, 2020
There can be few better places in the UK for trail running than the Lake District, so the popularity of this one is no surprise. Another reason is that it’s part of the successful Keswick Mountain Festival, which has fun for all the family in various sporting activities, offering ultra runners the chance of a great weekend away. Taking in some of the best trails around the Watendlath, Borrowdale, Butteremere and Newlands valleys, you can be sure of plenty of awe-inspiring views to help compensate for the tough course, which has a total 1995m of ascent. Featuring a mixture of wide open trails, single track - both fast and technical, long as well as fast technical descents and open valley running, one thing this course isn’t is boring! Full information and entry is available on October 24.
Dark Skies Run 26.5
Where Kielder Water, Northumberland
When March 21, 2020
If you love running in the dark this event is for you, because Kielder Water and Forest Park has some of the darkest skies in England. Awarded gold-tier Dark Sky Park status by the International Dark Skies Association, the area is perfect sky-gazing – and you’ll have plenty of chances to gawp upwards as you cover the marathon course. The race kicks off at 5.30pm, an hour before sunset, so unless you’re Eliud Kipchoge you’ll need a head torch for most of it. In fact, a head torch is one of the obligatory pieces of kit, along with a whistle and a foil blanket. The route goes clockwise around Kielder Water and there’s also a shorter 14-mile option.
Race the Tide
Where Holbeton, Devon
When May 10, 2020
This is a trail race with a bit of a twist. As if
running marathon distance isn’t already tough enough (and this is actually more like 28.5 miles),
the race takes you across an estuary to Burgh Island. The island is accessible via dry land when the tide is out, but you’ll need to run at at least 4mph to beat the tide when it starts coming in. The course, which comprises part of the South West Coast Path, is a combination of private footpaths, coastal trails, bridle paths, country fields and woodland and has a total ascent of 1212m. There are seven aid stations along the way serving up everything from peanuts and biscuits to jellied sweets, fruit, water and Coca-Cola. So all you need to focus on is running and soaking in the stunning scenery.
Dorset Ooser Marathon
Where Turners Puddle, Dorset
When March 29, 2020
This is a trail marathon with a little bit of everything. You’ve got mud to stomp through, fords to wade, 13 hills to climb, and plenty of walls and stiles to clamber over. You’ll run along farm tracks, across fields, and through ancient woodland trails in the beautiful Dorset countryside. The organisers have designed a challenging route with more than 1000m of ascent, which is why the cut-off is a generous eight hours. But you do get two UTMB points for finishing. The route is well sign-posted, and you also get medical cover, free car parking, bag drop, medals for all finishers, free drinks and refreshments at the finish – all for £27. There’s a half marathon option too.
Where Kingsclere, Hampshire
When June 21, 2020
Taking in some of the well-known hiking trails of the Wayfarers Walk and Harrow Way, this single-lap route starts and finishes at Kingsclere and includes some of the highest points in Hampshire, offering some great views over the county. Appropriately subtitled the ‘pint-sized trail challenge’, all finishers are rewarded with a pint of the local tipple. You don’t get much time to settle in with a hill near the start of the circular route, but the motivation of that pint at the end of the course will keep you going!
Glentress Trail Marathon
Where Scottish Borders
When February 23, 2020 (Provisional)
If we tell you this forest is best known for mountain biking, you can probably guess there are some great trails to run too. The route is a mixture of woodland, heather-clad moorland, hard-packed gravel trails and twisting forest singletrack, plus a section on a black-graded mountain bike track. There’s 1800m of ascent in total on fully-marked routes with electronic timing, finisher medals, feed stations stocked with flapjacks, jellies, chocolate brownies, and much more. This is a small event that’s well organised by friendly staff, but you may not get a warm welcome from the Scottish weather in February!
Hardmoors 26.2 White Horse Trail Marathon
Where June 7, 2020
When Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Named after the famous equine figure carved into the hillside at nearby Kilburn, this race offers runners the chance to gallop around some of Yorkshire’s finest countryside. Enjoy views across the Yorkshire Dales, plus a run around the mythical Gormire Lake (the locals say it’s bottomless) and the southern North York Moors. There are some tough climbs to tackle, but you’ll also be rewarded with what was once designated ‘Britain’s best view’ at Sutton Bank. The race is signed but you’re responsible for your own navigation, so make sure you brush up on your skills.
Breckland Forest Marathon
Where Thetford, Norfolk
When April 26, 2020
Rather than running on congested concrete in the capital on April 28 next year, you could be breathing in the clear air of the beautiful Breckland Forest. This out-and-back route follows parts of the River Little Ouse with a return route through the forest on trails that are mostly off road. There’s no cut-off time either, so you can take your time and enjoy the sights and sounds of Norfolk’s Breckland district. At a time of generally rising entry costs, it’s refreshing to see this race isn’t cashing in. The price has been retained at £25 for next year and proceeds will be donated to GW Staniforth Trust, which owns a local heritage site.