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Best Trail Races In The UK

BY: Mark Dredge
06 July 2024

Are you looking for a trail race to enter? With distances from 5km to marathons, and taking place all around the UK, there are many brilliant races to consider throughout the year. Some are hilly and technical, others are pleasantly flat, and some have a good mix of both, but what they all share is exploring and running in the great British countryside. This list features races which range from beginner-friendly through to those which require a little more experience. And if you’re looking to run even further, then here are the best ultramarathons in the UK!

MAVERICK RACE
When: Throughout the year
Where: Throughout the UK
With a selection of great trail runs around the UK, Maverick are known for organising excellent events with brilliant race villages – they’re the sort of runs where you want to hang around after and enjoy some food and drink. The atmosphere is always relaxed and it’s feels more fun than competitive (and most runs allow dogs for canicross entries!). These are some of the best races for beginners and all races have a short, medium and long route (sometimes also with marathon and ultra distances). Highlights include the Jurassic 100 in Dorset (12km-101km options) and the Afran Forest (6km-25km). They also do some night trail runs at the end of the year.

ENDURANCELIFE
When: Throughout the year
Where: Throughout the UK
There are more than a dozen Endurancelife races to choose from all around the UK, including Giant’s Causeway, Pembrokeshire, Cornwall and Northumberland. Almost all races have options for 10km, half marathon, marathon and ultra, so you can choose the location and distance that’s right for you, but one thing connects the races: routes which are both challenging and in beautiful locations.

LAKELAND TRAILS
When: Throughout the year
Where: Lake District
‘Inspiring races in beautiful places’ is the tagline of Lakeland Trails who organise a series of runs all around the Lake District. Most have multiple options, usually between 5km and 21km (they also have a marathon and ultramarathon for those looking to run further). Their pricing is accessible to many, as are the races which are very well organised and sign-posted, with routes carefully plotted for the best experiences – that doesn’t make them easy though, as this is the Lake District!

BIG BEAR EVENTS
When: Throughout the year

Where: Midlands
Big Bear put on a series of runs through the year including some evening 10km trail runs, and also some six-hour challenges where you can choose how far you run in that time. The events take place on easy-going trails in nice locations, making it a great introduction to trail running – and also to ultrarunning, if that’s something you’re looking to achieve.

RASSELBOCK RUNNING
When: Throughout the year
Where: Throughout the UK

Rasselbock Running events take place in parks and forest around the UK (the Sherwood Pines races are particularly popular) and offer lapped courses. Some are set distance runs, while others are a time limit, so you can choose to run as far as you want within four hours or six hours depending on the event. These are accessible, well-organised events which are committed to helping the environment as well as encouraging people to run. They also have several other events like backyard ultras and marathons.

NATIONAL TRUST TRUST10 TRAIL RUNS
When: Throughout the year
Where: Throughout the UK
A series of free, social and non-competitive 5km-10km runs taking part from National Trust locations on the fourth Sunday of every month (some pause over winter, so check each venue). These are perfect for all abilities, but check the route descriptions as some of them are over hilly and challenging terrain. 

PARKRUN
When: Every Saturday morning
Where: Throughout the UK

While many parkruns take place on the paths or roads, there are plenty which are run on the trails. If you want to find a trail parkrun near you then look at the parkrun event page and you can check course maps to find the right parkrun for you. This can be a great introduction to running off road.

LOVETRAILS
When: July 
Where: Gower Peninsula
A festival of trail running in south Wales, featuring several different trail runs ranging from 5km to 50km. The weekend festival features talks, adventure sessions, music, and running, all around the stunning Gower Peninsular. It’s a very popular event for anyone who loves trail running and outdoor adventures.  

TISSINGTON TRAIL HALF MARATHON
When: 22 Sept 2024
Where: Ashbourne
A disused railway line between Ashbourne and Buxton in the Peak District has been turned into the Tissington Trail, and this is a lovely half marathon which is run on gravel path and light trails. It’s a straight path and slightly downhill all the way, making it a great first (or fast!) trail run to take on. In good weather this one is also fine to be run in road shoes. Just know that the race sells out quickly every year. 

BEACHY HEAD MARATHON
When: 26 Oct 2024 
Where: Eastbourne
Is this the most challenging start of any trail race? Beginning with a few metres on the road, you go straight up a steep hill straight onto the chalk trails of the South Downs Way, heading towards Beachy Head, one of the highest coastal points in the UK. You’ll climb over 200ft in the first quarter-mile at a gradient of more than 25% before eventually levelling off (but not for long!). There are four distances available (10km, half marathon, marathon and ultra) and they take you on an enjoyable and scenic route. The final miles of the marathon take you up and down and up and down the Seven Sisters, before finishing by running back down the steep hill into Eastbourne. 

***

Inspired by trail runs and thinking about running further? Here are some of the best UK ultramarathons!

Do you have a favourite trail race in the UK? Are the trail runs that you hope to complete in the future? 

Lead photo from Beachy Head Marathon

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