These are the best ultras in the UK for beginners

·7-min read
Photo credit: Pierre Papet / Centurion Running
Photo credit: Pierre Papet / Centurion Running

1.Endurancelife Northumberland

Where? Alnwick, Northumberland

When? 25 February 2023

Many Endurancelife events tend to lean towards the more tough and technical end of the spectrum, but this 58km ultra in the north-east only has one significant incline along a route that heads north from Alnwick in one of the country’s lesser-known Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Bamburgh Castle is the most famous sight on the route, but the whole coastline is dotted with castles, lighthouses, cliffs and beaches. Your main enemy, particularly considering the late February date, will be the temperamental seaside weather – your windbreaker could be your best friend here.

endurancelife.com

2. Suffolk 50K

Where? Wantisden, Suffolk

When? 2 October 2022,

The organisers of this event have pulled off a balancing act that we previously thought impossible. They’ve managed to put on an ultra that is both scenic and flat – there’s just 297m of ascent overt he entire 50km. The Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB is the scene for this race, which promises abundant flora and fauna in the area’s unique wetlands, wonderful sea views, cute little village sand probably a decent amount of mud along the way, which is 80% on the trails. There are also 41km, 24km and 11km options for your less adventurous friends as you take on your first ultra.

maverick-race.com

3. The Fox

Where? Godalming, Surrey

When? April 2023 (date TBC)

Here’s an ultra that will look impressive on your Strava feed: you’ll do an enormous 62K loop of Guildford, starting and ending in Godalming with a couple of decent ascents as you enter and exit the Surrey Hills. The not insignificant amount of climbing – 750m in total – is offset by excellent organisation, clearly marked trails, well-stocked aid stations (which also cater for vegan runners), enthusiastic and supportive volunteers, beautiful and varied landscapes, and a party atmosphere at the finish line.

aat-events.com

4. Thames Trot Ultra

Where? Iffley, Oxfordshire

When? 22 October 2022

There’s a lot more to the Thames than that strange sludge-coloured snake that creeps through central London, and here’s the perfect event for exploring the parts of it that wind along the bucolic environs of the Oxfordshire-Berkshire border. You’ll run for just over 47 miles, but you’ll have gravity as your teammate: much of the route slopes gently downhill. Mud is to be expected, especially in the first half of the race, with tarmac more prevalent as the day goes on. Watch out for the cut-off: at 11 hours, it doesn’t allow a whole lot of time for dawdling.

gobeyondchallenge.com

5. South Downs Way 50

Where? Worthing, West Sussex

When? 8 April 2023

At 50 miles and with 1,750m of ascent, this is one of the more difficult of the entry-level ultras – which is probably why the organisers insist on runners having previously completed at least a marathon before registering. But fantastic trails and wonderful views can inspire a runner further than they’ve ever gone before, and the South Downs Way has those in spades. There will also be seven well-stocked aid stations along the way, and after a hard day of running on chalky, muddy and rocky trails, you’ll finish with a lovely smooth lap of the running track in Eastbourne.

6. Salomon Serpent Trail 50K

Where? Petworth, West Sussex

When? July 2023 (date TBC)

There are two start times for this event: 10am for all the speedy girls and boys, and 8am for those in less of a rush. It’s a clever move, ensuring runners finish more closely together, while the midnight cut-off gives beginners the breathing space to finish in their own time. The trail is named both for its winding route and for the fact that the area is home to adder, grass and smooth snakes.

serpenttrailrace.com

7. Brecon To Cardiff

Where? 19 February 2023

When? Brecon, Powys

With this 70K route passing right through the Brecon Beacons, it would be reasonable to expect a fearsome total altitude to climb. There’s good news, though: a total ascent of around 1,150m is not as much as it could have been. There’s just one ascent and it’s a long and gradual one – with a long and gradual downhill into Cardiff once you get to the highest point near Torpantau. Soon after, the route changes from mostly trail to mostly tarmac, and the organisers have arranged for a bag drop at around 37km to allow for a much-needed change of kit and shoes. Who would have thought that a change of running socks could bring such joy?

runwalkcrawl.co.uk

8. Country Capital

Photo credit: Adrian Howes Photography
Photo credit: Adrian Howes Photography

Where? Wendover, Buckinghamshire

When? 7 January 2023

Wendover in Buckinghamshire feels like it’s a long way from central London. That’s because it is a long way – 43 miles, in fact, and you’re about to run all of them. The magic number here is 23 miles: at that point the route changes from undulating trails to pancake-flat canal towpath. Each step will take you closer to the finish line in Little Venice, near London’s Paddington station: an area positively overflowing with pubs, restaurants and cafes – all the things a hungry, thirsty and tired ultrarunner needs to begin their recovery.

gobeyondchallenge.com

9. Race To The King

Where? Chichester, Sussex

When? June 2023 (date TBC)

100km all in one go might not sound like the easiest way to embark upon your ultramarathoning career, but this race allows you to spread the distance over two days with camping included, as well as the option to only do one of the 50K legs. The first leg, which heads south from the race HQ at Goodwood racecourse via Chichester, is flatter than the second, which is more scenic – it follows a section of the South Downs Way and goes past the spectacular Arundel Castle. Crucially, the campsite at Goodwood has hot showers, hot food and a bar – which are all known to be the three most valuable commodities to ultrarunners around the world.

thresholdtrailseries.com

10. Highland Fling

Where? Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire

When? April 2023 (date TBC)

Runners from all around the world flock to this iconic event and mix with die-hard locals on the start line, many of whom have completed this challenging but rewarding route more times than many of us have done our local parkrun. The organisers are wonderful people who run the event on a strictly non-profit and volunteer basis. As for the route, it follows the West Highland Wayfootpath from Milngavie to Tyndrum, 53 miles of occasionally technical and difficult terrain with a good 2,300m of ascent to climb

highlandflingrace.org

11. Mourne Way Ultra

Where? Rostrevor, County Down

When? Rostrevor, County Down, June 2023

This ultra has grown into one of the biggest of its kind in Ireland since it began back in 2010. The route skirts around the outer edges of the Mourne Mountains over its 84km route from Rostrevor to Newcastle, ascending some 2,300m but also passing some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Along the way, you’ll meet up with marathon, half marathon and 10K runners – all events are timed to finish broadly around the same time, meaning that you’ll get a proper Irish welcome from the raucous atmosphere at the finish line.

26extreme.com

12. Dava Way 50K

Where? Grantown-on-Spey, Moray

When? 12 November 2022

Start high, end low: not a great motto for stock market transactions but definitely a good one for ultrarunning. This race passes through the foothills of Cairngorms National Park and follows the old Highland Railway line all the way down to near sea level in Forres. And there’s non-stop beautiful Scottish nature along the way, with a couple of cheeky little uphills to distract from all the downhills. With a £50 entry fee, this is surely one of the most affordable ultras you’ll find in the UK.

moraywayultras.com

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