We're counting down the days to when social distancing measures are eased enough that we can run races again (if someone could tell us how many days, it would really help with training).
While we’ve written off the summer race calendar, the autumn and beyond looks promising. And let’s be honest, after months of virtual racing, a 5km road race will not cut it – we want epic routes, jaw-dropping scenery and lots of technical terrain.
Thankfully, the UK and Ireland has plenty of those kind of events from October onwards. There’s likely to be social distancing measures in place but all the best things about racing – bagging a PB, beating your running club rival, post-race revelry – will all still be there.
We've rounded up 20 of the best post-pandemic races to sign up for in the UK and Ireland, from dramatic coastal ultras to electrifying fell runs. Get your diary out and starting plotting...
Saltmarsh Half and Ultra Marathon
Pick from 13.1 miles or 52.4 miles in this flat, beautiful race that follows the atmospheric stretch of coastline in Maldon, Essex. This is a small scale event open to runners and walkers, mostly from the local area, so expect plenty of friendly marshals, a well sign-posted and supported course and a lot of cheering at the end.
Maldon, Essex, 3 October 2020, visitmaldondistrict.co.uk
Exmoor Trail Running Challenge
Taking place in the picturesque Doone Valley, Trail Event’s Exmoor Trail Running Challenge will host four races: 7.3 miles, a half marathon, a marathon and a 32.3-mile ultra. Expect tough miles through some gorgeous pockets of Exmoor National Park and coastline, and lots of celebrating at the campsite afterwards.
Exmoor, Devon, 17 October 2020, trailevents.co
Maverick Adidas Terrex X Ultra Jurassic Coast
The Isle of Purbeck is a rugged peninsula in Dorset, known for its swathes of yellow sand, chalk cliffs, wild flowers and blustery walking trails. Perfect, then, for a new race from premium punishers Maverick. There are four distances to choose from (12km, 21km, 44km and 53km) and all take in steep, technical terrain. Hopefully the breathtaking coastal views will help you forget about your burning quads.
Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, 17 October, maverick-race.com
OMM Original Mountain Marathon
'Enjoyable suffering,' reads a race review on OMM’s website. This two-day adventure challenge, with several course options, involves teams of two navigating checkpoints in an inhospitable part of the UK (this year it’s the Scottish Highlands) with not much else but a map. Competitors must carry all their food and camping equipment.
Arrochar Alps, Scotland, 24-25 October 2020, theomm.com
South Downs Half Marathon
Choose from 21km, 17.5km or 11.2km, all traversing peaceful trails through the South Downs - an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is as likely to give you sun-dappled paths and tree-lined trails, as it is jaw dropping views and expansive skies.
Goodwood, Sussex, 7 November 2020, from £31.50, ukrunningevents.co.uk
'Take part in the world’s most beautiful road race,' beckons Run Killarney’s booking site. And when you are powering through 10km or 13.1 miles of Killarney National Park’s peerless trails you’ll agree entirely with that sentence. The waters of Lough Lene make for a seriously pretty running route and the hot tubs, showers and after party make it very welcoming, too.
County Kerry, Ireland, 14 November, runkillarney.com
A wiggly and hilly 8.5 mile route that starts in pretty Chambercombe in Ilfracombe and heads out round the headland, along dramatic coastal trails near Watermouth Castle and past Helle Bay, before finishing back in the village. If you’re lucky enough to get a sunny day, you’ll be gifted views across the Bristol Channel for a chunk of your run. Definitely not a race for those used to gentle tow paths.
Ilfracombe, Devon, 29 November 2020, ilfracomberunningclub.co.uk
Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series
Iconic Bamburgh Castle is the starting point for the 10km, half marathon, marathon and 32.4-mile ultra races that make up this one-day event. Runners will get to motor through two nature reserves, miles of exposed costal paths and some hard-going sandy trails.
27 February 2021, Bamburgh, Northumberland, endurancelife.com
If running isn’t challenging enough then how about adding in cycling and kayaking, too? Quest has made its name hosting 'triathlons for people who don’t like swimming', and its Kenmare event is a corker. There are three distances – 28km, 43km and 78km – each with 6-8 stages, transitioning between bike, running and kayaking through the gorgeous Beara Peninsula and Kenmare Bay.
