10 greatest off road running events

The world’s best trail running races

There’s nothing quite like a trail race to light up the senses and push you to the limit. With so many off-road races on offer around the world you’re never going to be able to take part in them all, but here are 10 of the best that you should definitely add to your ‘to-run’ list.

7 Sisters Trail Race - USA

Hill addicts, look no further. This self professed ‘roller coaster ride’ of a race traverses the Mt. Holyoke Range with a 12 mile (19.3km) out and back course full of hills, uneven footing, and great views. The first half of the race sees runners climb 3,700 feet (1,128 metres) before a tricky descent for the second leg. If you do decide to take on this race you’ll need to be extra cautious of your footing – the basalt rocks that cover the Mt. Holyoke ridge make for an extremely uneven running surface.

Jungle Marathon - Brazil

What do you usually do to prepare for a race – lay out your kit, eat some porridge, double-check your schedule? For Brazil’s Jungle Marathon your preparations will be slightly different. Think more along the lines of medical checks, safety briefings and jungle training sessions. The race sets off from a base camp deep in the Amazon rainforest before winding through jungle paths, crossing rivers, and battling through shoe-sucking mud, all in temperatures of over 38ºC (100 ºF). If that doesn’t sound like enough of a challenge across the marathon distance, there are also 75 mile (122km) and 158 mile (254km) versions of the race available.

Transgrancanaria – Canary Islands

If you think you’ve mastered trail running it’s time to put that to the test by running across a whole island. The Transgrancanria has been run since 2003, and challenges runners and walkers to cross the 77 mile (125km) expanse of Gran Canaria in under 30 hours. All runners have to regularly check in at aid stations along the route, so that they can top up on supplies and allow the organisers to monitor their health.

The North Devon Marathon – UK

When it comes to beautiful scenery, nothing comes close to the North Devon Marathon. Starting at Woolacombe Bay, the course will take you along some absolutely breath-taking coastal cliffs, picturesque beaches, and quaint seaside villages. The half marathon covers the figure of eight course once, with the full marathon running it again for a second lap. All of that scenery doesn’t mean that this is an easy race – with the treacherous coastal paths and hilly course, North Devon is considered one of the toughest marathons in the UK.

Safaricom Marathon - Kenya

Undoubtedly one of the most unique running events in the world, the Safaricom Marathon boasts a scenery-laden route through the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. This 55,000 acre conservation centre is home to a range of exotic animals including elephants, giraffes and zebras, making this event half run and half safari. All of the proceeds from the marathon go to conservation projects around Kenya, meaning you’ll be running to protect the amazing creatures you pass along the course.

James River Scramble – USA

A race that starts and finishes in a city might not seem like your average trail run, but the James River Scramble is one of the most varied 10k events you’ll find in the world. The route starts in Richmond, but quickly descends towards the James River, where you’ll have to run along dirt trails on two of the river’s largest islands. After that you’ll battle through rough terrain including ravines and creek beds, interspersed with some urban exploration in the form of climbing steep stair cases and dis-used railway lines.

Swiss Alpine Marathon - Switzerland

Described as the ‘jewel in the alpine crown’, the Swiss Alpine Marathon is the perfect combination of tough trail running and amazing scenery. The race comes in two forms – the K42 and C42. The K42 is a marathon course as tough as they come, boasting the highest route in all of Europe. The C42 is known as the ‘Culture Marathon’ and is more focussed on following a scenic route for competitors to enjoy as they run.

The Terminator - UK

An intimidating name for an intimidating race; The Terminator is not for the beginner trail runner, and will test the abilities of even the most experienced veteran. The course covers the trails around Pewsey Village and includes hills, streams, and the ‘Gully’; a fiendishly narrow trail covered in stones and uneven ground. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s actually got even harder over the years. What was once a 10 mile (16km) run with two tough climbs has now evolved into an 11 mile (17.7km) run with an energy-draining four big hills to take on.

Mont-Blanc Marathon

The Mont-Blanc Marathon attracts elite ultra-runners from around the world, and for good reason. Starting in the centre of ski-haven Chamonix, this tough trail race then heads into the hills around the base of Mont-Blanc. Over the 26.2 mile (42km) distance runners will traverse a total climb of over 8,000 feet (2,438 metres) before reaching Planpraz plateau, which offers jaw-dropping views of the mountain. The race record is 3:38:24 and the average entrant finishes in around six hours, which should show you just how tough this marathon really is.

Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival - USA

If you’ve been swept up by the barefoot running craze, this is the race for you. Held in New Gloucester in Maine, the Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival is held on Pineland farm and has a dedicated barefoot 5k race along with other trail races ranging from a 5k to 50 miles (80 km). The barefoot course varies between grass and dirt trail, and makes for a great introduction to the world of barefoot running.

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