Ultrarunning

9 UK ultra marathons to conquer this year

© Pen Llŷn Ultra
Up your mileage and enter one of these life-changing long runs. You won't regret it.
Written by Howard CalvertPublished on
Whether you are yet to run a marathon or you’re a seasoned ultra pro, there are races longer than 26.2 miles for everyone. Take your pick from these events if you are looking to challenge yourself with an ultra. There really is something for everybody…

Beginner

Waterway 30
When: September 2020
Where: Nottinghamshire
This is the one to open your ultra-running calendar with: a 31-mile loop around the scenic Trent. It doesn’t feature a great deal of climbing, so is ideal for rookie runners. In fact, you’ll most likely find that the majority of the entrants are first-time ultra-marathoners, so you can all support and motivate each other. Hobopace.co.uk
Tweed Valley Forest Ultra
When: 15 November 2020
Where: Glentress Peel (south of Edinburgh)
Another race that’s perfect for beginners, this time just south of Edinburgh in the Tweed Valley. The 40-mile ultra takes place in the Border forests, with all the breathtaking scenery you’d expect – in fact, you might want to add an hour to your estimated finish time simply for photo stops.
Race To The Tower
When: 5 June, 2021
Where: Cotswolds
The ‘Race To The…’ series from Thresehold launched its inaugural Tower race last year (following on from its popular …Stones and …King), and it comes highly recommended for beginners. At 52 miles, you can either opt to do it all in a day or camp overnight at the halfway point. The organisation of the race is seamless, with well-stocked food stations every 10km, and historic sights highlighted along the route. Racetothetower.com

Intermediate

The Wall
This isn't the only wall you'll hit over 69 miles
This isn't the only wall you'll hit over 69 miles
When: June, 2021
Where: Carlisle
This poses the question: can you run 69 miles in a day? If you think you can, sign up for this coast-to-coast challenge. Starting in Carlisle, the route follows Hadrian’s Wall across England, ending up in Newcastle 69 miles later. Described by one reviewer as “brutal”, it’s not for beginners, but is an achievable and well-organised event. Ratrace.co.uk
Pen Llyn Ultra
The Pen Llŷn Ultra passes through the shadow of Snowdon
The Pen Llŷn Ultra passes through the shadow of Snowdon
When: 3 July, 2021
Where: Pwllheli, North Wales
There’s a 50-miler, and a new 100-miler, but the 75-mile ‘Classic’ is the one to go for this year. There’s a 24-hour cut-off in which to complete the course, but it’s doable (although you’ll need to be at the peak of your running powers). The route takes you round north Wales’ Llyn peninsula, in the shadow of Snowdon, and features stunning views over the Irish Sea, where if you’re lucky you might even see dolphins leaping out of the foam, helping to ease the endless hours of pain ahead. Penllynultra.co.uk
Hardmoors 60
When: 19 September, 2020
Where: Guisborough, North Yorkshire
Eighteen hours to run 62 miles. Sounds simple enough? Wait until you begin pounding this notoriously leg-sapping route. Starting at Guisborough, this ultra – part of the well-respected Hardmoors series – winds along the Cleveland Way all the way to Filey. Being in September, and in the north of England, expect conditions to be changeable at best, with rain and cold winds making an appearance, but it’s a rewarding route with inspiring views to pick you up when you’re at your lowest. Hardmoors110.org.uk

Expert

Lakes Sky Ultra
When: 10 July, 2021
Where: Lake District
It may be a “mere” 35 miles, but just look at the ascent: 4,500m. You need to have ‘skyrunning’ experience to secure a place – that means having completed an event such as the Scafell Pike Race or Scotland’s Ring Of Steall – and you should be well-practised at scrambling along mountain ridges and tackling steep ascents and descents. This is some serious racing, but the reward is completing one of the UK’s toughest challenges. Lakedistrictskytrails.com
Ring O’ Fire
When: 3-5 Sep, 2021
Where: Anglesey
We’re getting to the bucket list races here, and this 135-mile lap of Anglesey is up there with some of the best routes in the world. It’s a three-day race skirting the coastal paths of the Welsh island, and its brutalness is tempered by the views as you run. The organisers warn that you must accept that “it will be harder than you ever could have imagined”. Time to start training now… Ringofire.co.uk
Viking Way Ultra
When: TBC
Where: Humber Bridge
Another multi-day event, this time 147 miles long. No sleep till Oakham. Starting at the beginning of the Viking Way footpath at the Humber Bridge, the race is pretty much self-supported – there aren’t many food stops, so you should carry all you can with you and use your bag drops wisely, and, as with many of the harder events, no GPS is allowed so your map-and-compass-reading should be at Bear Grylls’ levels. There’s a 40-hour cut-off: after that point, you don’t get a medal or finishing time. In 2017, only seven runners finished within the time. And to top it all, to secure a place, you need to have completed at least one 100-mile non-stop race. But if you do complete it, you’ll feel like Rocky after beating Clubber Lang. Vikingwayultra.com