Part of the joy of running is deciding which challenge to set yourself next. The normal way to progress is to start ticking off UK-based distance races and then look a little further for your next dream challenge. Here we look at some of the magnificent races around the globe that can provide the ultimate high for distance runners. We’ve started off with the heavyweight UK races, then looked at European races and then global races. This article’s a little longer than usual. But you endurance types will love that. Sorry, puns. Moving on…
Some great UK races to challenge you
You can see the best of some of the UK’s finest cities as you run around them. Brighton, London and Edinburgh offer incredible marathon courses, and there are half marathons, 10Ks and off-road events too.
Brighton Marathon, 15 April 2018
A picturesque route that has the sea as a backdrop for a large part of the race. The initial part of the race sees a fair amount of climbing, but it becomes flatter as the course goes on.
London Marathon, 22 April 2018
The daddy of UK races, you’ll be running through lots of historic areas. The marathon starts in Greenwich and travels alongside the Thames, through Canary Wharf, across Tower Bridge, through Westminster and finishes on The Mall. This is one you have to tick off your list.
Edinburgh Marathon, 27 May 2018
One of our favourites, due to the amazing city. The race starts right in the heart of the Old Town, goes across the High Street, through Princes Street Gardens and out to the east of the city to Portobello and Musselburgh.
There are lots of 10Ks to help you build up gradually, including Manchester, Blackpool, York, Portsmouth, Leeds, Bristol and loads more. And there are events that offer an assault course approach, like Tough Mudder, that run across the UK.
Running on the continent
You’ll find city-based marathons across Europe. The best-known are perhaps Paris (in April), Berlin (in September) and Rome (also in April). Given the history of the marathon, you could do worse than to challenge yourself with the Athens marathon. You can follow in the footsteps of ancient Greek heroes as you face the climbs and the heat. It’s a real test for runners.
If you like a challenge that includes climbing as you run, then the Tenerife Bluetrail could be your thing. It’s known for being one of the hardest trail races in Europe. Starting out at sea level, you then climb to 3,500 metres and run across the volcanic landscape. There are a range of race lengths, including a half marathon, a marathon and a 97km ultra-race.
The Plitvice Lakes marathon takes you through superb national parks in Croatia. You’ll be running past 16 terraced lakes that are joined together by several waterfalls and you’ll be amazed at the beauty of the quaint villages and towns you see during this event. If you fancy challenging your personal best time, then you might want to try the Sarajevo half marathon. The course is very flat, offering the chance to attack your PB time. It’s also in a city that is more beautiful than almost anyone imagines. It’s well worth a visit.
Isn’t a marathon a challenge?
Looking to challenge yourself to ultra-runs? Here are a few you might enjoy.
The Lake Balaton super-marathon is an ultra-marathon of 196km over four days. There are shorter distance races too, including a half and full marathon. Whichever race you choose, you’ll be running with the stunning lakeside views to keep you smiling. Or perhaps the Menorca Cami de Cavalls Epic 360° trail could be the one for you? This race is split into three stages, with each one offering a different challenge on the island of Menorca. You might even fancy the Transylvania 100km, if your training has been going well. It’s a real challenge. You start and finish at Bran castle (famous from the Dracula stories) and have to traverse several mountains during the race (with an elevation gain of 6,486 metres). And, even though the race takes place in May, you’ll often find snow on the highest peaks of the course.
The world’s your oyster
If you’re looking for a challenge you’ll never forget a little further afield, then here are a few you should consider. The Jungle Marathon in Brazil is an awesome opportunity. There’s the humidity, the high temperatures, the snakes and wildlife, and the fact that you’re running through a real jungle.
There’s a marathon, a 78-mile race and a 157-mile race. Myanmar (formerly Burma) offers an amazing marathon course through over 2,000 ancient temples. The pagodas and temples create a forgotten, almost mystical, landscape to race across. The Comrades Marathon is a bit of a misnomer, given that it’s the world’s oldest organised ultra-marathon. Since 1921 the race has been run along South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal coastline, giving you amazing views as you compete. The race switches between uphill and downhill courses each year, with the organisers stating that the course is “approximately 89km”.
If you’re feeling like a real challenge, there’s always the Everest Marathon. The world’s highest marathon starts at Everest base camp and is held on May 29th each year to celebrate the famous ascent by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. There’s also a 60km extreme-ultra and a 21km half marathon.
Or perhaps you fancy the challenge of running a marathon in Antarctica? The Ice Marathon is the world’s southernmost marathon where you’ll be facing unique conditions – with an average wind-chill factor of -20°C. It’s the only footrace within the Arctic Circle and is a qualifier for The 7 Continents Marathon Club™.
We’ll finish with presenting to you the 6633 Ultra. Only 11 people have finished this race. Ever. Held in Canada’s Yukon territory races cross the Arctic Circle and pull their gear behind them on sleds. There are sub-zero temperatures, hurricane-strength Katabatic winds and seemingly endless frozen plains to overcome. The main race is 350 miles or there’s a shorter version at 120 miles.
There are a huge number of races across the world. If we’ve missed any of your favourites, let us know in the comments below.
However, you decide to challenge yourself, make sure you’re covered before you go. With Dogtag your insurance details are with you, whatever you’re doing. So, which one are you looking to conquer first?