Country Kerry, Ireland, 6 March 2021, questadventureseries.com
Gael Force Mountain Run
If you fancy yourself as the next Sheila Avilés or Kílian Jornet then Gael Force is your match. Held in Ireland’s typically beautiful Maumturk Mountains, on private land only accessible during this race, there are three distances: 22km or 13km on open mountains for confident runners, and a 12km mix of trails and mountains for beginners.
County Galway, Ireland, 6 March 2021, gaelforceevents.com
Chichester Harbour Trail Run
Hate hills? You’ll love this. Flat as a pancake and entirely off road, this race around atmospheric Thorney Island will help you get a PB or makes the perfect sport for a sociable race with a few friends (although remember social distancing, please).There’s a 12.9 and 15km race, starting 10 minutes apart.
Thorney Island, Chichester, 27 March 2021, ukrunningevents.co.uk
The Granite Way 10 and 20 Mile Races
Run along Dartmoor’s Granite Way Cycle Path, a beautiful trail that will reward you with glorious views of the national park and a memorable section over the Meldon Viaduct, which looks out to Meldon Reservoir and the surrounding moors. If you do the 20 miler, you’ll get to see all of it again on the second lap.
Okehampton, Exeter, TBC March 2021, exetercct.org
Lakeland Trail Race
If muddy paths, rolling hills and a steep one-mile climb up a stretch called Coffin Trail sounds like your cup of tea then jog on to the start line of this Lake District 10km and 16km. Providing it doesn’t rain (possible), you’ll be rewarded with unparalleled views of Windermere, Coniston Hills, the Langdales and the fells.
Hawkshead, Cumbria, 17 April 2021, lakelandtrails.org
Three Peaks Race
This ‘marathon with mountains’, which takes in Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside, is gruelling and exhausting; entrants are only accepted if they have competed in previous year’s events, or in a qualifying race (full list on website). Persevere for a place because this course, with its 1,608 metres of ascent and descent, is packed with precarious terrain and awesome views. Once in a lifetime stuff.
Ribble Valley, Yorkshire, 24 April 2021, threepeaksrace.org
Cader Idris Mountain Race
Billed as one of ‘the toughest fell races in Wales’, this 16.9km race starts in the pretty town of Dolgellau before climbing 3,000ft to the emerald summit of Pen y Gader. If you’re lucky, the weather will be in your favour and you can pause to take in the expansive views across the county of Merionethshire, before tumbling back down to where you started. A note on that: watch out for the boulders and rocks strewn across the paths.
Gwynedd, Wales, 22 May 2021, cader-race.co.uk
Adidas Terrex 50km Trail Ultra
Part of the brilliant Keswick Mountain Festival (21-23 May) but open to all, this punishing route takes in the Lake District’s Watendlath, Borrowdale, Butteremere and Newlands valleys. Prepare for 1,995 metres of ascent and plenty of tough terrain. If you’re chasing UTMB, this race will earn you two points.
Keswick, Cumbria, 23 May 2021, keswickmountainfestival.co.uk
A family-friendly weekender, with five trail races (marathon, half marathon, 10km, 5km and a 1 miler for kids), yoga, wild swimming and athlete talks. These races are perfect for beginners: there are fuel stations every five miles, plenty of course markings and marshals, and no cut off times.
Windermere, Cumbria, 28-29 May, trailpursuit.com
Isle of Jura Fell Race
A diamond in the fell runner's crown, the 28km Jura fell race takes you over seven summits with 2,370m of climbing. Game? Then you’ll need to be quick because there are only 250 places on the start line. Bring your tent and stay at the coastal Craighouse campsite where you can expect sea views and a lot of post-race celebrating.
Jura, Scotland, 29 May 2021, isleofjurafellrace.co.uk
Portumna Forest Marathon
This event through moody Portumna Forest offers a 10km, 50km, 100km, half marathon and marathon race, all plotted along a magical 5km loop of peaceful trails and tarmac roads. This might look like ‘easy’ racing but the repeated laps will be a test of your mettle.
County Galway, Ireland, 12 June 2021, forestmarathon.com
Snowdonia Trail Marathon
You can pick from 10km, half, marathon or ultra at this event but to scale Snowdon, you’ll need to sign up for the half or further. Expect gruelling climbs (the ultra has 7,000ft of climbing over 60km), isolated mountain trails and dramatic views of Snowdonia National Park. You will definitely want to book into the massage tent after.
Snowdonia, Wales, 11 July 2021, alwaysaimhighevents.com