There’s nothing wrong with a steady diet of road races, but it’s well worth tasting some of the other offerings from the race scene’s smorgasbord...
Cross-country ‘The beauty of cross-country is that every course is different, rendering comparisons meaningless,’ says Bandu. ‘Lap splits and finish times are irrelevant when you’re tearing up and down hills on a constantly changing surface, which can be quite liberating.’ Cross-country is traditionally club-based, but there are some open events and leagues, such as Norfolk’s Ryston Runners Cross-country Grand Prix series (rystonrunners.org.uk), or the three-mile mud-and-hill fest that is the Saltwood Boxing Day Cross-country Run in Kent (nice-work.org.uk).
Obstacle Interrupting a run to crawl under barbed wire isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Many of the thousands who have are now hooked. Do take a group of friends – obstacle racing is best tackled in a team – but don’t take your best running shoes. Ease in with The Royal British Legion Major Series’ beginner-friendly 5K (britmilfit.com), or go big with Tough Mudder’s 20+ obstacles over 10-12 miles (toughmudder.co.uk).
Fell All fell races feature a significant hill or hills, but while some are epic in length and/or require navigation skills, there are plenty of shorter, more accessible options. The Fell Running Association (fellrunner. org.uk) lists hundreds of UK races, graded according to difficulty: Category A races climb at least 50m per km, while the ‘easiest,’ category C, must contain some fell terrain but can be up to 40 per cent on road.
Parkrun Not done one yet? Really? With more than 400 taking place every Saturday morning across the UK, you can’t be far away from one of these 5K events. parkrun.org.uk
Ultra The ultra running boom continues apace as more and more runners cross marathon finishing lines asking, ‘What next?’ If you’ve ticked off the 26.2, five-and-bit extra miles will take you into the world of ultra running (31 miles/50km is typically the shortest ultra distance), though you can, of course, go a lot further...
Play safe. The Royal Parks Ultra is 50km of flat asphalt with plenty of support. royalparkshalf.com
Savour a classic. South Africa’s Comrades Marathon is the world’s oldest ultra, with an annual field of 23,000 runners tackling the 89km (56-mile) course, which alternates between starting or finishing in Durban each year. comrades.com
Join the 100-Club. Race to the Stones’ challenging 100km distance is tempered by the relatively flat off-road course along the historic Ridgeway. racetothestones.com
Tackle the big one. Something of an icon in ultras, the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) is not only a tad over 100 miles long, but it also takes in 9,600m of Alpine climbing.
A relay Running in a team offers camaraderie and tremendous fun. Relay races are hugely popular in the US, thanks in part to the Ragnar Relay series, which organises overnight 200-mile relays for teams of six or 12 across the country. Ragnar is planning to launch in the UK next year so keep an eye on runragnar.com. Or consider these homegrown options:
Round Norfolk Relay (September 2017, roundnorfolkrelay.com) 17 stages, 198 miles, 24 hours – the multi-terrain challenge offers teams a great bonding experience.
Welsh Castles Relay (June 2017, lescroupiersrunningclub.org.uk) There’s a Tour-de-france feel in this two-day, 20-stage event, with yellow jerseys for individual stage wins and mountain-stage prizes.
Endure 24 Teams of two to eight runners complete as many laps of the fivemile route as possible in 24 hours, while enjoying a festival atmosphere (it’s known as running’s Glastonbury).
A fun run Toeing the line of a race in which you won’t get a finish time feels odd to many runners, but it can be a great way to revive a flagging mojo or get friends involved. Get splattered in a Color Run (thecolorrun. co.uk), don a sumo suit (sumorun. com) or party through Glow in the Park sporting a retro headband and neon bracelets (glowinthepark.co.uk).
MUD IS NO OBSTACLE Mud and muddy water, however…
COUNTRY MILES Off-road and out on your own
ULTRA FINE Passing Ortahisar Castle on The North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail in Turkey
COLOUR FAST Paint the town red – and pink and blue…